Despite the gale force winds and wild sea state, the strong safety culture across the fleet ensured all eleven teams remained on track and racing well towards Seattle. The importance of putting safety first was vindicated on board the seventh placed Garmin, as Skipper Gaëtan Thomas explains: “The wind was supposed to turn and it did back on a broad reach facing the waves from the previous gale. The boat jumped in the air and a nasty wave when we were shaking out a reef hit us badly.
“All the team were washed down. All the lifejackets inflated and the cockpit was full of water. Dave West was on the mast to spike the handy billy and he was safely double clipped but he was projected on the mast. Mei Fullerton in the cockpit received James Lawrie on her and her shoulder is quite in pain, but both of them are inside the boat now and nothing major medically is wrong – big scratch on the top of the nose and a couple of bruises but they are smiling and ok.
“Now the chaotic sea state due to the prevailing winds will come down soon and the waves will come more from the back which will be a massive relief for everyone.”
The front is yet to reach the leading teams, Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao, which, due to their northerly course, could potentially experience hurricane force gusts of between 70-80 knots. But Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck is ready, saying: “We now have three reefs and our storm jib the ginger ninja up. It's a bit unpleasant as its only slightly off close hauled, in the next couple of hours the breeze should come round to a nicer angle, but the gusts will increase later. The sea state is all over the shop and will get worse.
“We went a bit conservative because of the sea state, we didn't want to risk kite, boat or people damage.”
The conservative sail plan has had an impact on Sanya Serenity Coast's lead. Though the team remains in first place for a fifth consecutive day, Qingdao has sliced 45 nautical miles off the gap to move to within 5 nautical miles.
Whilst it is tight racing between first and second, the rest of the fleet has spread out over the last 24 hours. At the back in ninth, Visit Seattle has now crossed the International Date Line and is more than halfway through the mighty 5,600nm race to its home port in Bell Harbor Marina. It will be a tricky day for the team as Skipper Nikki Henderson reports: “Our mast track has suffered a few bumps and bruises and will need repairing as soon as the weather calms down. Looks like it's reef three for the next 24 hours then!
“Honestly, there is some serious breeze forecasted. I'm less bothered about racing and more about keeping everyone and the boat safe and in one piece. Being confined to reef three isn't such a bad thing.”
Keep track of the fleet to see how the weather systems affect the fleet via the Clipper Race Viewer and hear more from the Skippers and crew on the Team Pages.
The fleet was originally expected to finish Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City and arrive into Bell Harbor Marina between Saturday 14 and Thursday 19 of April, but conditions in the early part of the race means the boats are now expected between Thursday 19 and Saturday 21 April.