It's been slow going due to a wind hole sitting between the leading teams of the Clipper Race fleet and the finish line, but the end of the epic 5,600 nautical mile race across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle is at last in sight.
At this stage, barring any errors, Race 9: The Race to The Emerald City is Qingdao's to lose. The team currently has an approximate 50 nautical mile advantage over Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef, in second and third respectively.
But with winds to remain light and variable right to the finish line, Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch and his team won't be celebrating until the result is official, saying: “We found another wind hole just before the finish but managed to keep the boat moving and are now about 55nm from the finish line. Everyone is super focused not to lose ground to Sanya Serenity Coastor Unicef on the last few miles. Fingers crossed the wind will stay with us for another few hours!”
With Unicef currently just 2nm astern, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck knows the finish is going to be tight, commenting: “Unicef is sneaking up behind us, usually with a tad more speed, and we've just got to try and keep them at bay.”
Despite being at sea for 27 days and racing approximately 5,600nm across one of the most remote oceans on earth, the fact that it will be yet another close and competitive finish is not lost on the Clipper Race teams, with Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs adding: “Every race has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and our end is very reminiscent of our beginning; drifting along within AIS range or in sight of one another.”
The wind hole has also resulted in the compression of the chasing pack; there is now just 22nm between the fourth placed HotelPlanner.com and Garmin in seventh.
It is especially tight between HotelPlanner.com and the fifth placed PSP Logistics, with both teams currently neck and neck and pushing for as many points as possible out of this race.
HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison says: “Another day of ticking off the miles to Seattle. The wind on the beam is gently easing off and we are closely monitoring the course and speed of nearby PSP Logistics on AIS. Sometimes we are faster and sometimes it is them.”
Whilst Dare To Lead remains in AIS view of both HotelPlanner.com and PSP Logistics, damage to the mast track and two kites means the boat is struggling to keep its competitors in check. Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth says: “PSP Logistics and HotelPlanner.com have caught us up and we wanted to have one last attempt to see if we could fix our issues but unfortunately, we haven't been able to and it will have to wait until port.
“We're all disappointed about our fate at the end of this race, but it doesn't take away from the crew efforts and great sailing we have experienced this leg.”
The crew on board Garmin meanwhile had cause for an early celebration yesterday after being informed that they were fastest in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, with the win adding three crucial bonus points to the team's overall tally. Visit Seattle was second quickest and will collect two bonus points, whilst Qingdao was third and will collect one point.