The Olympic Sailing Center in Qingdao, China provided the perfect backdrop as the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race fleet performed an impressive parade of sail in front of the city skyline, ahead of starting Race 10, the 5,800 mile mighty Pacific crossing from Qingdao, China to San Francisco, USA.
Thousands of well-wishers lined the quayside eager get one last glimpse of the international fleet during an epic departure ceremony which attracted a large media presence and was broadcast live on TV. The ceremony featured hundreds of performers in a carefully choreographed programme which featured VIP guests including local officials and the British Ambassador to China.
After a tense start Derry~Londonderry~Doire, Mission Performance and Qingdao were the first three boats to cross the start line at 1345 local time (0545 UTC).
“This is no race to be taken lightly, it is a very competitive fleet and we know a lot of the boats will do really well,” commented Olly Cotterell, skipper of OneDLL, the current overall leaders in the race.
He added, “We’re just looking to sail our own race. The hope is if we continue to do what we have done in the past, and perform well.”
The first key milestone will be off the Southern tip of Japan when tactics start come into play again as skippers are faced with the age-old dilemma; take the shortest route and risk light airs or head north for a colder but stronger ride east.
Team Garmin skipper and Clipper Race veteran Jan Ridd, who lead a team in the Clipper 2009-10 Race knows all too well that the Pacific Ocean must be respected to succeed: “We will be very lucky to cross Japan without actually hitting a storm. In the Clipper 2009-10 Race this is where one of the skippers broke his leg and had to be evacuated to hospital by the Japanese Coast Guard.
“The conditions can turn very nasty due to the Japan Current. You could have four knots of current flowing against 40-50 knots of breeze makes for very steep ugly seas,” skipper.
Keeping a competitive focus, preserving kit and looking after crew morale will be a constant challenge before managing the likely variable conditions as the California coast appears over the horizon.
Skipper of Henri Lloyd, Eric Holden remains resolute that his team will better their performance on this race, but not at any cost. He said: “We are really looking forward to this race. It’ll be a bit of redemption after Race 9.1 which really didn’t go in our favour. We really need to prove to ourselves that we are still able to compete at the top level.
“The Pacific Ocean should provide downwind racing and big waves which will be a lot of fun with fast speeds, which I think will help us play to our strengths.For us we want to make sure we arrive safely with the crew and boat all intact but we are absolutely aiming to be on the podium. It’s time to start racing and get on the starting line. Win or lose, it’s up to us.”
Shortly after race start the fleet ceased racing due the fog which reduced the visibility for the fleet to less than a quarter of a mile. As a safety precaution, the fleet will motor offshore until the visibility improves.
PSP Logistics, which only arrived in Qingdao yesterday will depart on Tuesday 18 March and will race on elapsed time so it can still compete against the rest of the fleet. All twelve teams are expected in San Francisco between 8-12 April, subject to prevailing conditions. The fleet will be berthed at South Beach Yacht Club until 19 April, the start of Race 11 to the Panama Canal.