Visit Seattle remains on top of the leader board for a second consecutive day, leading the Clipper Race fleet over the Equator and into the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. It’s a big moment for the teams, as the fleet will spend the next five months racing in the Southern Hemisphere, only crossing back over the Equator in February 2018 on the way to Sanya.
With a 30.85 nautical mile lead over the second placed Sanya Serenity Coast, Visit Seattle Skipper Nikki Henderson is enjoying being free of the Doldrums Corridor, saying: “It feels great to be out – now we can roam the South Atlantic as we please, and fingers crossed there are a few less wind holes than we have found in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Behind the two female Skippers, Qingdao and GREAT Britain are neck and neck, fighting for third. Qingdao is currently in medal position, though there is less than 1 nautical mile between the two teams. Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch comments: “It is surprising to see another Clipper Race yacht in the middle of the ocean after over 3000 nautical miles of racing. I think this shows the quality of the race, how hard it is to gain a position, and how easy it is to lose it again. Small mistakes go a long way.
“Looking ahead, we are discussing positioning and tactics for the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint which will start for us in about 360nm at 5 degrees south. Hopefully we can secure another point or two during the sprint to add to our three points from the Scoring Gate.”
HotelPlanner.com is fifth, and Skipper Conall Morrison is just as happy with how his team of amateur sailors are progressing, as he is with where the team is placed, reporting: “Starboard Watch had the deck when the wind finally backed enough to allow us to make our preferred course towards the Brazilian coast, and we have cracked the sheets a couple of inches and are seeing boat speeds over nine knots average.
“Just now after nightfall we put in reef one; it was the smoothest reef I have seen onboard, lots of talking and shining of headtorches, and very little flogging of the sail. I am going to sleep with a smile on my face.”
All is also well on the sixth placed Unicef, who after battling through some weather, is now looking to chase down the teams in front. Skipper Bob Beggs says: “We had our first Doldrums type cloud cells last night bringing the gusts, rain, and calms, but they we short lived, lasting only one frustrating four-hour watch. The wind has now freed off and we are sailing nicely along at 10 plus knots, although at a constant heal of 35 degrees.”
In another showing of how close the race is coming out of the Doldrums Corridor, just 31.11 nautical miles separates Unicef from the ninth placed Liverpool 2018, whose Skipper Lance Shepherd reports: “We opted to head a bit further east than planned to try and find some wind and I guess I should have been careful of what I wished for, because we found the wind alright. We went from chugging along in casual 15 knot winds to flying sideways with winds of 35 knots in the blink of an eye.
“And that’s where we are at the moment – heading sideways down to the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint Gate off the coast of Brazil.”
Despite being focussed on racing hard towards Uruguay, the teams who have crossed the Equator made sure to find time for the traditional line-crossing ceremony; a rite of passage to turn Pollywogs (sailors who have yet to cross the Equator) into Shellbacks. As Skipper of the eighth placed PSP Logistics Roy Taylor explains: “We now have 130 nautical miles to run to the Equator, where we expect to see an appearance from King Neptune himself around mid-morning tomorrow, followed by some completely fabricated charges for the Pollywogs of which of course they will be found guilty and punished accordingly.”
The offerings to King Neptune so far must have been well received, with the weather forecasts showing that most of the fleet will hit the Southeast Trade Winds today and as a result, have a fast track southwest.