Hundreds of fans cheered the ten powerful fleet racing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race as they were leaving Jack London Square in Oakland on Sunday, April 14, in the warm spring sunshine, before leaving for San Francisco Bay for the start line escorted by US Coast Guard cutter Sockeye.
The Clipper Race is the world’s longest at 40,000 miles. This stage is the tenth of 15 races. Ahead lies a 5,500 mile leg from California on the US West Coast to New York on the East Coast via the Panama Canal.
Friends, family members and supporters gathered to watch from the Golden Gate Yacht Club, home of the 34th America’s Cup, which kindly provided facilities to start the race from their deck at 1400 local time (2100 UTC).
There was a highly charged competitive atmosphere out on the water in the shadow of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. So much so that Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crossed the line prematurely and were ordered to circle back to cross it again to avoid a time penalty.
This gave Visit Finland an early lead, crossing the start line first. Before departing skipper Olly Osborne said, “We need to do our best to push ourselves as hard as we can. The earlier part of the race will be quite exciting with a real sleigh ride down the west coast and then beyond that we will see. It will be a coastal race which is interesting will all the currents and then we of course hope that we can keep racing until that finish line and we don’t see too dramatic a wind drop.
“It is always easier to start in the lead and maintaining it, which is what we are hoping for rather than constantly playing catch-up. Some of racing is down to the luck of the draw and some of it is down to some good sailing, so we are aiming to do the latter.
“Going through the Panama Canal they are really looking forward to, as it’s quite a big landmark and quite big part of the journey. It is certainly more home-bound once you are back into the Atlantic before shaping up for the home run from New York.”
Second over the starting line was New York, the only US entry who are on route to their home port, as Leg 7 has begun. Skipper Gareth Glover said, “It is going to quite a tough leg, especially when we get to the lighter breezes when we get further south. Weight is a key component on how we do well in this race, as it has a huge effect in light wind conditions.
“The next leg for us is all about the gate points. We have such a short leg ahead and it is definitely the thing to concentrate on. We have to make sure that we finish in the top three in these legs ahead, but it’s a tough challenge, as we also historically don’t do that well in light winds on the New York entry.
“There are more than 60 points for grabs between here and the UK, so there is no way that this race is over. We will be pushing very hard to at least get a top three finish overall.”
Also in the competitive spirit is Qingdao who started Race 10 in third place over the start line. Ahead of leaving, skipper Ian Conchie said, “After the chills of the Pacific Ocean and no sunlight for weeks, it will be nice to sail in some sunshine. It’s fun and amazing to be sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and then we turn left, head south and follow the smell the mojitos!
“The Panama Canal is listed as one of the seven industrial wonders of the world, so it will be an amazing experience just seeing the size of the locks, as we could go in alone, along with some of the other yachts or end up going through with a super tanker, which will be very interesting and something most people will never do again.”
The race down to Panama is quite a contrast to the challenges faced in the North Pacific. Race Director, Joff Bailey explains, “The Californian current flows south but the helping hand this gives the fleet can be counteracted by heating effects from the North American land mass which might change the winds unfavourably. This race down to Panama starts of fast and furious but as the temperature rises the wind start to drop as changeable conditions along the coast of Central America and as the fleet near the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone or Doldrums) take effect. The last thousand miles will be sailed in light and fickle winds potentially requiring a shortened course as the Clipper Race fleet head towards a date with the Panama Canal.”
Welcome to Yorkshire skipper Rupert Dean reflects this, saying, “This will be a very different race with lots of different winds. We are still going to be influenced by the lows sweeping across the North Pacific at the moment and the first 72 hours we should have plenty of breeze and then they will start tailing off. We just have to see how much we can keep the wind and how far inshore we have to race to keep the breeze, once winds start to drop. I’ve been through to the canal two times before, and it’s an interesting journey that I’m sure the crew will very much enjoy.”
Back on the water today was Geraldton Western Australia crossing the start line in seventh place. After being hit by a large rogue wave just 400 nautical miles from the finish in San Francisco Bay two weeks ago, the Australian entry was pleased to have his boat repaired and be back racing.
Before leaving the marina skipper Juan Coetzer said, “The sail is back on the boom, we have our steerage back in and we are all ready to go. The whole crew are very excited to get back to sea and focus on racing again.
“The next few days I’m expecting some nice downwind sailing. It is a race of two halves and we are going to try to be at the top of the runnings, definitely on the downwind part, and then try and get any points we can get.”
Singapore reached their highest position ever in the previous race and is keen to continue their climb of the leader board, as Race 10 gets underway. Skipper, Ben Bowley said, “It is going to be quite a contrast to the last race that we’ve had crossing the Pacific. We are expecting a few good days of breeze to keep us moving down the American coast and then try and keep the boat moving in whatever winds we can get, once we ITCZ again for the third time since we started the race in July last year.”
And as the overall leader board is close, Ben continued, “We had an excellent result in the last race and we hope to keep up the drive and keep everyone moving and motivated especially when the wind starts to go light then we should be good. We are feeling confident and are going to keep on pushing.
“We only have three points between us and Visit Finland, so we need to keep the consistency going and keep putting in the good results, so we can remain at the top of the leader board.”
Fourth over the start line was Derry-Londonderry. The Northern Irish entry is keen to ensure they can a podium on this race, after being beaten to it by New York coming into Oakland, San Francisco Bay.
Skipper, Mark Light said, “This leg will be quite a contrast to the rough Pacific. We are expecting a fair bit of wind when we leave San Francisco Bay, but then it will get hotter and lighter winds.
“We’ve improved massively in the second half on this race and we are turning our noses towards our home port and the team are coming together will and I’m expecting another good result. It’s very exciting and things are building up – there are a lot of points on offer and we need to get ourselves onto that podium a few more times. We will do what we can and hopefully won’t let anyone down.”
De Lage Landen, currently in second place on the overall leader board, crossed the start line by the Golden Gate Yacht Club in sixth place. Ahead of leaving, skipper Stuart Jackson said, “It is going to be very much an inshore race, hugging the coast on the way down and trying to stay in the current and hopefully not run out of the wind too early. Everyone is very excited to go through the Panama Canal, which is a huge piece of engineering with a lot of history. I’ve been to it before, so it should be one of those great experiences.
“We are very happy with how we have been performing so far, but it it’s all very close between second, third and fourth, so we have to keep driving really hard and hopefully get a few more decent results under our belts.”
Meanwhile on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital after crossing the starting line early, the Scottish entry ended up starting Race 10 in last position. New interim skipper, Flavio Zamboni is excited about taking his new team said, “It’s really exciting to be here and I think that that the guys are really willing to work and sail the boat, so I will try and make the most of the potential on board. We hope to be able to lead in the strong breezes and be in the top half of the fleet. I am very excited to be part of the team and it’s great to be on board.”
Gold Coast Australia was in the same position as Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Singapore, but still managed to cross the start line in eighth place. Ahead of leaving, skipper Richard Hewson said, “It’s going to be quite interesting at the start, as San Francisco Bay is renowned for gusty winds coming through the hills and pretty extreme tides, so everyone is going to be playing a pretty conservative start and once we get outside the bay we will be heading south.
“I think this race will be won in the first couple of days with the stronger breezes, but saying that you never knows who can catch up on you, once you start hitting lighter winds.
“It is going to be an interesting race with filled with spinnakers, high wind, low wind and a lot of drifting and the Panama Canal is just an unbelievable experience, so I’m sure the crew will have a fantastic time.”
The first yachts are expected to arrive in Panama around 7 May after which they will transit the Panama Canal before commencing Race 11, for the final 2,100 miles to New York.
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