The start of the race on April 19 at 13:30 local time was characterised by a steady 20 knots of westerly wind coming through the Golden Gate Bridge which made for a perfect upwind start. All the yachts opted to stay back from the start line and not risk a penalty. After all they were right at the beginning of a 3300 mile race where a one boat length advantage at the start was not going to make any difference to the result.
The 10 days of the race was punctuated by very fast downwind sailing. As predicted many of the yachts chewed up 1000 miles in 4 or 5 days. Then as the fleet progressed further south the wind got lighter and more variable.
The race from San Francisco to Panama is usually defined by one of two definitive strategies. You either take the offshore route or the inshore route. The PSP Logistics Panama 100 Cup was actually a race where a combination of both strategies was the winning one.
At about day 9, the yachts who took the offshore route came back inshore towards the Scoring Gate. GREAT Britain succeeded in scoring maximum points at the gate followed by Team Garmin and their first gate points of the entire race.
Jamaica Get All Right scored maximum points for the Ocean Sprint. A first for them for the 2013-14 Race.
The Doldrums were now having a real effect on the fleet’s progress and for this reason the course had several mandatory gates built into it. This allows the Race Committee to shorten the course if it looks like the fleet would not get to Panama in time to meet the deadline for transiting the canal. The gates were pre-defined in the course instructions and all the skippers and crews were briefed before the race that any one of these could be the finish line.
The fleet was now experiencing squall activity which would propel lucky yachts past others which were in the same part of ocean but becalmed. It is impossible to tell if a squall has wind in it or whether it will suck all the wind out of an area and leave a yacht motionless. For this reason the Race Committee also had the option to add a gate depending on the wind forecast and not use one of the pre-defined gates. This is in fact what happened and after giving the fleet 24 hours’ notice the race was finished off the coast of Nicaragua. But at this stage it was a four horse race. In these conditions anyone of the teams from GREAT Britain, Team Garmin, Jamaica Get All Right or Henri Lloyd could have been triumphant. In the end it was GREAT Britain who pipped the others to the post.
This left many of the fleet at the limit of their motoring range which meant that seven yachts were required to stop in Costa Rica to re-fuel. Another stamp in the passport for many of the crew on their way to Panama.
Due to light winds and the fact that we cannot start a race within the confines Limon Bay (Caribbean side of Canal) the fleet will use the Le Mans procedure to start once all the yachts have transited the canal. This means the fleet will motor sail to a position roughly 75 miles north east of the Canal and start from here. Race 12 the ‘Spirit of Jamaica Chase’ is due to start on 14 May and I anticipate the fleet will begin to arrive in Jamaica on 17 May.