After bidding farewell to Seattle, USA, on Friday May, the eleven-strong fleet made its way to the start line for Race 11: #StayConnected with SENA.

The 4,000nm race down the USA’s West Coast to Panama is one of tactics and skill, starting with a Le Mans style start line which was led by Zhuhai Skipper James Finney.

Image: The Race 11 Le Mans start gets underway

What’s a Le Mans start?

A Le Mans start is an impressive sight. Used as a method to start a race offshore - often due to local constraints or conditions - it sees the teams line up under engine and mainsail, with their headsails flanked on and waiting and ready to be hoisted.

What happens during the Le Mans start?

The procedure uses a standard race start countdown of ten minutes, four minutes, one minute and the start itself.

Once congregated in the Race Start area, all boats motor slowly at approximately two to three boat lengths apart. Once aligned, the lead skipper signals the ten minute gun via VHF.

At the four minute signal, all crew must be behind the forward coffee grinder and at the one minute signal, engines are to be turned off and mainsails are trimmed to ensure the fleet stays in line. At the start gun, the crew can move forward and the headsails can be hoisted.

Image: the Clipper Race fleet begins Race 11

Speaking from on board just after the start, Duty Skipper James Finney said: “The first boat away was Qingdao followed by PSP Logistics and Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. It was an exciting start into a stiff breeze and a small but lumpy sea state. The fleet was fantastic in helping to line up in time for a 1700 local start and we got away as cleanly as we could. Bearing away from the original starting course always makes for lots of running around and the crew did fantastically hoisting, dropping sails and setting foreguys. Now we are southbound in search of sunny weather!”

Image: At the start gun, teams can move forward and hoist the headsails

Following the start, all boats must hold the agreed course and separation for the first ten minutes with no spinnaker hoists or luffing allowed during this timeframe.

Max Rivers, Skipper of Our Isles and Oceans, said: “Being at the leeward end of the line was a nice advantage being that little bit closer to the finish. But yet again this is a long race and there is plenty more sailing to be done and challenges ahead. For now the crew are settling in for their first night racing on board, and establishing their watch systems and patterns of living.”

Boatfeed: Race 11, Day 3 - Our Isles and Oceans

With the Le Mans Start under their belts, teams are getting into the rhythm of life on board. For some, this means overcoming some inevitable challenges of seasickness which can last for a couple of days but then disappear as crew acclimatise.

Perseverance Skipper Ineke van der Weijden said: "Panama, here we come! After a brilliantly managed start by James Finney of Zhuhai, the whole fleet is making great progress south. Long may it last, although the sea state could calm down a bit to chase the green monster away.”

For a race that delivers on both the sailing and wildlife fronts, the opening stages have not disappointed the Dare To Lead team. Skipper Ryan reported: “We had a nice start being one of the windward boats and the entire fleet is sailing fast in the right direction. Shortly after the start, in the far distance behind two of the other boats, I saw a whale do a huge breach and the white water afterwards looked a similar size to one of the other boats. Since then, I have already spotted four other whales so the sea life is already active which is awesome.”

Image: Life at an angle on board Yacht Club Punta del Este

Although the teams are still in the opening stage of the race, there’s been little time for wildlife spotting with important tactical decisions already playing out.

At time of writing, the fleet has shown the first major race tactics by dividing into two; one group heading inshore closer to the rhumb line to take advantage of the tidal flow, the other group, formed of Zhuhai, Our Isles and Oceans, Washington DC, PSP Logistics, Yacht Club Punta del Este and Ha Long Bay Viet Nam, is boldly veering on a longer course to attempt to earn bonus race points from the Scoring Gate.

Keep an eye on the Race Viewer as the race to the Scoring Gate evolves. With over 3,000nm left to race, there’s everything to play for.

Join The Race