Another milestone on the Clipper 2023-24 Race is complete, as all yachts have transited the historic Panama Canal and are making their way to the Le Mans Start area for Race 12: Come Sea DC Cup.

Earlier today, the Race Office held the Skipper and AQP briefing for the 1,560 nm race from Panama to Washington, DC. The Le Mans starting order was pulled from the hat with Yacht Club Punta del Este’s Nano Antia given the task of being Lead Skipper for the offshore start.

And it was confirmed that Washington DC remains the only team to opt to play its Joker this race as it sails towards its home port.

With the canal transits staggered over a couple of days and yachts rafting together, this allowed for R&R, as well as making all the necessary preparations for the next race; victualling, maintenance, sail repair as normal. After the intense heat and length of Race 11, the teams enjoyed some time to explore Panama City, from the old town to the jungle. This pitstop brought some well needed time off the boat to rest and sample some of the local cuisine. And with the array of tropical outfits and Panama hats on display, a fair bit of shopping was carried out too!

Image: Our Isles and Oceans dressing up for the Panama Canal

As the teams slipped lines from Shelter Bay, legger Alessandro Lombardo, from Italy and racing on board UNICEF said: “It has been overwhelming - I’ve had so many nice words from friends and colleagues. I’m very excited about Race Start, I just hope we have enough strong wind. And of course, we want to win! We’re going to challenge the other boats up until the last mile. I’m looking forward to the next 15 days in harmony with my crew and performing well.”

Image: Alessandro Lombardo

Crew mate Adams Haynes, who is a chef in the British Virgin Islands added: “I’ve lived in DC twice, and we’re going to be sailing right past my home town of South Carolina. There’s so much to see in DC, with a couple of hundred years of history and so much to do!”

Next to slip its lines was current seventh placed Yacht Club Punta del Este. Skippered by Nano Antia, the team will lead the Le Mans Start scheduled for 1200 LT on 7 June.

French Race Crew, Clotilde Goeman, who has been part of the team since Leg 5 and therefore sailing a half circumnavigation, said: “I have lots of friends who are living in Washington, DC, so I’m really excited to see them. It’s going to be summer, so I’m looking forward to walking around and enjoying all of the activities within the city. I’ve never been, so I don’t really know what to expect!”

Image: Clotilde Goeman interviewing on FB LIVE

Speaking from on board I as the team made its final preparations was USA national Robert Lakos on Dare To Lead. He said: “This is my first time sailing on the East Coast. I’m looking forward to seeing what we will do on the Gulf Stream, then into Chesapeake Bay. I never thought I would sail up the Potomac, you’re right by the US capital, so that is going to be awesome. I’m looking forward to just being in DC, the museums, there’s a whole bunch where we will be berthed at The Wharf.”

Image: Dare To Lead departure

Winners into Panama, Qingdao, was next to head out into the home waters of the Atlantic. Team member, Giorgio Talamanga said: “I’m very, very happy to be heading back into the Atlantic. It feels like the home stretch. We’re headed towards home and I am looking forward to it!”

Keeping it short and sweet (but also confident!) round the world Qingdao Ambassador ‘Zac’ Ziqi Wang added: “I’m thinking about winning the next race, that’s about it!”

Image: Ziqi Wang

Setting sail on Leg 7 on board Perseverance is Anthony Quinn, a Scottish national living just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He said: “I am excited to get out into the Atlantic - it’s one step nearer to home. I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and family!”

Image: Perseverance team

Speaking to Clipper Race LIVE, Californian Jessica Fletcher said from on board Zhuhai: “I am so excited to be sailing up the East Coast. I’ve got family there, my cousin, my aunt and uncle, I just can’t wait to be in the city that I love. I have lots of favourite places to eat and drink and walk around and see, so I’m really looking forward to going back.”

On the race ahead, she added: “It feels like a while since we have been sailing after the motor down at the end of Race 11, so I’m really looking forward to getting the sails back up and really flying. We want to go fast!”

Image: Zhuhai team departure

Next to leave the Shelter Bay Marina, and sporting its pride month bunting gifted by Team and Host Port Partner, Events DC, was PSP Logistics. Making up the Leg 7 crew was Christopher Luce, who lives in Washington state. On sailing into his capital city, he said: “DC is such an amazing city, and the chance to go up the Chesapeake and the Potomac is just fantastic - I’m really excited about all of that. The monument, the architecture, the great restaurants - all of it is going to be great!”

Image: PSP Logistics departure

The final boat to slip it’s lines was Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, who is currently sailing at the top of the leader board. One or the team’s Circumnavigators, Jaci Smith, said: “I’ve actually never been to Washington, DC, so it’s going to be a first time visit for me, despite being from the States. I’m pretty excited to see it! And even more excited to be back in the Atlantic. I try not to look at the conditions, I just expect them to be what they’re going to be!”

Image: Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam departure

Being the final three teams to transit the canal, Washington, DC, Bekezela and Our Isles and Oceans didn’t stop after exiting the Panama Canal at approximately 1900 LT. They continued out to meet up with the rest of the fleet which had slipped lines earlier from Shelter Bay Marina at 1600 local time today, 5 June.

Image: Birds eye view of the final yachts through the Panama Canal

After this evening’s departure, the fleet will now motor sail around 200nm, which will take the teams around 40 hours, to the rendezvous area, completing safety drills on the way. The reason for the Le Mans Start is to aim to avoid a large patch of no wind and be clear from lots of commercial shipping.

Race 12 will get underway at 1200 LT on 7 June. Track the fleet on the Race Viewer to see how the first few days of racing unfolds.

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