03 March 2018

With the incredible, action-packed stopover in the tropical paradise of Sanya, China, drawing to a close, the eleven Clipper Race Skippers are turning their thoughts towards the next challenge, Race 8: The Qingdao Sailing City Cup.

After ten days in its home port, the crew of Sanya Serenity Coast has opted to play its Joker Card and will double whatever race points earned during the 1,700 nautical mile race to Qingdao. Skipper Wendy Tuck explains: “There are a number of factors that went into the decision, but probably the biggest one was that it is a predominately upwind race and the boat and team has sailed quite well upwind in the past.

“We also don’t have any crew changeover here, so the team is already working really well together, so that’s a big factor. We have a lot of crew that don’t get seasick, so hopefully that will help us a bit and finally, we are leaving Sanya, our home port, so we are pumped and excited to get racing and fly the flag for the city again! So, Joker it is!”

On Sanya Serenity Coast’s decision to play its Joker, Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth comments: “I didn’t expect it! It is an interesting move, I think it’s a good race to do it and they are quick upwind and it is an upwind race so it’s good for them.”

Visit Seattle Skipper Nikki Henderson adds: “I think it is a very sensible move as Wendy’s team is very good upwind. They have a magical ability to sail faster at a higher point of sail than us!”

The pressure is on for Chris Kobusch, who will be leading his team, Qingdao, into its home port. Taking it in his stride, Chris says: “The race will be great. We met the Qingdao delegation in Sanya, I think they are really excited to see us, as are we to get into our home port.

“The podium into Sanya was a great motivation. There is a little bit of pressure on this race into the team home port. There is some pressure on the crew to improve the podium position, too, but anything can happen. I think the crew is looking to a cooler boat!”

Though hoping to replicate the team’s success from Race 7, PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell says: “It is going to be a really tough race. Not only is it upwind, and nobody prefers upwind racing on a Clipper 70, but also because we have been in the tropics for a while now so the crew will find the temperature changes a real struggle.

“We are looking forward to it, though. It will be good to get back racing. Hopefully we will get another podium! The pressure of doing well drives us. We are aiming for podium overall, and we just want to get this one ticked off now. Hopefully the weather gods are on our side and we have a bit of luck and get into the top three.”

Having demonstrated his teams’ capabilities during the Sanya Serenity Coast In-Port race, Liverpool 2018 Skipper Lance Shepherd is looking forward to the next challenge, saying: “Winning the In-Port Race has really helped the team. They are all very excited as we have shown we can be at the front of the fleet. We have the tactics, we have the skills on board so we are just going to try build on that and keep the pressure on for this next race.”

The podium result for Dare To Lead has also given the team a boost, which Skipper Dale Smyth is hoping to use as a springboard for further success. “The podium into Sanya has been really positive for the crew. We have had a couple of mediocre results over the last few Legs and I think its been good for the morale and the team is geared up to go again.”

Like Matt Mitchell, Bob Beggs, Skipper of Unicef, is no stranger to racing into Qingdao and he is looking forward to leading his team there once more. On returning, he reflects: “I am absolutely looking forward to it! It has been two years since I have been to Qingdao, when I led a Clipper Race team there, so I am looking forward to it greatly.”

Despite Chinese fishing fleets providing some extra obstacles, Bob thinks his team has the potential to place well in the race. He adds: “None of us really like going upwind for too long because of the angle that the Clipper 70s sit at, but it does add to the racing mix. Some teams are better upwind, some downwind and I think we like a mix”

It will be a first time visit to Qingdao for Nasdaq Skipper Rob Graham but after a podium position for the In-Port Race in Sanya, his team is hungry for further success. He says: “It’s a shorter race than Race 7, but I’m sure it won’t feel that short when we are out there bashing upwind!

Ever the optimist, he adds: “I think the sail repair team is looking forward to an upwind leg because they won’t spend the stopover repairing spinnakers!”

For Nikki Henderson, this will be the last race before embarking on the Mighty Pacific Leg 6 to her team home port but it won’t be a gentle one for the crew of Visit Seattle. Nikki says: “Race 8 sounds pretty intense, beating upwind and getting colder and colder every day.

“The team will probably find the weather conditions a challenge and I will be playing a big role in team morale and keeping everyone upbeat.”

On board HotelPlanner.com, Skipper Conall Morrison and his team are looking forward to getting on the water again. He says: “It will be good to get up close to the Buddha during the inshore circuit and then getting to the Sailing City of Qingdao will be really cool.

“HotelPlanner.com probably doesn’t enjoy upwind conditions the best, so there are a few changes we’ve made from the last race, which was largely downwind light conditions, to accommodate that.”

Like the rest of the fleet, GREAT Britain is also ready for the upwind dash to Qingdao and Skipper David Hartshorn is excited to see the progress in the team after a changeover in the Whitsundays, saying: “The boats are very different when they go upwind, it will be a very different experience for the crew. The weather was relatively benign and there was extreme heat during Race 7 but we are anticipating some quite strong winds on the nose as we go around and obviously there will be a drop in the temperature. It will psychologically be a very different race from the last one.

“We are keeping the watch system as before, we are looking at adapting it as we head across the Pacific Ocean during Leg 6, but for now we will maintain a two-watch system.”

Head over to the Clipper Race: LIVE Facebook page from 1100 local time (0300 UTC) to watch Clipper Race teams take to the departure stage, then wish them well as they slip lines in Sanya Serenity Marina and head to the start line.

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