After a short, sharp and punchy 1,560nm race up from Panama, the eagerly anticipated Washington, DC stopover has finally begun. Race 12 arrivals day started with the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge opening for the Clipper Race fleet to parade through, on its way to The Wharf.

The honour of leading the fleet into its home port went of course to Washington, DC. The team that has raced around the world proudly boasting the capital city’s iconic across its hull.

On arrival, Washington, DC Skipper, Hannah Brewis, said: “It is our home port, so we have been waiting for this moment for nine months of racing. It's a big moment for us - all these people are here to greet us, it is incredible.

“There is so much do here, I am excited to get out and explore the city we have been talking about all this time.”

With a big smile on her face, the team’s AQP, Ella Hebron, added: “What an amazing arrival! It’s been a long motor through the Chesapeake and then along the Potomac, but the whole way here the anticipation for the arrival was just building and building. Everyone is so excited to be here and the welcome from the dockside was immense. Everyone has been super motivated; it was a great race!”

Next up was Race 12: Come Sea DC Cup winners, Qingdao, who celebrated its second consecutive victory on the circuit and third win overall. This top placing now puts Qingdao into seventh place in the overall leaderboard, with its Joker still to play.

On arrival into the Wharf, Qingdao Skipper, Philip Quinn, said: “The second win of this leg is a really good result. We didn't make many mistakes this time. Although we suffered from a lack of boat speed for a while, we managed to get through a lot of the wind holes quite well and we didn't get slowed down too much

“It was a challenging race with a lot more wind holes and squalls than expected. Even only ten miles from the Finish Line we had a big squall.

Qingdao AQP, Henry Hallatt said: “This was a really cool entrance into DC with the Washington Monument and top of the Whitehouse in view.

“One more ocean to go - we're on the home stretch. We seem to be on a winning streak, so I think we're doing something right”.

The team's partner, the Qingdao Major International Sailing Events (Festivals) Organizing Committee Office sent a congratulatory message to their team. They said: "It's great to hear the good news that you have crossed the finish line first in Race 12 from Panama to Washington D.C, winning your second first place in a row in Leg 7. Hereby, the Qingdao Organizing Committee would like to extend our warmest congratulations to all crew members on board the Qingdao Yacht!

"Under the leadership of Skipper Philip Quinn, all of you have worked together closely and made decisive decisions to keep the lead with your superb competitive level and good psychological quality. Your excellent performance is the perfect interpretation of the brave and fighting spirit of ocean navigation, showing the charm and image of Sailing City, Qingdao! We are so proud of your outstanding performance and once again express our warmest congratulations to all of you. We wish the crew of Qingdao a smooth and brilliant journey in the coming races!"

Next in was second place winners Zhuhai. Currently sitting third place on the overall leaderboard, after the team’s flyer, it fought a race course battle to hold on to second place, beating UNICEF by just one hour, three minutes and one second.

Zhuhai Skipper, James Finney, said: “It’s fantastic to be back on the podium – the team really deserves it. We had something to prove after the last race, and I'm so glad we managed to pull it off.

“It's pretty cool to be a team with over 50 percent of our races finishing with a podium. I've been blessed with a fantastic AQP and a really good team, so I'm really happy”.

Arriving with his team having secured the much coveted third podium place, UNICEF Skipper, Dan Bodey said: “I’m happy to have third place after a tough race. It was a fantastic drag race to start with, and tricky through the Caribbean. We did well there, and when back in the North Atlantic with the low-pressure systems developing on top of us - it was an interesting one. But the crew did really well and worked really hard so I’m chuffed.”

“It was a close finish in the end with Zhuhai giving us a tough time. It stole second from us a couple times and played it well going east - that paid off for the team, and they deserve it. The team is buzzing to be coming into Washington, DC for the last international stopover of this race. It was special with the sun rising over the city as we motored into the Potomac. We can’t wait to go out and explore.”

The team’s AQP, Laura Hampton, said: “Race 12 for UNICEF was unexpectedly challenging. We had varied weather conditions that were cool. We got pipped again by Zhuhai for second place, but great to be back on the podium and back in the Atlantic.

“Coming up to Haiti and Jamaica, we were expecting some steady breeze but with the low-pressure system coming over us, we had some unexpected breeze and huge wind shifts from 10knots to 50knots within a minute or two and had to react very quickly.”

After a hard-fought battle, Race 12 podium contenders, Dare To Lead arrived in fourth place.

On arrival, Dare To Lead Skipper, Ryan Gibson said: “A really up and down race for us. We didn't know who won until crossing the Finish Line. Everyone worked hard and we kept doing what we could. Coming into the Caribbean the weather was really nice. We thought it was going to be the same all the way, but the low-pressure system came in and changed all that.

“The leaderboard is interesting now with these results. We really needed to hold off UNICEF. If we didn't get the result we did, we would have jumped down to fifth place in the overall standings. We're holding fourth now by two points or so, and we have to wait and see how we've done in the Ocean Sprint. Second and third place is an interesting thing to watch! We just need to keep doing what we can, and we'll see at the end where we finish”.

Dare To Lead AQP, Charlie Warhurst said: “It was a hard-fought fourth place. It keeps us in a fighting position overall. Had we finished lower down, it would've been challenging”.

Fifth-placed Our Isles and Oceans arrived into The Wharf next, celebrating another great result on the circumnavigation. Skipper Max Rivers commented: “We're finally in DC! It's been a long time coming. We had a fantastic motor in this morning, and we are really glad to be here. On the first five days we had nice conditions: upwind to the Caribbean with good winds. It was enjoyable and put the crew back in the swing of things and got them keen to go racing again.

“On the passage through the Caribbean, we had better winds than we were expecting and didn't get wind-holed like we thought, so, it was a really positive start to the race and the end was quite exciting. We were next to Dare To Lead for three days within ten miles of each other, and we had either gained or lost miles each day, which was really good racing. They flew past us in the end, but we had some excellent close racing to the end”.

Narrowly missing out on fifth place, sixth placed Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam was next to arrive. Skipper Bob Beggs summed up the race from Panama: “It was a hot and humid start to the race. When we got to the islands, we decided the Scoring Gate was a possibility and was really pleased to get maximum points in that. It was a really hard-fought race between ourselves and Zhuhai and we battled well to get back into the race. We have a feeling we did well in the Ocean Sprint which will increase our lead on the points table.

“The team worked very hard in tricky conditions. It was hot, sticky and humid, and they did well. We need new first place winners in the next few races if we want to keep on top of the leaderboard so, if we can't come in first, I'm glad Qingdao did.

“All in all, a pretty good race. It is my first time into DC, it's the American equivalent to the tower bridge, right here in their capital so quite good”.

Seventh place PSP Logistics was next to come in, with the team sporting party hats and the fun spirit the team is known for.

Its Skipper Mike Miller said: “There was lots of variety in this race. Sometimes we’d be doing fantastically well and at other sometimes not so good. We got a bit mashed by the wind holes, but there was lots of good racing, and we did really well on the last day to hold off Perseverance.

“The unpredicted weather on the race was actually good fun, a proper challenge every time. The wind holes are always tough, but for once we didn't get the worst of them which I think was a big plus. Those last couple of days it was getting very tense, right down to the last five minutes, I thought Ineke could overtake us”.

In quick succession, Perseverance was next to arrive in to The Wharf. Detailing the challenges on the race, Skipper Ineke Van der Weijden said: “It was pretty cool to sail under the bridge this morning. It wasn't a great race for us, we seemed to find every wind hole between here and Panama, but we had a fantastic time anyway. The crew were fantastic, they tried really hard to keep getting our way back into the race to just get wind-holed again, which can be a bit demotivating, but they were fantastic.

“The leaderboard is going to be super interesting with the next two races still to go, and two Jokers yet to be played between the top three teams. I can tell you we are not giving up just yet”.

AQP Joss Creswell added: “It was a horrible race for us. Just a tour of every wind hole. The crew did really well, I think mine and Ineke’s tactics are questionable, but I think all in all it was a good race because the crew learnt a lot.”

The penultimate team to arrive was Yacht Club Punta del Este. Having been the orchestrator of the Le Mans start out of Panama, the team got off to a good start, only to make a poor decision based on the weather forecast, which resulted in a tenth-place finish for the team.

Skipper Nano Anita said: “What an annoying race! We started well, we got good angles around the Caribbean Islands, which was good, and then we trusted too much in the forecast and went west, thinking that west is best! But it's not!

“Then we just found wind hole after wind hole, all the other boats on the east side just destroyed us. So, it was just a mix of bad decisions, trusting the forecast and bad luck, even though we ended up coming in tenth, it was a great adventure, and we are really looking forward to the next race.

Also to wave in the Yacht Club Punta del Este team was Punta del Este local, Christina, who now lives in DC and came down to The Wharf early this morning to greet the teams.

The final team to arrive and complete the fleet into Washington, DC was Bekezela. The team accepted eleventh place before reaching the Finish Line but arrived in good spirits. Skipper David Hartshorn reported on the racing: “It's disappointing in terms of overall result but the front was really interesting. We had a kitemare, and lots of smoky lightning and in the end, we couldn't quite manage to claw it back and overtake Yacht Club Punta del Este”.

The eleven yachts are now moored up in The Wharf ready for Clipper Race Fleet Week, hosted by Events, DC. The week ahead has heaps of activities, events and celebrations along with preparations for the final ocean crossing of the race.

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