After a fantastic stopover in Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam it was time to for Race Crew to hit the high seas once again as Race 8: Sprint to the City of a Hundred Islands kicked off. A morning filled with celebration, including a DJ, lion dancers, traditional drummers and paragliders with flares (no show too grand for the Clipper Race crew!) it was back to yacht life and race mode activated.

Image: Fleet departure from Ha Long Bay through the picturesque islets

A Parade of Sail set against the iconic Ha Long Bay rock formations, and led by Home Boat Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, saw the fleet motor out into the channel as it set off for the second Le Mans start of the edition.

Taking around 5hrs to complete the 32nm to the Start Line, the Le Mans Start officially started at 1000 UTC (1700 LT) with Our Isles and Oceans taking the lead boat.

Image: Race 8 Le Mans start

Once the lead boat is decided it takes the most central position in the line up, and then the positioning of the remaining ten boats is purely a game of luck, with teams being drawn from a hat and placed in order from the windward side.

Lead boat for this start, Our Isles and Oceans, Skipper Max Rivers said: “Thanks for an amazing stopover and departure ceremony. The Le Mans start happened at 1700 LT, (1000UTC) as prescribed.

“All boats nicely on time and in good formation, luckily very little traffic out that far. As the breeze was light but starting to build, we opened to stick with the prescribed sail plan of Yankee two, staysail and full main. This was the right choice as the wind built gradually through the start.

“At Race Start most boats hoisted both foresails with a couple opting to not hoist a staysail. After the 10-minute holding time, an array of things happened, Code 1 and 2s were hoisted around the fleet as everyone bore away.

Image: Le Mans start from on board Zhuhai

“Currently fleet is quite condensed, with most boats flying a spinnaker losing height and the Yankee boats holding course a little better. The wind is still building slightly, and we should have it for the next 7-9 hours before the transition to a more aggressive up wind.

“Thanks to all the skippers for behaving, zero issues or complaints and a nice clean Race Start with a fair and even send off.”

Speaking just after the start, here’s what some of our Skippers had to say...

Qingdao Skipper Philip Quinn said: “We've just started Race 8 and our second Le Mans start. We started middle of the line beside the lead boat, Our Isles and Oceans, and managed to get a good start off the line with sails set quickly and drawing well. After 10 minutes we hoisted our spinnaker and are presently with the leading pack. Well done Qingdao crew, a great job done by all.”

Image: Start line action

Perseverance Skipper Ineke Van der Weijden said: “We just had our Le Mans start for Race 8. As always, a great experience. We were about middle in the line up, so surrounded by boats, making a clean fast start a bit harder. So, not the best start we ever had, but we are working hard to get back to the front of the fleet now.”

PSP Logistics Skipper Mike Miller said: “A great start from PSP Logistics. We stayed with the Yankee 2 after the compulsory 10 minute "no change period" as we are sailing more smoothly and just as fast as those boats pushing their spinnakers. We have got back into the groove really quickly and our crew work is fantastic.”

Image: From on board PSP Logistics at Race Start

Ella Hebron, AQP on Washington, DC reported in a blog: "After a few hours of a scenic motor past the islands of Ha Long Bay, we got off to a cracking start following a Le Mans led by Max. The crew managed to get our Yankee hoisted and powered up just before everyone else, meaning we were one of the first to pull away at the start. As per the rules, we held our course for ten minutes, when that ten minutes was up, we bore away and hoisted our Code 2. The wind wasn’t quite what was forecasted and we weren’t making our desired course, so we dropped the Code 2 after a while and hoisted the Yankee 1 to gain some height on the fleet. Once we were further to windward again, we hoisted our Code 3 and carried on to Virtual Mark Westwood, still in a good position against the fleet. We soon encountered the South China Sea fishing fleets which we hadn’t missed terribly throughout our stopover in Ha Long Bay, and we were quickly reminded why we hadn’t missed them."

Image: Race 8 start

Josh Stickland, Skipper on Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam also wrote in his Day 2 blog: "So from myself and the crew, we would like to say a massive thankyou to Ha Long Bay for putting on such an amazing stopover. It is one we will all remember for a very long time. I'd really recommend a holiday there. So the Le Mans start was pretty cool, it was really interesting to see all the different sail plans and see how they played out. The fleet is very tight after 18 hours and so it turns out that, weather you flew your Code 1 or 3 or Yankee 1 your end up at almost the same place as your competitors... (bloomin sailing)."

Follow the fleet on this short sprint to Zhuhai on the Race Viewer

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