​Prep day thoughts from the Skippers ahead of Race 8: Sprint to the City of a Hundred Islands

02 March 2024

Race 8: Sprint to the City of a Hundred Islands marks the second and final race on Leg 5: The Asia-Pacific Challenge. With prep day complete, Race Crew have enjoyed one last sleep on land and it's now time for the 600nm voyage to Zhuhai, China. We caught up with the Skippers to see how they are feeling ahead the short, sharp sprint ahead.

Race 8 sees the fleet tackle a bit of everything, our racing teams can expect light fickle winds navigating Haian Island, wind shadows, upwind and downwind sailing, plus lots of traffic as it heads back through the fishing fleets. With the addition of a Le Mans start, there’s lots to think about in the tactical race ahead.

Following the final briefings to Skippers, First Mates and Crew, Clipper Race Director Mark Light said: “This race is a little different in the whole scheme of the Clipper Race. It’s a short race for us, 600nm, which is still a decent length race for a lot of sailors.”

James Finney, Skipper on Zhuhai will be racing into his team’s home port of Zhuhai. This is the first time that the city will host the Clipper Race fleet, and with multiple consecutive podiums under his belt, James will be looking for another strong result into Zhuhai. On the race ahead, he said: “It’s going to be a short and sharp race, about 4-5 days, with fairly light winds. It’s quite fickle around here, we are going around Hainan Island, which will have a lot of wind shadows, and there will also be a lot of marine traffic. We are going back out through the fishing fleets so there will be lot of nets, there'll be all sorts out and about. It’s a short leg, but definitely a difficult one.”

Image: Zhuhai ready to head to its Home Port

Mark Light concluded: “There’s quite a lot of changes going on in the weather forecast. The teams are going to get a bit of everything, but they need to be on ball because any small mistake could cost them in such a short race.”

Race 8: Sprint to the city of a Hundred Islands will get underway by way of a Le Mans Start at 1700 Local Time (1000 UTC) on Saturday 2 March.

Here’s what the rest of our Skippers had to say…

Bekezela Skipper, David Hartshorn: “To have a five day break mid-race has been absolutely fantastic, but it’s time to go back to sea now. We’ve got a lot to prove on our boat, after two bad results, and we need to get back going. It’s a short race, and that’s not Bekezela’s favourite style, but it’s going to be a challenge. In a short race you can’t afford to make any basic mistakes because the relevant impact of that is massive, you have no time to recover. If something goes wrong and it takes you an hour or two to sort, that’s disproportionate to the time you have on the race.

“The Le Mans start means we will close reaching our way into the wind, but that also means we will be going the completely opposite way to we need to be going. So actually the leeward boats have actually got an advantage in this start. We are just in the middle, so we don’t win or lose in the draw, but we’ve got to move quick. It’s not a traditional Le Mans, but it’s going to be good fun!”

Image: Bekezela ready for action

Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam Skipper, Josh Stickland: “It’s been a great stopover with plenty of time to rest, but we’re ready to get racing and out at sea again.

“This one is a short race, and they’re not my favourite. It takes me a while to get into a gallop. Our thing seems to be that we make mistakes in the first few days. Our tactic is to keep up with the fleet, keep mid position, and if by the halfway point we’re in a good position then brilliant, if not, we’ll keep chasing.”

Image: Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam ready for Race Start

Qingdao Skipper, Philip Quinn: “I’m very excited to get back out to sea. Being a short sprint there are not so many changeovers. We’ll hopefully be sailing downwind to the bottom of Hainan Island and then tactically we need to be out of the current as best we can, avoiding the fishing fleets. Aside from that, it’s a short one. But that’s sprints for you!

“For the second Le Mans start our plans are to do much the same as in the previous race, as that seemed to go pretty well! If we can do the same again, it should be a great start for the team.”

Image: Qingdao ready for Slipping Lines on Race 8

Dare To Lead Skipper, Ryan Gibson: “The biggest part of this race will be to not make mistakes. Even changing sails is a big thing and it takes a lot of time. The routing is another thing, but that doesn’t change much so I see us racing as a pack for a lot of this race, so really the biggest tactical manoeuvre is managing when to do what sail changes.

“A Le Mans start is a nice change and allows the whole fleet to start together.”

Image: Dare To Leady ready for Race Start

PSP Logistics Skipper, Mike Miller: “We’ve had a great time here in Ha Long Bay, the crew are well rested, and the boat is in a great condition and ready to go.

“We want to sail fast all of the time, and our main challenge is to stay fast for longer. We’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing but doing it better.

“I love a Le Mans start, but ironically, this is the second Le Mans start of the edition and for the second time we are in the worst starting position possible. We are in windward position, and as this is a downwind race means we are further away from the Finish Line that everybody else. But that’s just an extra hill for us to climb.”

Image: PSP Logistics team on departure day

Our Isles and Oceans Skipper, Max Rivers: “Let's get back out on the water! The crew is raring to go. They've had a good time off here, enjoyed their time off, but we're keen to get back on the water and get moving again.

Our Isles and Oceans is particularly good at shorter races. We excel at Race Starts and Race Finishes. So, we're hoping that a nice short race will give us an opportunity to display our ability to work hard, and to stay on the ball for a short, intense period of time and make the most of a good race.

“I'm the Skipper in this Le Mans start and I am very excited to be leading the second Le Mans start of the race. It’s an intense way to start because the whole fleet is starting nice and even.”

Image: Smiles for Our Isles and Oceans

Washington, DC Skipper Hannah Brewis: “It's a much shorter race, this one, so it's a little bit different. It's only going to be four days, so it's a lot more like a sprint and it’s going to be pretty intense all the time. There’s not going to be a lot of rest! You've just kind of got to send it for four days, you can't stop, you can't rest, you’ve just got to really push, push, push all the way to the end.”

Image: Delve deeper Washington, DC!

Perseverance Skipper, Ineke Van der Weijden: “This race is actually going to be quite a different monster than the previous races. For this Le Mans start we'll be starting upwind, and then after ten minutes, we're free to do what we want. We can bear weight, change sails, so it's going to be quite different, seeing what people do and how quickly they adjust their sail plan.

“It's very different to race 600-miles versus 4,000 miles. When you have time and it's more a marathon, you have time to sometimes take a step back a little bit. This is just going to be full on the whole time and lots of sail changes and if they need to be done, they need to be done. We will probably be within reach of other boats that we can visually see the whole time, which is a great motivator, but it also is exhausting at times. So yeah, it's going to be very different race.”

Image: Race 8 ready, it's Perseverance

UNICEF Skipper Dan Bodey and AQP Laura Hampton said: “We’re looking forward to getting back racing again, getting back on the water and just seeing how we go!

“Being a shorter race, it's definitely going to be more intense. I think for us it's going to be a really high paced race, because if you make mistakes, you have less time to catch up.

“This is the second Le Mans start that we're doing, which is quite nice. It's a little bit less stressful from the closeness of the base perspective, but it's a really tight drag race initially. It's going to be interesting to see, especially with it being an upwind start, but we want to go downwind to get around the bottom of Haian island. It will be interesting to see the teams’ tactics.”

Image: UNICEF team

Yacht Club Punta del Este Skipper Nano Antia said: “I can’t wait to keep going around the world and keep exploring these amazing spots.

“This race is different to the last race, it’s going to be a very short, super intense racing. The tactic is to avoid all the cargo ships and the fishing vessels because they can really constrain your tactics. We're just going to try to keep the pressure from the beginning, I'm not going to sleep at all to see if I can push the ball to get a good result. Tactics wise, it's going to be about just keeping all the big sails up.”

“The Le Mans start is pretty straight forward. We all are very, very close, so it's all about keeping the pressure for the next 12 hours and the next 24 and the next 36, that's when you really make a difference. The Le Mans start is just a very cool way to start offshore without a line start. There's no wind around here, a line start would be mayhem to do it here!”

Image: VAMOS Punta

Follow the Race Start day action via our social channels, and track the fleet on the next race via the Race Viewer.