With the announcement that Mandatory Finishing Gate 2 will be where this race from Seattle to Panama will come to a close, it’s not just the air temperature that will be rising as they venture closer to the equator.

With only about 40 miles of racing left, it’s neck and neck at the front of the fleet. Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam has the slenderest of leads and is just three miles closer to the Finish Line than Qingdao in second. Whether the red dragon can close that gap though, might come down to their lateral separation from east to west. Bob Beggs and his crew on Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam are 30 miles to the west of Qingdao and appear to be under slightly more pressure filling in from the Pacific.

Looking aft of the two leaders is another close-quarters battle for the final podium spot. Overall race leader Perseverance and third-placed Zhuhai are also separated by three miles, with Perseverance also possibly better placed being the westernmost boat closest to where the stronger wind is coming from.

But there’s also a dark horse on their western horizon that’s just popped out of stealth mode and it’s at full gallop right now. PSP Logistics has reappeared on the Race Viewer, nearly 60 miles further out to sea and according to the wind maps has hooked into a ten-knot breeze. While the boats to their east are struggling with half that wind. If the finish into Seattle was anything to go by, where UNICEF lost out on three places within three miles of the finish line, anything could happen. And it usually does in ocean racing.

With all the excitement at the front, it’s important not to ignore the battle for the remaining points further afield, where there is a 140-mile spread west to east between the boats.

Eighth-placed Yacht Club Punta del Este, in what we assume is an attempt to find better breeze, has gambled with an inshore routing by hugging the coast of Mexico. Our Isles and Oceans, currently on north-easterly heading is them, while a duo of UNICEF and Dare To Lead battle away in slightly more consistent, be it light, air further offshore. The battle between these four inshore and Washington, DC, and Bekezela much further out is also going to be a tight one, with the same variations in the breeze the further out to sea playing a part.

So, while there’s no need to hold onto those hats in this light wind folks, it might still be one heck of a grandstand finish yet.

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