Transiting the Panama Canal has brought the Clipper Race fleet back to the Atlantic Ocean, a momentous occasion for all on board and for the circumnavigation. The last time the teams were crossing the Atlantic was during Leg 2, around eight months ago.

Ahead lies Race 12 and the second stage of Leg 7. It’s a short but punchy race, through the Caribbean and up the US east coast to Washington, DC, with a 1,560nm route that will see the teams race for between 10-12 days.

This is the first time the Clipper Race will be stopping in Washington, DC the Capital of the US, and Race 12 has been named by Host Port and Team Partner Events DC as the Come Sea DC Cup.

Now well-versed in the Le Mans start procedure, the fleet will start Race 12 offshore. After slipping lines from Shelter Bay Marina, to avoid a big area of very little wind, the fleet will motor just over 200nm to a rendezvous start area, clear of major commercial shipping channels. Under the supervision of the designated lead skipper Nano Antia Bernardez of Yacht Club Punta del Este, Race 12 is planned to start at 1200 LT (1700 UTC) on 7 June 2024.

Once racing is underway the fleet will cross the Caribbean Sea, and take the windward passage between Cuba and Hispaniola, which marks the entrance to the North Atlantic.

Multiple routes are on offer to tactically traverse this passage. Each team must enter through one of the three entry Mandatory Gates and exit through one of the two Mandatory Gates available, all marks are available in the Course Instructions. Fickle winds are expected in this area because of depressions coming from the North American landmass. This warm and windy race will offer up some dramatic thunderstorms and squally conditions. Whilst spectacular to watch, these passing depressions will keep crew busy, as frequent sail changes will be required. It will be gripping for Race Viewer addicts and intense for those on board as distance can be both made and lost quickly.

Deputy Race Director, Dale Smyth, explains: “The first section up to the islands of the Caribbean, between Haiti and Cuba is hard up wind, a real up wind passage into the south easterly trades. It’s going to be a real challenge of who can get good height and good speed in the short Caribbean chop. Once they get through the windward passage and out of the Caribbean, the wind continues from the easy but the fleet is able to bear off slightly and potentially even get some kites up for a fast run towards the finish line off Washington.

“One of the additional factors as the fleet approaches Washington is the start of the gulf stream, which can assist the fleet, the teams will be closely looking at the tidal charts to see if they can take advantage of that.”

The Finish Line is positioned outside of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US. Once finished the teams will rendezvous at the entrance to the Potomac River to transit together to Washington, DC. All teams must pass under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, which will open just once at 0445 LT on the arrival day, before making their way to The Wharf, Washington, DC where the fleet will be berthed for the duration of the stopover.

This race has plenty of bonus points on offer, and with positions on the overall leaderboard so tight, tactical decisions such as these could play heavily on the minds of the skippers. Race 12 will feature a Scoring Gate, positioned east of the Rhumb Line to try to tempt some of the teams off the most direct route, and an Ocean Sprint, both with a maximum of three points up for grabs.

Out of the five teams which still have Jokers to play, Washington, DC was the only one to choose to play its Joker on Race 12, and therefore will double its race points into its home port.

Track the fleet on the Race Viewer, follow the Clipper Race on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest news, check out the Skipper Blogs and Crew Diaries to hear from those on board, and check out what’s on and how you can get involved during the Washington, DC stopover.

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