A tight battle in the final denouement of the circumnavigation is playing out across the fleet, with constant trimming and little sleep in the North Sea.

After a downwind start with spinnakers trimmed in light airs against the tide off Den Helder on the Dutch coast yesterday, the fleet has been match racing across the North Sea towards the Thames Estuary.

There is little opportunity for tactical moves and the timings of tacks are crucial if teams want to make any vital gains and avoid slipping a place.

The standings have been changing regularly in the final fight for points and ultimate leaderboard positions.

As of 0700 UTC, Derry~Londonderry~Doire was in the lead, with Visit Seattle 0.32 nautical miles behind, and LMAX Exchange 1.87 NMs behind the leader in third.

Even if Derry~Londonderry~Doire win Race 14 and the 12 points, it will not be enough to knock LMAX Exchange off the top of the overall leaderboard and prevent it being crowned the champion tomorrow as the team is currently only two places behind in third.

Rich Gould, Skipper of IchorCoal, in fourth place, described the start and ensuing race so far in his final blog of the circumnavigation.

“The last race start of this epic journey certainly did not disappoint. A downwind line start is always an exciting one, with all boats hoisting and setting kites as the final gun goes.

“What followed was a short kite run, pushing for shallow water to try to hide from the foul tide. The team did nothing short of an epic job and we certainly gained a few places in the short distance that we ran the kite for. As the course came round it was time for the Yankee 1 and staysail to go back up and the kite to come down.

“The whole fleet compressed and fought to windward in the light breeze, again trying to remain in the shallower water to avoid the foul tide. Lots of crossing amongst the whole fleet, with only a few feet between boats at times certainly made for a high adrenalin, memorable final race start.

“It now seems the fleet have split in to two distinct groups. Many of the fleet, ourselves included, find themselves in the situation of the result of this final race having a direct link to the final standings of the whole round the world race so it’s going to be nail biting stuff,” added Rich.

On board Derry~Londonderry~Doire, a good start and hoist of the medium-weight spinnaker meant that team was soon into first place coming off the start line.

However, a question over which buoy was the correct buoy to go around meant Skipper Dan Smith made a small detour dropping its kite, re-rounding buoy "T1" not "TX1" and re-hoisting its lightweight spinnaker and re-joining the pack.

Skipper Dan Smith explains: “This dropped us back from first to last but a shifting light wind and great work from the crew allowed us to work our way back amongst the top few boats.

“LMAX Exchange was putting its Skipper Olivier's match racing skills to good use and it became apparent that no amount of quick or sneaky tacking was going to allow us to break free from LMAX Exchange’s cover so we focussed on sailing fast, got into some clean wind and have since been able to sail our own race.

“We are currently approaching the second mark of the course and will soon turn south west towards the entrance to the Thames where we'll have sandbanks, tides and 11 other yachts all eager to win into London and boost their overall result to contend with,” Dan added.

Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs is in fifth place as he match races his team’s leaderboard competitors. He described the final race: “It has been a long night with few of the crew getting much sleep. As we occasionally cross tacks with our competitors we can see the crews all lined up on the windward rails.

“Qingdao is joint fifth on points with Da Nang – Viet Nam, Mission Performance, and ClipperTelemed+ they are all just behind us but there is still some hours to go with fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place still to be decided in the next few hours,” Bob added.

Will Derry~Londonderry~Doire win Race 14, its fourth overall race win of the series?

The fleet is expected to start finishing the circumnavigation off Southend Pier at 1800 BST.

The Race Viewer will poll every 30 minutes throughout Race 14. To follow all the action, click here.

To read all the final Skipper reports, click here.

To read more about the Race 14 course, route and battle for points, click here.

To see all the details and timings for the London Race Finish and Parade of Sail on the River Thames, click here.

For a gallery of Den Helder Race Start images, click here.

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