After an enjoyable battery charge in Amazing Albany, the Clipper Race fleet is tightly packed and heading south east in search of Sydney, with sunshine and light winds easing them into Race 4: The Elliot Brown Timekeepers Cup.

An exciting and clean race start saw many teams using their spinnakers on the downwind section to get out of the King George Sound and back into open waters. Mission Performance currently leads the race, the shortest of the series so far at just 2,088 nautical miles, just over 10 nautical miles ahead of ClipperTelemed+ and Da Nang - Viet Nam which lie in second and third, less than a mile apart.

Commenting on his teams strong start, Mission Performance Skipper Greg Miller says: “Race start was the most spectacular and exciting that Mission Performance has seen to date. We had a reasonable position off the start line and were second at the windward mark behind LMAX Exchange, with Qingdao close on our transom. We decided to go for a kite hoist and although it took us a little while to get it up we used it well and had a few good gybes along the way.

“After tacking back up the bay towards open water I decided to tack off early to go between Michaelmas and Breaksea Islands, hoping for a lift as the wind funnelled through there. We then continued inshore on the east side of King George Sound to make some easting in the relatively calmer water compared to the offshore route that the rest of the fleet would be experiencing, before tacking out on a more southerly heading and waiting for the wind to come round to the north east. We hope to follow this round back onto our rhumb line down towards Tasmania.”

All gains are marginal in this early stage however as just 35 nautical miles separate the entire twelve-strong matched fleet which appeared to be heading in a line abreast formation before 0300 UTC this morning when LMAX Exchange, Qingdao,Derry~Londonderry~Doire and GREAT Britain chose to veer further south in hope of fairer winds.

The light wind start to this race has meant trimming, sail work and helming skills are being practiced ahead of the fleet’s Boxing Day challenge in Sydney, as GREAT Britain Skipper Peter Thornton explains: “Hopefully race start was a good spectacle, not bad training for Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race either. Lots of trimming and sail work for the crew. Once clear of the bay, the remainder of the evening and through the night was spent dealing with gusty conditions. Although not strong is was challenging for the helms to keep the boat going in a seaway with light winds and when the winds came through, being able to take advantage of them.

“You will also see from the Race Viewer that over the past 12 hours the winds have been shifting in direction as well as strength - all associated with the high pressure system currently sitting in the centre of the South Australia Basin.”

As well as the ever important first podium finish, Da Nang – Viet Nam Skipper Wendo Tuck, currently placed third, has an added incentive to perform well in this race as it means getting home earlier. She says: “We are cruising along nicely, making our way down to Tassie, where we will hang a left then make our way up to Sydney, my home town.

“To all my friends and family, I’m soooo looking forward to seeing you all. I can’t believe it’s not that far away now, it has been nearly been a year since I left Sydney for this epic voyage.”

Despite the light start, the next few days are forecasted to get trickier as the high the teams are currently moving south under should carry on heading east. The next big and unstable system building is predicted to move south east over the next three to four days, eventually encompassing the entire Great Australian Bight, which covers the south coast of Australia.

Stay glued to the Race Viewer to check the fleet’s positions and witness how this short, sharp sprint race will play out.

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