The Clipper Race fleet prepared to embark on Leg 5, the Asia Pacific Leg. This leg is renowned as the most fast paced of the entire circumnavigation, promising a rollercoaster of challenges.

Race 7: Endless Discover in Ha Long Bay begins in the picturesque Whitsundays, where teams experienced the thrill of the first Le Mans start of the Clipper 2023-24 Race, which set the stage for an exhilarating adventure.

As the fleet sails out of Australia, it will face the first hurdle – a cyclone that was in the region. Deputy Race Director Dale Smyth sheds light on the current weather forecast, stating: “As the fleet heads down to Mackay to clear out of Australia, cyclone Kirrily has well and truly moved inland and degraded. This has left the fleet looking at north westerly winds for the Le Mans start which means them heading hard upwind on a Port tack towards the Equator.”

The temperatures will soar as the fleet heads north, testing the mettle of sailors both mentally and physically. Dale Smyth emphasises the demanding nature of this leg: "The increasing temperature for each mile sailed will be one of the greatest challenges of this leg, particularly until the teams are through the islands of Papua New Guinea and into the monsoon in the Northern Hemisphere once again, where temperatures will be more bearable with the boats sailing well. This is a leg of many varying conditions and challenges, perhaps one of the toughest mental legs of all and it will start with a race to get to and through the doldrums.

“Hopefully the teams will not be forced too much to the east as the potential of wind holes increases the further east you go. Height and speed will be key as the teams all aim to lay the southern gate of the Doldrums Corridor.” Dale adds.

Teams with robust light-wind sailing skills are expected to seize this opportunity to gain a competitive edge.

Image: The fleet at the Coral Sea Marina in Airlie Beach

The second Equator crossing isn't just a navigational milestone; it marks the return of King Neptune for his second visit of the circumnavigation. The fleet may witness spectacular lightning storms and passing squalls, offering a reprieve from the heat but introducing the challenge of heavy conditions.

The much-anticipated Race 7 commenced at 0000 UTC on January 29, with the Le Mans start led by the Skipper of Dare To Lead, Ryan Gibson.

Adding a touch of homecoming sentiment, Skipper Josh Stickland will guide team Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam into its home port amidst the stunning backdrop of Ha Long Bay.

As the fleet embarks on this race of endless discovery, it braces itself for the challenges that await them on the journey from the Whitsundays to Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. The Clipper Race continues to unfold, promising a spectacle of skill, resilience, and the enduring spirit of exploration.