Race 7 Preview: The Lakewood Hills, Zhuhai Race

22 February 2020

Subic Bay has given the hard working Race Crew an opportunity to relax, take time away from their 70ft homes and enjoy some of the Filipino culture and culinary delicacies.

In addition to checking out the local area, an impressive £1500 was raised for Clipper Race Charity Partner, Unicef, through social events Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Punta del Este treated the rest of the crews to, whilst in port.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in China and subsequent quarantine imposed on travel from the country, the Clipper 2019-20 Race route had to be amended. Race 7 and 8, the two remaining races of Leg 5: The Asia-Pacific Leg, have been combined to form one longer race of 8-10 days.

The new route for Race 7 will see the fleet head north from the Philippines, across the Luzon Strait and around the western most cluster of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands. The teams will then race downwind, east of Taiwan, and battle against the notorious Japan (Kuroshio) Current, which flows north and east of Taiwan, before heading back to Subic Bay.

Race 7 has been named by the Zhuhai Organising Committee and is a 1,600 nautical mile race that both starts and finishes in Subic Bay.

An interesting feature of this highly tactical race route, is the addition of an extra Dell Latitude Rugged Ocean Sprint and an additional Scoring Gate. This gives an exciting opportunity for a possible six teams to score bonus points in the sprints and also six teams could gain bonus points at the Scoring Gates. There was a possible 31 points on offer in this race for a very lucky team if one chose to play its Joker. 11 points will be awarded to the winning team, whilst a maximum three points are on offer for an Ocean Sprint win, and potentially six points if a team gets through both Scoring Gates first.

Skipper of Dare To Lead, Guy Waites, said: “It’s exciting - the way the race route has been planned out, with the choice of two sprints and two Scoring Gates. There are lots of exciting changes and I think it will make for an interesting race, tactically.”

The race route will contain two Ocean Sprints; Ocean Sprint North is between the lines of latitude 22°N and 24°N and Ocean Sprint South between lines of latitude 24°N and 22°N. Teams are only permitted to enter one Ocean Sprint section and each team must declare an official entry into its chosen section within 48 hours of Race Start to be eligible.

For the two Scoring Gates, which are placed either side of the rhumb line, the teams can decide whilst racing which optional Scoring Gate they wish to compete for. The Scoring Gate West shall be between SG7 West at position 20°00N, 119°45E and SG7 East at position 20°00N, 119°55E. The Scoring Gate East shall be between SG7 West at position 20°00N, 121°00E and SG7 East at position 20°00N, 121°10E. See details on the Race Viewer and for more information, check out the Course Instructions for Race 7.

The fleet will slip lines from 1200 local time before a Parade of Sail at 1300. The crew will then undergo safety training drills before preparing to cross the start line of Race 7, located in the vicinity of Subic Bay. Race 7 will start at 1500 and sees the yachts race from east to west and back out into the Luzon Strait.

On what’s in store for the fleet, David ‘Wavy’ Immelman, Skipper of GoToBermuda said: “Conditions keep changing at the moment. It’s looking like quite a light start then a heavy beat following and towards the end, a nice run home, basically everything on this race! The challenging part will be getting out of Luzon. The light airs behind the mountains could be very frustrating. Somebody could get wind 100 metres from you and sail away and you could not pick up the wind, and vice versa.”

The Ocean Sprint North could well be hard work and challenging with some light conditions. Then, there could be a ridge of high pressure, giving very light conditions as the fleet reaches the north-easternmost mark. The absence of wind will not mean a flat sea, as the residual swell will still exist from the previous winds. Once over the top of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands and round the most northerly virtual mark, the fleet will begin a fast downwind sleigh ride as the North East Monsoon winds establish themselves and blow with consistency. This will give fast progress which could be wet and wild. Either under spinnakers or white sails the yachts will reach great speeds and have a really good velocity made good (VMG) towards the latter part of the course.

With less than four race points separating the top two teams on the overall leaderboard and the teams in sixth to eighth currently tied on point, Race 7 could be a decisive factor in the battle for the Clipper Race trophy.

On the points available, Skipper of Punta del Este, Jeronimo Santos-Gonzales commented: “Extra points on offer, along with the combination of the light winds and strong winds is going to make for an amazing race. Midway through this race, all the points count and this opens up the opportunity to climb the leaderboard.”

Josh Stickland, Skipper of Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam is a little nervous about the scramble for points, saying: “We are maybe not the most tactically astute boat. We prefer the long races, just keeping on sailing. The points on offer could be detrimental to our position, but we will keep doing what we are doing.”

The Lakewood Hills, Zhuhai Race is expected to take 8-10 days. The fleet is estimated to race back into Subic Bay between 2-4 March after the final run down the west side of the Philippines, which is expected to give a real mixture of good downwind conditions and light patches as the temperatures heat up again.

Follow the action of this high octane race with lots of intensity, energy and extremely varied conditions on the Race Viewer. Gain insight into the tactical decision making and life on board from the Skipper blogs and crew diaries on the website and receive updates via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for email race updates here.

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