Race 9 Day 12: 50 knot gusts and white-knuckle helming as Pacific promise delivers

01 April 2016

The North Pacific leg is always billed as ‘the big one’ and Skippers report this promise really delivered overnight as a short, sharp forecasted weather front came into force with a bang, bringing 50 knot gusts, roller-coaster style helming conditions, and the best boat speeds seen so far on this leg.

In his 0600 blog today, Garmin Skipper Ash Skett explained the tough but thrilling conditions being felt on board, reporting: “We are right in the thick of it now, the small but punchy low pressure system came barrelling over last night and winds touching 50 knots at times have seen us flying along at speeds into the 20s.”

“Waves are short, lumpy and attack us from all directions, making helming at different times exhilarating, specialist, scary but most importantly of all...fun. We are having a blast careering along at breakneck speeds, the occasional wave sweeping up the deck from the bow and flooding the cockpit, keeping crew suitably soaked to the bone.”

The race lead continues to change hands but at the time of reporting Unicef, (described by Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Daniel Smith today as a “rocket ship which will be hard to beat in this race”) leads more northerly positioned Garmin by four nautical miles.

Clearly enjoying the ride at the front, Unicef Skipper Martin Clough reports: “Surfs up on Unicef today! There have been screams of delight as various helmers surf into the 20s. Ever conscious of the low centre we have tried to keep a southerly option. Scoring Gate or no Scoring Gate, that is now the question?? However, amazing sailing today. 'This is what we have paid for,' was the quote of the day!”

As seen on the Race Viewer, teams have faced the worst of the front and are now trying to avoid the patch of light winds that follows, which is currently in the direct path of the Scoring Gate. This is likely to make for a restless night of navigating as Skippers try to weigh up the decision to go for the bonus points or concentrate on picking the best course for overall race progress amongst the fleet which is still so tightly packed.

On today’s hot decision to head for the Scoring Gate or not, choices are not yet fully clear, however LMAX Exchange Skipper Olivier Cardin, whose team is currently in third place, is the first to reveal he will not be going for it. He says: “This afternoon, we had a long discussion about the Scoring Gate and the difficulties we will have to go there. At the end, we made the decision to go directly to Seattle and not go to the gate.”

April Fool’s Day has come and gone for the teams in their time zone with a low level of pranks reported across the Clipper Race fleet. Skipper Greg Miller explains from beneath his Stealth Mode cloak that his team escaped the mischief, saying: “Well it has gone midday on Mission Performance and there have been no April Fools’ pranks. Probably because of the weather! Everyone is exhausted and getting to grips with the weather, and sea-state is quite tiring.”

With the equivalent mileage of six Fastnet races, or over 3000 nautical miles, left to go in this marathon of a race to Seattle, and the little task of reaching the Scoring Gate in dying winds, there won’t be time for teams to rest just yet.

Follow The Seattle Pacific Challenge progress on the Race Viewer to see which teams go for the Scoring Gate, and how their course choices vary to get there.

*All positions correct as of 1100 UTC.

To find out more about the stopover in Seattle where the fleet will be berthed at the Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbor, click here.

If you are being inspired by the crews and would like to join the race yourself, click here.

Click here to view the Penalty Points, which have now been allocated for Leg 5.

Catch the latest Episode (3) of Race of Their Lives this Saturday and Sunday at 1200 BST on Bloomberg, Channel 502 in Europe. Update on FOX TV will be given once we have it.

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