​Race 9 Day 14: Seconds Apart in Scoring Gate Thriller

06 April 2018

A thrilling match race played out in the midst of the North Pacific overnight as Sanya Serenity Coast, Qingdao and Unicef gave everything in the aim of securing top bonus points in the race to the Scoring Gate. IIt was almost too close to call but in the end, after a terrific and powerful downwind run, the first two teams were split by an incredible 33 seconds!

Sanya Serenity Coast crossed at 00:05:49 UTC and Qingdao crossed at 00:06:22, followed by Unicef in third place, with the three teams securing the three, two and one bonus points respectively.
Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch said: “Well done team! Now it is straight to the finish line. Well, more or less straight. With 3200 nautical miles of north Pacific Ocean and an Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint in between, it is still a long race and more potential points are at stake. The weather forecast looks good though, the mood on board is great and the spirits are high. We are looking forward to some fast and existing downwind sailing!”

IMAGE: The standings on Day 14 of Race 9. NB: All positions correct at time of publishing.

In the overall race lead, it is the three teams furthest north, PSP Logistics, Garmin and Dare To Lead, who continue to lead the race this morning.

Whilst PSP Logistics maintains the lead for the third consecutive day, Skipper Matt Mitchell reports that his team’s progress has been far from plain sailing. He explains: “Not long after I wrote my last blog, a huge wave broke over us. The boat got thrown around violently before crash gybing. Thankfully the foreguys held and we got ourselves sorted out with no one hurt."

After detailing damage to the helming cage and one of the compasses, which will be repaired in Seattle but shouldn’t affect the team’s ability to continue this race, he adds: “Safe to say that we were a bit slow yesterday while we were getting ourselves sorted out, meaning we lost a bit of ground and were unable to make the Scoring Gate which is a bit of a shame. The team did a great job and really took it in their stride. Thankfully these things are quite rare but it goes to show the sheer power of the ocean.”

IMAGE: All positions correct at time of publishing.

Temperatures continue to plummet and the cold and ever damp conditions on board are getting increasingly challenging, however wind speeds bringing gusts of 40 to 45 knots, high boat surfing speeds and top 24 hour daily runs of around 270 nautical miles yesterday, continue to exhilarate and keep spirits high.

Dale Smyth, Skipper of Dare To Lead, says: “Another cold, rough North Pacific day and I am definitely not complaining because we are clocking off great mileage and these are the conditions these boats were designed for.”

He adds: “We are however all wrapped safely up in our composite cocoons of foam and fibreglass as we travel like astronauts through outer space, treading lightly in this ocean we all respect.”

HotelPlanner.com, positioned furthest north, has managed to hold on to its sixth-place position despite losing some ground overnight, as Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “We sailed conservatively last night and probably lost a few miles to the competition, however we have the Yankee 1 flying again now and are seeing some fast surfs, with everyone enjoying the helm.

“It has been bitterly cold on deck and there have been a few waves wash across, times are testing and the crew are coping very well, they are a supportive bunch. It seems the grey skies, following winds and big seas are here to stay for the coming week at least, so here's wishing they push us speedily along toward Seattle.”

IMAGE: The crew on board Unicef enjoying the increased pace.

Nasdaq is up one position in seventh place and aiming for its positive progress to continue. Skipper Rob Graham reports: “Shortly after breakfast we decided the sea state had decreased enough, and our helms had practised enough, to swap Yankee for Spinnaker and Nasdaq has been whooosshhhing along ever since.

“Since we weren't going to make the Scoring Gate in time we're now heading slightly further north - chasing the little pack of PSP Logistics, Garmin and Dare To Lead. Now we're waiting for the next ridge of high pressure to pass over us, bringing us a different weather system. Clipper Race weather guru Simon Rowell foretells a couple of days decent south-westerly wind to speed us on our way - the crew are hoping that might be a little warmer than our current north-westerly.”

IMAGE: Nasdaq on Day 14 of Race 9.

Further back, Visit Seattle Skipper Nikki Henderson is heading further north as the team continues to do everything it can to catch up following a tactical mistake earlier on in the race. She reports: “Sloppy seas and light winds - about every sailor’s worst nightmare. This is what I woke up to this morning ... around 8-12 knots of wind shifting from northwest to southwest randomly every five minutes or so. The sea felt like we were swimming in a public swimming baths when the wave machine is on - wachine machine-esk.”

However, she goes on to say: “Still staying optimistic that soon an opportunity will open and we can make some ground on the fleet in front - this is definitely teaching us the art of patience!”

Keep track of the fleet to see how the weather systems affect the fleet via the Clipper Race Viewer and hear more from the Skippers and crew on the Team Pages.

Despite the excellent current progress, the light conditions and wind holes that hit the Clipper Race fleet in the days after leaving Qingdao has resulted in the arrival window for Seattle being altered.

The fleet was originally expected to finish Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City and arrive into Bell Harbor Marina between Saturday 14 and Thursday 19 of April, but conditions in the early part of the race means the boats are now expected between Thursday 19 and Saturday 21 April.

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