Race 9 Day 18: Pressure mounts as teams battle for position

07 April 2016

Derry~Londonderry~Doire continues to lead the way in the Seattle Pacific Challenge, with an 87 nautical mile lead over second placed Unicef. However the chasing pack hasn’t given up the fight, with approximately 1700nM remaining to the Race 9 finish line, as Oliver Cardin, Skipper of LMAX Exchange, currently in fourth, notes.

“This will keep us focused to the end… We are all looking at each other and trying to always take every little advantage,” Olivier said.

The storm that was forecast to reach the fleet in the last 24 hours proved not to be as ferocious as had been expected. Despite the teams all racing with conservative sail plans due to the anticipated strong winds and sea state, high speeds and distances were recorded.

Seventh placed Mission Performance has covered 137nM in the last twelve hours, the greatest of any of the teams, with Skipper Greg Miller recording their highest speed so far this leg, 23 knots under the heavyweight spinnaker.

For Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Daniel Smith, it has been a tense 24 hours as his crew work to maintain the lead which would result in a third consecutive victory.

“Flatter water has meant that we have managed to carry our heavyweight spinnaker at times throughout the day and for a while during the night. This has meant good speeds, sometimes pulling away from the fleet. Unfortunately at other times, despite still having good speeds, they have been managing to catch us. We are putting this down to different bands of wind causing different groups to travel at slightly different speeds.

“For now the wind is building and coming forward which fits with the forecast of the second front approaching. This front is expected to be windier so we are preparing for a night under reduced white sails until it blows through. Hopefully it'll be fast but not too full on.”

When the gusts of wind increased to around 40 knots overnight, ClipperTelemed+ Skipper Matt Mitchell and his team, currently in third place, dropped their spinnaker for the Yankee 3.

“We rode under white sails for the rest of the night and into the morning, which looking at the schedules, we suffered for in terms of position, so I decided to sail with the wind that we have and up went the kite again this morning.

“We have been making great speed ever since, however the barometer has just done a big jump down, and the wind has shifted a little further to the south which is the pre cursor to this stuff coming through. The kite has just come down again and we are back under Yankee 3. A little under powered at the moment but I'd rather be a little too early than too late,” Matt added.

Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell says: “Looks like that front is right over pretty much all of the fleet now. They could be experiencing gusts of up to 60-70 knots, but once they go through & the wind veers north-west the gusts should ease off significantly.

“The next few days puts the fleet firmly in the band of west winds south of the train of North Pacific lows which will be wearing but is great for progress. Looking further ahead these lows do seem to be keeping the East Pacific High a bit further south, long may that continue for the final big section of this race to Seattle.”

Further back the fleet, a game of cat and mouse is going on between PSP Logistics and Visit Seattle for ninth place, which are remarkably close after 3000nM of racing.

“The sky merges with the sea in an endless grey murk as the perpetual rain soaks up your sleeves,” PSP Logistics Skipper Max Stunell reports.

“The Seattlittes (Visit Seattle) are orbiting, if the visibility wasn't down to 500 metres we would be able to see them creeping up on our stern. Having been playing cat and mouse for the last 24 hours, surfing down the Pacific waves at over 20 knots.

“In the past few hours the weather has stepped up a gear, we have reduced sail and the game continues as we move east away from the new low centre that is forming to our north-west,” Max added.

As the teams race through the low, can anyone catch up with Derry~Londonderry~Doire? Will it offer up the chance for more jostling for positions? Stay tuned to the Race Viewer to follow all the action.

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.

All positions correct as of 0900 UTC.

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