Tension is building amongst the leading pack, with five boats now off the radar in Stealth Mode as the Clipper Race fleet begins what should be the final week of the epic 5,600 nautical mile race across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle, USA.

To add to the excitement and pressure, more than half the fleet has now entered into the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint - the final opportunity to earn crucial bonus points before finishing Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City.

Race leaders Qingdao joined Sanya Serenity Coast, Unicef, Garmin, and HotelPlanner.com in Stealth Mode at 1200 UTC yesterday and will now be hidden from public view until the same time on Tuesday 17 April.

But the extended period of 48 hours of Stealth Mode is proving to be a double-edged sword; whilst Qingdao is enjoying the freedom of being off the grid, it also prevents the team from keeping an eye on the other leading boats. Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch explains: “We started the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and should hopefully reach the eastern end before sunrise. We had a good start with fast boat speeds and it looks pretty promising.

“Unfortunately, quite a few boats (Sanya Serenity Coast, Unicef, Hotelplanner.com and us) went into Stealth Mode for the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, so we cannot compare our progress to theirs. Plus, the last four boats might have good downwind conditions when they enter the sprint. We will have to wait and see.”

IMAGE: Round the World crew member Matthias Eigenmann on the helm on Dare To Lead.

This is the first time in the Clipper 2017-18 Race where teams have had the option of two 24-hour periods of Stealth Mode. The periods can either be used separately or concurrently, as all teams have so far decided to do.

Whilst in Stealth Mode, a team will not show up in position reports delivered to the rest of the fleet or on the Race Viewer but the Clipper Race Office will remain in constant contact with the boats and receive regular 6-hourly position reports.

Although the leading pack is currently hidden from public view, the teams in front are now down into triple figures with approximately 700 nautical miles remaining until the finish line. Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs, whose team was third before going into Stealth Mode, says: “We continue downwind, but now back under white sails. The angles and sea state are preventing the use of spinnakers for the moment but the Code 1 (Lightweight Spinnaker) is due an airing soon according to the forecast.”

IMAGE: All positions correct at time of publishing.

Meanwhile, it has been a slow day for the chasing pack, with Visit Seattle, Liverpool 2018 and Nasdaq reporting calm seas and relatively light airs. However, the teams to the west are hoping the wind fills in to propel them into the final sprint as Liverpool 2018 Skipper Lance Shepherd reports: “Light airs sailing today, 6-8 knots of breeze right behind us, not our most wished for kind of day. Currently sailing with a Code 1 (Lightweight Spinnaker) and full main getting lots of gybing practice.

“The wind is due to fill in once the ridge comes over us and hopefully this should coincide with the end of the "Ice line" so we can point a little more towards Seattle.”

To follow the fleet’s progress to the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and for the rest of the race to Seattle, keep an eye on the Clipper Race Viewer. You can also read the Skipper Blogs in full in the Team Pages section of the website or find out the latest from the crew in the Crew Diaries.

The latest Estimated Arrival Times into Seattle can also be found on the Clipper Race Website. The fleet was originally expected to finish the 5,600nm Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City from Qingdao to Seattle 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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