After a jam-packed stopover in Zhuhai, it’s back to boat life as the fleet focuses on the next race in the circumnavigation. Race 9: Sailing City – Qingdao Cup is a shorter race, however packed with challenges, notably busy shipping and fishing areas, and tricky sea states on the way to the second Chinese stopover.

Following a departure ceremony and Parade of Sail out of Zhuhai, the fleet made the 20nm motor out to the Le Mans start area, it was over to Lead Skipper was David Hartshorn on Bekezela to co-ordinate the start at 0900 UTC.

A Le Mans start sees the fleet line up under engines with mainsails raised and headsails ready to go. Upon Race Start, co-ordinated by the Lead Skipper, the fleet can proceed forward raising headsails as a rolling start.

Image: Race 9 Start

Following a successful start, David said: “After a short but great stopover in Zhuhai, we are off again. In Zhuhai, the people were so helpful and friendly and once again some great food was a feature that helped with the rest and recovery process. As lead boat for the Le Mans start it was a given that we were the middle of the line, and although there was some fishing activity and commercial traffic the fleet quickly formed up. This allowed us to get the 20 minutes we need for the start procedure.

"Now we are settling into life on the heel as we will spend the next few days beating towards the Luzon Strait in the North Easterly Monsoon winds, although currently, its more easterly. There is a lot of positive energy on board, as Bekezela crew are determined to show they are a competitive boat.”

The first few hours of racing has seen Qingdao, Zhuhai and PSP Logistics establish leading positions, but with the fleet choosing to split in different directions, it’s anyone’s game in this short race.

Image: Clipper Race viewer at 1500 UTC

Image: Crew on board Qingdao on Race 9

Nano Antia, Skipper on Yacht Club Punta del Este said: “So, another race begins. After a short but intense stopover we said goodbye to Zhuhai. The Le Mans start went ok regarding we were a leeward boat, so as soon as the mandatory ten minutes where you need to hold your course finished, we tacked to find some clean air. Now we are windward of the fleet trying to close the gap. The team did an awesome job hoisting the sails and we are very motivated for the upcoming challenge, which is now as we go through lots of fishing vessels. Thank you, Zhuhai, for having us, and special thank you to the Uruguayan Consulate, Facu and Ana, for treating us like at home, you re-charged us very well!”

Ineke Van der Weijden, Skipper of Perseverance added: “After a great stopover in Zhuhai (good food, friendly people, and a lot to see) we had a successful Le Mans start under leadership of David on Bekezela. Although we had the same place in the line up, we did better this time than the last, and are now finding ourselves chasing the leaders in an upwind battle of who can get around the bottom of Taiwan first."

Image: Race Start on board Zhuhai

Talking about the conditions ahead, Max Rivers, Our Isles and Oceans Skipper said: “The weather is looking mixed! There is a lot of upwind but also some downwind, mixed air masses as the trade winds punch through the monsoon. So we can expect lots of transitions between up and downwind, with some light and very heavy patches. It’s going to be a race of variety.”

For Bob Beggs, who joined the Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam yacht, stepping in for Josh Stickland, this will be the third time taking on this leg of the Clipper Race. He said: “It’s going to be cold, wet and a good challenge. We’ll be beating for the first three or four days, and when we get around the corner of Taiwan, we should hopefully get a bit of relief, but it’s changeable up there.”

The fleet is expected to arrive in Qingdao on 21-22 March, to one of the biggest welcomes on the race circuit. Follow the fleet on the Race Viewer, and tune into our social channels for race updates.

Join The Race