There's been an early split in the Clipper Race fleet after Race 11: Nasdaq Race to New York officially got underway following a Le Mans style start off the Atlantic coast of Panama.

The race began at 1700 LT (2200 UTC) and with a wind hole sitting right over the start line, Nasdaq immediately opted to break away from the pack. GREAT Britain, Unicef, and Garmin soon followed suit, with the four boats committing to a easterly tack to escape the windless patch, whilst the rest of the fleet opted for a north-westerly route.

IMAGE: Light winds at Race Start.

Qingdao's Chris Kobusch was the Lead Skipper for the Le Mans start and reports: "We had a good start into Race 11. The Yankee and Staysail went up quickly and soon the boat was fully powered up. Andy kept a steady course, the trimmers got us going nicely and ten minutes after the start we were fourth or fifth in line.

"Shortly after the fleet split with us and a few other staying on course, while Nasdaq and three other yachts tacked away. Time will tell which tactic will pay off."

The race to New York is expected to be a tricky one. Whilst it is comparatively shorter than previous ocean crossings the crew has experienced so far, it is a tactically tough race as the route passes through a complex arrangement of islands and reefs. Following this, fickle winds are also expected off North America so the competition will be one of frequent sail changes. Distance will be lost as quickly as it is gained so the pressure is on for the fleet.

Clipper Race Director Mark Light explains: “Teams should not be complacent with the shorter distance of this race - it is going to be tactically tough. The crew will need to look out for big squalls at night and the Race Office will be keeping a watchful eye out for any tropical revolving storms.

“After navigating the obstacles of the Caribbean Islands and their reefs, the route will skim the Bermuda Triangle and should try to make the most of the Gulf Stream that follows the eastern coastline of the United States – extra gains of up to two to three knots can be made.

“With just three races remaining in this 40,000nm circumnavigation it could not be closer in the fight for final podium positions. Race 10 proved that anything can happen in ocean racing as positions changed right up to the finish line.”

Two competitors from New York, Duffy Drum, 63, and Chris Goodwin, 28, are sailing to their home city. Drum is a retired Naval fitness director from Long Island who won his place through a NYC newspaper contest. Despite being a novice sailor, the Clipper Race team were won over by his sense of adventure and love of the outdoors and he said he had plenty of time on his hands now he is retired.

IMAGE: Visit Seattle crew member and New York local Duffy Drum.

Long Island resident, Chris Goodwin, who works in construction, is an experienced sailor. However, his experience has been supersized as he has swapped his smaller 18 foot boat for a Clipper 70, the stripped back ocean racing yacht he is now living onboard.

On his experience so far, Goodwin says: “It has been everything I could’ve asked for and more. It’s been more of a physical and mental challenge than I expected with the noisy sleeping conditions and constant moving about. I was happy to gain the trust of my Skipper and fellow crew mates to do some exciting helming in challenging conditions as well as climbing the mast at night to address our spinnaker halyard.”

IMAGE: Visit Seattle crew member and Long Island resident Chris Goodwin.

On sailing towards the Manhattan skyline, Chris continues: “The finish of the race in New York is going to be filled with mixed emotions. It will be sad to know that my Clipper Race adventure is coming to an end, but the joy of seeing my friends, family, and girlfriend at the finish line after a hard-fought race will surpass any tribulations. I’m sure as we approach New York Harbour, with that familiar skyline, I’ll be happy to be home.”

Whatever time of day teams arrive into New York during the arrival window of 14-16 June, the Statue of Liberty and the stunning Manhattan skyline will be waiting to welcome weary sailors after almost two weeks of energy zapping upwind racing.

To follow the fleet's progress to New York, keep an eye on the Clipper Race Viewer.

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