Skipper Thoughts Ahead of Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya

28 January 2018

The Clipper Race Skippers are relaxed and well rested after a break in the Whitsundays but it’s time to get back to work, and start Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya.

Despite many thinking that Sanya Serenity Coast would play its Joker Card in the race to its home port, Skipper Wendy Tuck is happy to keep that advantage off the table for now, saying: “We don’t have much of a lead in the overall standings but it is a lead nonetheless so that’s great and we are just keeping the little Joker Card up our sleeve to spring it when people least expect it.”

Sanya Serenity Coast will have the honour of leading the fleet in the Parade of Sail before departing the Whitsundays, and Wendy is keen for the team to do Sanya proud in this race, commenting: “I am really, really excited about getting to Sanya.

“But it’s going to be a tough, long race. We’ve just had a few short races so it’s going to be hard to get our mindset into that, but knowing that we are going to Sanya is what is going to keep us all going because it just looks fabulous.”

Visit Seattle is still riding high from its win in Race 6 to the Whitsundays, and Skipper Nikki Henderson will be looking to harness that energy for what will be a challenging race.

“The team is feeling good, we are now starting to say the ‘w’ word – winning,” says Nikki.

“We are not going to change anything, just keep enforcing our team values and culture and hopefully the results will come from that.

“I’m very excited to go back to the Northern Hemisphere, it feels like we are on our way home now. Race 7 will throw up its own challenges and it’s going to be quite tactical I think at times which the crew like.”

Tactics will be crucial, especially as the teams try and navigate through the changeable winds in the tropics. Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs says: “We are expecting a mixed bag of weather like the previous race from Hobart to the Whitsundays which is really good, as it gets the crew motivated.

“A lot of downwind and then when we get into the Doldrums, we can expect a lot of changeable weather, a lot of rapid sail changes, deluges, downpours, getting soaked on deck.”

The squalls and accompanying rain will be a welcome relief from the other big challenge of this race.

“The biggest impact is the heat,” states PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell.

“From previous experience, it is just crushing in that part of the world so that will be the hardest bit about this whole thing.” Skipper Conall Morrison adds: “We are looking at something between three and four weeks to Sanya so we have just got to have our marathon not our sprint heads on. We need to make sure we look after our sails and don’t get ourselves too tired. But we are getting better at looking after ourselves that way.”

For the first time in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, there will be a Le Mans start in Race 7. Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth comments: “It’s going to be interesting. I’ve never done one myself so I think we are just trying to get away clean and make sure it’s fair.”

There has been a significant crew changeover between Leg 4 and Leg 5, meaning there are plenty of new faces on board each of the eleven teams. Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch says: “Pretty much all the leggers on board are new, only the round the worlders are staying on from Leg 4. So, we will have to go back into teaching mode for the first couple of days or weeks, so that is a big challenge. But the refresher sail went really well and it all looks promising.”

Nasdaq Skipper Rob Graham is also anticipating teaching to play a big part in Race 7, adding: “The round the world crew have improved race by race and now the task is to pass that knowledge on to the new joiners.”

It’s not only in the crew that there have been changes, with Dave Hartshorn returning to the race to take over from Andy Burns as Skipper of GREAT Britain.

“The team is feeling great, really excited and we’ve had a really, really constructive past few days getting to know each other,” says Dave.

“We had a great training sail on Friday, and there are lots of new crew joining here for Leg 5 so I think it is going to be an exciting race.”

Whilst the race is now at the halfway point in terms of distance, for the eleven Skippers it feels like the job is just beginning. Liverpool 2018 Skipper Lance Shepherd explains: “It does still feels like we are in the early stages of the race. And that means it is still anybody’s race. There are obviously some clear leaders but we still have a long way to go so we are going to try and make an impression.”

Garmin Skipper Gaetan Thomas echoes that sentiment, adding: “I think it is going to be close racing more and more in the second half of the race. I think there is a good balance between the boats and I think through the Doldrums Corridor and with all these marks there is less opportunity to do something big. So, I do expect it to be quite close.”

The Slipping Lines ceremony will begin at 1200 local time (2200 UTC) and you can watch all the excitement on the Clipper Race Facebook Live page. Weather permitting, the parade of Sail off the coast of Airlie Beach will also be shown live from 1300 (2300 UTC) with the fleet to then take part in a short course race to determine the order of the Le Mans start tomorrow.

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