Skippers Thoughts: Race 9

22 March 2018

Since the dramatic race finish which concluded the Asia-Pacific Leg 5, Clipper Race crew have enjoyed a cultural break in Qingdao, China, but it’s now time for the next challenge; 5,500nm across the North Pacific to Seattle, USA.

Here the Skippers reflect on the second Chinese stopover and the next challenge.

Chris Kobusch has been proud to represent the Host Port during the Clipper 2017-18 Race, with the Qingdao Skipper saying: “It was a great stopover, a fantastic welcome and I think the goodbye ceremony will be just as good.”

With the next stop being Seattle, Skipper Nikki Henderson and her Visit Seattle team are headed ‘home’. Nikki says: “I’m feeling mixed emotions. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time and we can’t wait to get to Seattle. But there is a big trip in between so I think there is a natural, healthy amount of apprehension about it. Of course, we’re excited too though and we can’t wait to get going.

“Sailing into our home port is going to be amazing and I haven’t seen my family since before Liverpool so I can’t wait to see my Mum and Dad, and Aunt and Uncle and everyone else on the dock. I’m so happy just thinking about it.”

Liverpool 2018 Skipper Lance Shepherd has been looking forward to Leg 6 for a long time and has opted to play the team’s Joker Card. He explains: “We set it out right from the start, back at Crew Allocation, once we got the numbers on who was doing each Leg. That was our plan right from the start. We are good at pointing upwind so we think it’s going to be our Leg.”

Also choosing to play the Joker Card is Nasdaq Skipper Rob Graham, who says: “This is something that we’ve discussed as a team a few times and we felt like we’ve been improving the last few races. The mix of people on board with quite a high number of new joiners here – this could be the time.”

He adds that the initial lighter weather may work in his crew’s favour, explaining: “The forecast initially is fairly light, which is probably not the reputation that this Leg usually has. Once we’re clear of Japan then we’re in for a bit of a change in the weather and we’ll see what happens out there. The initial weather should ease people into things and then it will feel like a bit of a restart.”

Seen as ‘The Big One’, the Mighty Pacific Ocean Leg will take almost a month to complete. Skipper Conall Morrison comments: “It’s a long way to Seattle and we’ve just got to be ready. We’ve done the trip up from Japan before so we know how cold it is and we know what the fishing fleets are like. We’ve had some big winds. It’s a little bit lighter at first and then the wind should be behind us pushing us on.”

Garmin Skipper Gaëtan Thomas can’t wait to get out on the Pacific Ocean and experience the big surfs, saying: “We want to crack over 30 knots of boat speed. I don’t think the Le Mans start will have too much of an affect as it’s such a long race, we will see how it goes. My ‘pirates’ are pretty strong in rough weather and they are mentally strong so I have a good feeling.”

Several of the Clipper Race Skippers have crossed the North Pacific previously, including GREAT Britain Skipper David Hartshorn who was a crew member on the Clipper 2015-16 Race. He says: “I’m expecting conditions to be similar to the last time, very cold. Interestingly we have light winds for the first couple of days which will make it a bit of a challenge to get down to Japan. I’ve been managing the crews’ expectations about it being cold and the fact that they are going to have big seas to deal with. The way that I would describe it after doing it last race would be relentless.”

The current overall race leader, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck was Skipper of Da NangViet Nam on the last Clipper Race edition when she crossed the North Pacific and agreed: “It can be really, really cold and also quite big swells, but so far the forecast doesn’t look to gnarly so you can expect a bit of everything we are going to start off with light breeze but at some stage we will get smashed by fronts coming through so a bit of everything I think.”

She adds: “Its awesome fun, a lot of fun. The boat just picks up and you do speeds in the high 20s sometimes early 30s so it’s a lot of fun, I’m a surfer so I like surfing a 70ft surfboard.”

Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs was also on the last edition, in charge of Qingdao, and says: “The Pacific is meaty. There’s some good weather out there. Breaking waves. Some good speeds to be had. It’s cold and grey, but it’s a great achievement and I think once we arrive in Seattle, the guys will be really happy and proud to have ticked it off their bucket list.”

Another Skipper who has taken on this voyage, actually twice, before is PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell. He has been managing expectations amongst his crew, saying: “It’s cold wet and horrible. I think my team will be good, all race I’ve not been playing this one up at all, so been very realistic. Hopefully making their expectations worse than it’s actually going to be so will be a nice surprise.”

Also, taking a conservative approach is Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth who says: “I think the cold is going to be tough and it’s going to be good to get to Seattle before starting to head south again. I think it’s more about the attitude that its more of a marathon than a sprint.”

The massive endurance challenge of crossing the largest ocean on the planet will finish in the Emerald City between 14 – 19 April 2018 where the Skippers and crew can be sure of a huge Seattle welcome.

Watch the Clipper Race: LIVE Facebook page for the teams slipping their lines from 1100 local time (0300 UTC) – the videos will remain available to watch afterwards.

You can also follow the progress of the Clipper Race fleet 24/7 on the Race Viewer.

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