Spotlight: Leg 5 - The Asia-Pacific Challenge

03 February 2023

  • Total distance raced: approximately 6,000nm, over a number of individual races
  • Days racing: 30-40 days
  • Where: Australia to Asia
  • When: January- March 2024

An equator crossing, intense weather patterns, a physical challenge, a mental test and a heap of culture on the stopovers - Leg 5 has it all.

Image: a beautiful sunset on Leg 5

Image: Crew celebrating Lunar New Year

Taking place in the early part of the year, the Asia-Pacific Leg starts from Australia and heads north to explore Asia. Historically, this stage of the circumnavigation incorporates short, fast races between tropical destinations.

Both the sailing and climatic conditions are incredibly varied and crew are tested physically and mentally as they adapt to changing environments- from scorching heat and windholes to squalls that appear out of nowhere.

Image: Squally conditions on the horizon

After leaving port in Australia, the fleet heads north and as crew reach the equator, the breeze may drop. High levels of concentration will be needed, as every tweak will affect boat speed. The teams with strong light wind sailing skills will do well, but nevertheless this is the perfect leg to perfect these tactical skills.

Tammy Hirst, Visit Sanya,China, crew member during the 2019-20 edition reported: “Today we’ve been sitting mostly in another windhole and can now see five other Clipper Race yachts, all trying to harvest any breath of wind they can find, alternately trying wind-seekers and Code 1s (big spinnaker). It’s all very good training for learning light wind sailing skills both in helming and trimming sails – every tweak counts!

Image: Tammy Hirst

Image: Calling for sail trim

“We were treated to a few hours of nice steady winds last night, after a heavy, yet still very warm squall (which works almost as well as a washing machine for the grubby kit we’re wearing), with which we managed to achieve 10 knots and the more familiar heel of the boat, making life at an angle a little more challenging once again.”

Image: Life at an angle

The second equator crossing of the Clipper Race route will see the return of King Neptune - and his initiation of more Shellbacks. Sudden squalls and spectacular stormy weather will become more common, bringing heavy conditions to navigate, but some very welcome relief from the heat.

Image: Equatorial crossing ceremony

Alexandra Rennard, Seattle, said: “I'm writing this sat on deck at 2315, having just woken up from my sleep to start my four hour night watch with the rest of the Seahawks. There's a lightning storm in the distance which lights up the sky every ten or so seconds and the usual hundreds of stars overhead. It's amazing how quickly I've started taking these sights for granted!”

Iona Griffiths, WTC Logistics Race Crew added: “After the previous night, we learnt our lesson and kept our radar on and was greeted with a squall right off the back. The wind was high, the rain relentless, to the point where I had a shower and everyone was wet to the bone. A reef-in later, we exited the squall and were welcomed by another, however this one had a twist… It turned into a tropical storm. All around us was so dark it was like looking into the abyss then FLASH. With lightning all around us, it was so bright against the black surroundings it was blinding, not your average British thunderstorm I can tell you that.”

Image: Racing on WTC Logistics

Continuing north, the wind will start to build as the fleet enters the northeast monsoon, where teams will be looking to pull away from the pack as they take advantage of a strengthening breeze.

Finally, the crew will take on the South China Sea, complete with its notorious fishing fleet obstacles and changeable weather to keep teams on their toes before reaching their first stopover destination.

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