The Race for Glory: Final Test for Teams
22 July 2018
Since leaving Liverpool almost a year ago, the eleven Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race teams have battled each other in twelve races, experiencing everything from frustrating wind holes to ‘phenomenal sea states’, boat speeds up to 35 knots (equivalent to 40 mph), extreme heat and freezing conditions.
But their epic endurance challenge is almost over as the thirteenth and final stage in this unique global adventure departed today from Derry-Londonderry, destination Liverpool, where the race will end on Saturday, 28 July.
In an exciting outcome for women's sport, Skippers Nikki Henderson and Wendy Tuck are competing to be the first ever female winner in the event’s 22 years, with the strong likelihood that both will end up topping the overall standings. This would be a ground-breaking result for sailing, as a female Skipper has never before won a round the world yacht race, and also for sport in general where it is rare to have women and men compete in the same competition.
Race 13 got off to a clean start at 1700 local time today, off the coast of Greencastle in the Republic of Ireland. Dare To Lead was the first over the start line, in front of hundreds of spectators who gathered along on the coastline, closely followed by Unicef, Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle.
Teams will race anti-clockwise around Ireland, to Liverpool, which is expected to take five days. The final race will conclude with a thrilling sprint finish up the River Mersey on 28 July, towards the Royal Albert Dock, where crew will be given a heroes’ welcome by family, friends, and over 100,000 expected spectators.
Sanya Serenity Coast, skippered by Australian Wendy Tuck, 53, went into the final race at the top of the leaderboard with 137 points. Teams Visit Seattle and Qingdao, skippered by Brit Nikki Henderson and German Chris Kobusch, are joint second with 123 points each. Shrewd tactician Henderson, 24, also the youngest ever Skipper of the Clipper Race, has chosen to play her Joker Card on the very last race which means her points will be doubled.
Ahead of departing for the race start, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck said: "It's time for us to pull out everything we have, last night one of my crew reminded me that when I first met the team I said I was aiming for a top four finish. We can certainly aim higher now.
"I have had an awesome year and I feel privileged to have been the leader of this amazing crew. To my biggest competitor in this final race I say, Nikki you are amazing, at 24 I couldn’t even be in charge of myself, let alone up to 50 plus crew who you have got round the world fast and safely. However we finish up, women’s sailing will be the winner."
James Wrightson, 50, from Southampton, UK, a crew member on board Sanya Serenity Coast, says: "To win the Clipper 2017-18 Race would be a fantastic crowning moment. Not only for the crew but we also really want to do it for our Skipper Wendy. This is her second time around and it means so much to her. We're really proud to get to this position and maybe make her dream come true. She's got what it takes, the crew have got what it takes, the boat has what it takes, and the feeling on board is that it's now ours to take."
Asked what winning would mean to the crew, James adds: "We want it now, we really, really do. I think it's one of those things that's going to mean so, so much to us."
Phil Whitaker, 62, a circumnavigating crew member on Visit Seattle, spent over 20 years in the British army, during which he graduated from Sandhurst's Military Academy and reached Colonel status.
As his Skipper and team prepares to do all they can to throw Sanya Serenity Coast off the top of the leaderboard, Phil says: "Nikki has been brilliant, a great tactician and brilliant at managing the team. When I was 24, I was a Sergeant in the British army but I could never have done anything like this. Just the level of responsibility that she's embraced and it's not fazed her.
"Nikki is the epitome of a good leader, she just does it naturally. She just gets better with every leg. We've had a fantastic journey so far and we're all keeping positive about our chances in this final race."
Once teams cross the finish line in Liverpool Bay, it won't quite be over because Race 13 will then conclude with a Le Mans start and a 20 mile sprint up the River Mersey to the Royal Albert Dock, in which the top three teams will be awarded 3, 2 and 1 points respectively.
Giving his opinion on the contest for the overall trophy, Clipper Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston says “There has never been a round the world sailing race where the leading skippers are women. The competition is tough with experienced sailors and a previous winner too. To have men and women competing together in sport on a level playing field is very special and I’m really looking forward to what this last race brings. I'm incredibly proud of Nikki and Wendy and whatever their final standings are, I couldn't imagine better role models for women's sport."
Mathematically, Qingdao can still win the overall race title, but with a maximum fifteen points on offer across the race and sprint finish, and a minimum two points awarded to last placed team, its overall victory would rely on Sanya Serenity Coast being disqualified or retiring from this final stage.
Amongst the rest of the fleet, there is still plenty of competition for final positions. PSP Logistics and Garmin are both tied in fourth and fifth place respectively, eleven points behind Qingdao, with both teams keeping their eye on making the podium. Dare To Lead, in sixth, is just two points ahead of Unicef, and at the bottom of the fleet, pride and positions are all to race for. Hotelplanner.com in tenth will be looking to advance on Liverpool 2018, just two points above, though will also be keeping an eye on Nasdaq, six points below.
Since leaving Liverpool in August last year, the race route has included stopovers in Punta del Este, Uruguay; Cape Town, South Africa; Fremantle, Sydney, Hobart and the Whitsundays, Australia; Sanya and Qingdao in China; Seattle, USA; Panama; New York, USA; and most recently, Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
With so much at stake for the teams, you won't want to miss the action in Race 13. Stay close to the Race Viewer, updated hourly, as the final 900 nm of the 40,000 nm Clipper 2017-18 Race plays out.
Can't make it to Liverpool to join the celebrations on Saturday 28 July? You'll be able to watch the Sprint Finish and Prize Giving live on our website between 0900 and 1515 BST at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/livestream.Join The Race