Behind the Scenes: Skipper’s Insight of Final Moments of Intense Match Racing

11 October 2019

The finish of Race 2 of the Clipper 2019-20 Race from Portimão to Punta del Este is set to be a thriller. After 5,196 nautical miles and 26 days of racing, Qingdao and Visit Sanya, China are neck-and-neck in the final approach to Yacht Club Punta del Este. Here Qingdao Skipper Chris Brooks brilliantly describes what it is like to have an Atlantic crossing come down to the final few hours.

"It’s so close, yet so far. Nail biting to the very end. We have been match racing Visit Sanya, China for days, and in this finale it may go either way. We were in sight of Visit Sanya for much of the morning with changeable conditions. We started off with a Code 2 Spinnaker (biggest all purpose spinnaker) broad reach, powering along at speed.

"Soon we both needed to get a higher line to make course. Visit Sanya managed to hold this line, but we couldn't manage their height and looked at peeling to a Code 3 Spinnaker. This would have been a risky manoeuvre given the conditions and with a forecast of light breeze, we opted to put a reef in the main. This helped, but didn’t quite give us enough height.

"We made the decision to take this back out, hoist Yankee and Staysail and abandon the big Code 2 in order to climb back to the opposition. As forecast, the wind started to go a little lighter and forward. Visit Sanya had to remove their Code 2. Upon our drop of the Code 2 previously, the team set to repacking it and also ran lines for the next downwind sail. We were matching for speed. Soon after Visit Sanya dropped their Code 2 I thought we may be able to hold the Code 3 at the higher angle and it was staysail down Code 3 up and Yankee (upwind sail) down. This gave us the advantage we were looking for and for the next few hours we started to make some ground.

"In the afternoon the breeze went light and further evolutions ensued. The Code 3 was dropped to take further height to protect our line and cover the competition until the breeze went aft (behind).

"We hoisted the Code 1 which we use in the lighter breeze and raced against them some more eeking out little by little. I believe Visit Sanya would have still had their Code 2 up. With the forecast set to increase and go behind further, we would be sailing as far downwind as an asymmetric spinnaker could carry us. Firm in this knowledge, a final peel was required to the Code 2 once more and we have been covering the competition ever since....

"Current situation is that we have extended a lead through some light patches and good sail changes at the right time. Visit Sanya is no longer visible, and I guess we have a 17 nautical mile lead at present. We are sailing fast towards the finish currently and have approximately 85 nautical miles to go... But it’s not over. Visit Sanya’s line is slightly lower than ours, so we are working down now to cover. There are possibly more shutdowns coming and a change in direction likely. This is going to be no walk in the park and a 20 nautical mile lead can be lost in just a couple of hours if we fall foul in dead air as we did just outside the finish of Portimão in race 1. Wish us luck..."

You can read the full Skipper Blog, and read about Chris' entire journey aboard Qingdao, here. Follow the progress of Qingdao and the rest of the Clipper Race fleet to Punta del Este on the Race Viewer.