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CLIPPER RACE FLEET DEPART SINGAPORE, PREPARING TO ‘FLY’ TO QINGDAO

19 FEB 2014

CLIPPER RACE FLEET DEPART SINGAPORE, PREPARING TO ‘FLY’ TO QINGDAO

CLIPPER RACE FLEET DEPART SINGAPORE, PREPARING TO ‘FLY’ TO QINGDAO

The 12-strong Clipper Race fleet departed One15 Marina, Sentosa Cove this morning after a highly enjoyable stopover in Singapore to head for the Race 9 start line to Qingdao, China.

This notoriously tough 2,500 mile leg will see temperatures plunge from the tropics to sub-zero conditions as the fleet beats into biting winter headwinds. Exceptionally choppy seas are anticipated off Taiwan due to the ’wind over tide’ effect created between northerly winds over the notorious Black Snake current.

“Off the coast of Taiwan, a lot of the time these boats are going to be airborne,” race director Justin Taylor told the crew at their pre-race brief. “It’ll be unpleasant for a couple of days, certainly. The race from Singapore to China is one of extremes. The heat below decks will be difficult to cope with in the early stages. Taiwan, and the entrance to the Yellow Sea, marks the change to colder conditions as the fleet meets challenging head winds that provide the most extreme conditions of the race.”

Despite the fact that the teams have already experienced extreme temperatures and winds, no leg of this race is identical and crew appreciate that the combination of conditions will be a new challenge. As a result, there was a degree of anticipation and apprehension of what’s in store for them in the days ahead as the yachts prepared to depart Singapore.

Qingdao skipper Gareth Glover said: “We’re ready and we’re looking forward to this race; it’s our home leg so it’s the one we’ve been waiting for. I do think there is some apprehension on the boat though, which is natural. We’ve got some difficult conditions ahead of us although the forecast ahead doesn’t look too bad at the moment so we’re trying to be optimistic. All the crew are keen for a home leg win so we’re hopefully going to get a podium position.

“Tactically, this race is upwind. Its 750 miles to the scoring gate, so we’ll be looking to get a good start and get those early points secured. It’s then another 900 miles to Taiwan where we expect to get the rougher weather; it’s going to get choppy, there will be lots of sail changes and big seas.

 “I’ve got quite good knowledge of this race because I did it in 2012, so hopefully I can reassure the crew about some of the conditions we’re going to face. I’m quite confident and I hope it is going to give us a little edge over the others but we’re still going to have to push hard and do our best at every moment to have a hope of claiming maximum points.

“I went to Qingdao on the last race so I know it will be a great reception. My Chinese crew are helping to teach me a few Mandarin words so I have a bit of time to practice those before we get there. Sailing into Qingdao, on the home boat is going to be a moment and a memory which we will all keep forever with us I am positive.”

Qingdao round-the-world crew member Kun (Vicky) Song, who is vying to become the first Chinese woman to sail round the world is very excited to be heading home, despite knowing this will be a very tough race. She commented: “Everyone has warned us about the rough seas we can expect so I am a little bit nervous. But I will get through it.”

She is particularly looking forward to being reunited with her mother who is currently receiving treatment for cancer in hospital. “I have been away from home for more than six months. I saw my mum on an internet video link just two days ago, but it’s not the same as being able to give her a big hug. She has timed her hospital treatment so that she can come and greet me at the marina in Qingdao,” added Vicky.

Current overall race leader is OneDLL which is looking to strengthen its position at the top of the leaderboard. Skipper Olly Cotterell commented: “It has been a phenomenal amount of hard work to get where we are so far in the race. We currently stand just 1.1 points ahead of Henri Lloyd which is a very competitive team, as are third and fourth in the race. At this stage the best approach is to think that everyone is equal at the moment and just move forward as we have been. I know the crew have had a good stop in Singapore and are looking forward to doing their best on this race.”

Henri Lloyd hope to maintain their winning form having taken first in Race 8 to win the Old Pulteney Navigator Cup. Skipper Eric Holden said: “This is the halfway point so there is still half the race to go; I don’t think we can count on anything at this point. The next two races are going to be quite tough on the boat and punishing with the strong winds and waves. I would really like to get through those without too much damage to the boat as that’s what knocked us off the podium in the first place. 

“This race will be a bit of a slog upwind, not the most comfortable point of sail but we’ll grin and bear it, as it will not always be pleasant but there will be lots of good points to the race too, and the crew are looking forward to the challenge too. The harder you have to work the more rewarding it will be arriving at the end.” 

The fleet are currently motor sailinginto the South China Sea, east of the Singapore Straits for a Le Mans start at approximately 0900 UTC/1700 local time today (Wednesday 19 February 2014) . This is where the teams line up and hoist sails to start racing at the agreed time.

The fleet is expected to reach China between 7-9 March to a spectacular welcome from the people of Qingdao. This will be the fifth time the Clipper Race has visited the city, which was home to the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

To view the photo gallery of the fleets departure, click here