After the forecasted textbook North Pacific weather delivered some of Race 9’s fastest, most furious and thrilling conditions, with reports of gusts heading well into the 50 knot range overnight, the sun has come out and the Clipper Race fleet is currently experiencing some relatively warm champagne sailing conditions during Day 16.
The big weather brought about many leaderboard changes, yet the top seven teams remain just 50 nautical miles (nm) apart in the vast North Pacific.
For leading team Sanya Serenity Coast, the conditions have enabled crew to start churning through the miles, with the team reporting 143nm sailed over the last twelve hours as they reach the halfway mark of the 5,600nm race.
For others, the weather didn’t build as forecast and it has been a delicate balancing act of knowing when to push and when to hold back. Dare To Lead and GREAT Britain are both repairing spinnakers after being caught in gusts, with Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth explaining: “Last night we expected a weather front to come through again with some force and due to the extreme cold, I was trying to avoid any deck work so went into the night with a conservative sail plan.
“Turns out the weather didn’t get that bad so was a bit upset with myself for being overly cautious and losing some ground. Went at it full welly this morning with a spinnaker hoist and pushed it far too hard and wiped out after a scorching run that made last night melt away.”
However, for Garmin and Nasdaq, it was somewhat of an anti-climax as both teams lost ground during the night after sailing with a conservative sail plan for conditions that didn’t show up. Nasdaq Skipper Rob Graham reports: “The fruity little weather front that we had prepared for never really happened – all we got was a gradual strengthening of a very stable SW wind without any real gusts which means that Nasdaq was slightly underpowered for the conditions and slipped some miles against the rest of the fleet yesterday.
“Better safe than sorry I suppose, but frustrating to have lost out this time – it’s about knowing just how hard to push at any given moment.”
As teams reach the halfway point in the race, they are also approaching the International Date Line, which they should cross in the coming day or so. On board Visit Seattle, Skipper Nikki Henderson and her team are looking forward to the rare opportunity of sailing across it and gaining a day. She says: “Less than 3000nm to go now feels brilliant. Next pit stop for us is the International Date Line – how cool that we have an opportunity to live a day twice. If you could live a day twice what would you do?”
Now in fast and settled conditions for the coming days, teams are looking forward to the covering lots of ground towards Seattle and it is likely that the leaderbaord will see further changes in the coming days.
According to Clipper Race Weather Guru Simon Rowell, the long-range forecast suggests that the biggest weather is yet to come, and is on course to cross the fleet’s path on Thursday, but adds that four days is a long time in the life of a low-pressure system and is continuing to monitor its progress.
The fleet was originally expected to finish Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City and arrive into Bell Harbor Marina between Saturday 14 and Thursday 19 of April, but conditions in the early part of the race means the boats are now expected between Thursday 19 and Saturday 21 April.