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VISIT SEATTLE TEAM ARRIVES INTO HOME PORT AFTER BATTLING ‘THE BIG ONE’ IN PACIFIC OCEAN RACE
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race arrives into Port of Seattle after hurricane

21 APRIL 2018

After almost a month at sea, the Visit Seattle team has crossed the finish line after completing the gruelling North Pacific Ocean stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race, nicknamed ‘The Big One’. Despite coming eighth in this leg, Visit Seattle is currently third in the overall standings, out of eleven team entries and is the only current team to have won two stages in this race edition.

After battling 5,528 nautical miles (nm), hurricane force winds and waves up to 14 metres, the team has completed the sixth leg of the Clipper Race, into the Port of Seattle and will be hosted at Bell Harbor Marina for the next week. The race is unique in that it trains non-professionals to be ocean faring sailors, and there were four Seattleite competitors on the yacht, including nurse Shannon Dean, 54, who was inspired to take part after seeing the race arrive into the city just two years ago.

On her race experience, Shannon said: “I loved the storm and the thing is that it built, so it wasn’t like we suddenly got hit, we had 50s, 60s, 70s. So we were prepared and Nikki [Visit Seattle Skipper] is so capable, so we were never out of control. Then we just hunkered down we had waves breaking over the boat, we had half the boat under water, it was incredible, I have never seen waves like that in my life.”

On arriving home, she adds: “My family is here I am so excited! My mum and dad are out there, my kids and my brother and his new wife, my family are out there so I have lots of support.” 

As part of the Visit Seattle team, Shannon has battled stormy seas alongside fellow sailors from Seattle including, Andy Farnum (37, photographer), Marek Omilian (53, consultant) and Javier Roca, 58 (a Creative Director).  The team is skippered by Brit Nikki Henderson, who at 24 is the youngest Skipper to lead a team in the event’s 21-year history. Along with crew from the United States, sailors in the Visit Seattle team also hailed from France, Canada, Great Britain, Romania and South Africa.

Skillper Nikki Henderson said: “We probably got the worst of the winds but we were prepared for it. You read about 100 knot winds and you see pictures but when you are actually in it, it is just unreal. It was beautiful actually, beautiful in a really aggressive way.  Our team spirit is amazing and it keeps everyone going and that’s what this is about. Win or lose, if I arrived with a team that wasn’t smiling and excited then I would feel like I have failed. They are really happy and that makes me happy.”

On being in Seattle, Nikki continued: “I have never been here so I am excited to explore the city and meet people, we have a couple of sail days so it’s great getting out on the water again.”

Eleven Clipper Race teams set sail from Qingdao, China, in late March.  The winning team was the boat of the same name, Qingdao, followed by Sanya Serenity Coast in second place and Unicef in third. And despite the extremely challenging conditions and the vast distance travelled over the last 28 days at sea, there was just five minutes between fourth and fifth place.

David Wilson, 57, an air traffic controller from Seattle, is a member of the PSP Logistics team. One of the Clipper Race’s ‘round the worlders’, he is taking part in all eight legs. And when he arrived into Seattle he met his first grandson Theodore and was greeted with signs which read “Today I get to meet my Papa”.

This is the second edition of the race that Visit Seattle has been Team Sponsor and Host Port Partner of the Clipper Race. President and CEO of Visit Seattle, Tom Norwalk said, “After one of the most rigorous and challenging legs, which had 11 teams cross the Pacific Ocean from China, we are proud to welcome the crews to Seattle.

“This is the second time our city has had the honor of hosting a stopover for the athletes of this incredible yearlong race and we know our city and its residents will embrace them. It is also an incredible homecoming for the Visit Seattle yacht and its crew, many of which hail from Seattle, and we are grateful for their safe passage home under the direction of Skipper Nikki Henderson.”

Seattle being a city proud of its local food and drink, each team has been greeted on arrival with much welcomed cold beers from three local brewing companies – The Pike, Elysian and Fremonts, along with famous chowder from Ivars and sweet treats from Top Pot Donuts. After almost a month at sea they were very much enjoyed as the crews celebrated with friends and family at the marina.

The Big One
The eleven-strong fleet met hurricane force winds on their most recent voyage with reported gusts of up to 80 knots.  At 14 metres, the waves experienced were ’phenomenal’ and the height of a four-story building.  This torrent of water propelled the boats down the waves, enabling them to reach speeds of 30 knots.

The North Pacific leg is known as ‘The Big One’ due to its extreme weather, but also because it is the most remote.  It is devoid of land mass and at certain points, the closest other humans would have been the astronauts on the International Space Station. Occasionally birds would use the boats as temporary land. Despite these wild conditions, there was the odd calm day of sailing, and one of the boats was even joined for an hour by a pod of humpback whales.

Established 21 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world, 40 percent of Clipper Race crew have no previous sailing experience before signing up as full training is provided.

Says Sir Robin: “Oceans do not distinguish between professional and non-professional seafarers. The conditions faced in this North Pacific leg would test the most experienced of sailors. The hurricane force winds have certainly been the toughest since our crew left Liverpool eight months ago. They have seen nature in the raw, conditions that would terrify most sailors, but they have come through it and given themselves an experience that most people on this planet can only ever visualise.

“I am immensely proud, both of our Skippers and crew’s outstanding seamanship skills, which kept everyone safe in the extreme conditions, and also that after almost a month of racing, the action came right down to the final miles. Just five minutes separated two of the teams which is incredibly impressive.  They can really call themselves sailors now.” 

For local adventurers who are feeling inspired by the crew’s experiences, free open boat tours will be running all week (22, 24, 25, 26, 27 April – 1000 to 1900 at Bell Harbor Marina). Bring the family, meet the courageous crew and explore the vessels they call home for up to a year on the world’s oceans. Perhaps in two years time it could be you arriving home after taking on this epic challenge.

For the full media schedule, images, b roll footage and more information on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, please visit mediaportal.clipperroundtheworld.com

ENDS