After a relaxing break in the Whitsundays, the Clipper Race fleet bid farewell to Australia today to race to China; and fittingly at this halfway stage in the 2017-18 edition, it is the destination’s two team entries, Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao, which lead the overall race standings.
Ahead of departing for her team’s home port, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck said: “I am really, really excited about getting to Sanya. It’s going to be a tough, long race. We don’t have much of a lead in the overall standings but it is a lead nonetheless so that’s great and we are just keeping the little Joker Card up our sleeve to spring it when people least expect it.”
Going into the seventh of thirteen individual races, Sanya Serenity Coast leads the Clipper 2017-18 Race overall standings with 65 points, just head of Qingdao (63), which has already played its Joker Card (which doubles its points for one chosen race), and Visit Seattle (60), which won Race 6 into Airlie Beach.
The start line for Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, is positioned 150 nautical miles off the coast on the other side of the Great Barrier Reef. Teams are currently making best speed to get there with the race expected to officially get underway with a Le Mans start at 1200 local time tomorrow (02200 UTC).
The first of two races which form Leg 5, the Asia-Pacific Leg, Race 7 is predicted to offer some of the most varied conditions of the entire circumnavigation. At 4,280 nautical miles long, teams will be tested mentally as well as physically as they adapt to a host of changing sailing and climatic conditions.
Clipper Race Director Mark Light explains: “The teams are now off on a pretty long race to Sanya but they’ve enjoyed a great break here in the Whitsundays and they are ready for this next challenge. Fluky winds are an expected feature in this race, meaning high levels of concentration and sail changes will be needed.”
Looking further ahead, Mark adds: “Approaching the equator, the fleet is likely to once again witness some spectacular lightning storms, similar to those experienced in this last race up the coast. The passing squalls can offer some much-needed relief from the heat, but can bring some heavy storm conditions with them.”
In a similar move to Race 1, from Liverpool to Punta del Este, a tactical Doldrums Corridor rule has been added to this race. Visible on the Race Viewer, teams will have the option to decide to motorsail for a maximum of 4 degrees of latitude within the Doldrums Corridor, situated in the vicinity of the Solomon Sea.
Continuing north past the equator, the wind will start to build as the fleet encounters Northeast Monsoon winds where teams will be looking to gain early advantage and pull away from their competition. From here, tactics will be at play as teams enter the South China Sea, setting course for the finish line outside Sanya Serenity Marina.
Though Race 7, the Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya is a long one, Race Director Mark Light is expecting some exciting racing. He says: “It’s been really close racing so far in the Clipper 2017-18 Race. There have been some very exciting and incredibly close finishes in the first four legs and the standings are also pretty tight so I’m really looking forward to see what happens next.”
Laying on the southern tip of Hainan Island, the tropical paradise of Sanya awaits and promises to give crew a taste of the ‘Oriental Hawaii’. Explaining the race name choice, Sanya Vice Mayor Zhenling Xu says: “The name Forever Tropical Paradise Race was chosen to reflect Sanya’s unique tropical climate and culture.
“As a renowned domestic and international tourism destination, Sanya has abundant tropical natural resources such as its year-round balmy climate, clean air, sunshine, lush greenery, pristine seawater, soft beaches, fresh seafood, international high-end hotels and resorts. Sanya has a very profound and rich tropical island culture. Its marine culture, resort culture, Li and Miao culture form a splendid contrast to the tropical scenery, making it a unique tropical paradise in China.”
Following the fleet’s departure from Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach, the teams competed in a short course exhibition race to determine the order for the Le Mans start line. Visit Seattle took line honours so will have the advantage of being the windward boat, with PSP Logistics and Sanya Serenity Coast to be the second and third boats respectively.
Once the fleet reaches the Race 7 start position, Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs will lead the Le Mans start as directed by the Clipper Race Director Mark Light.
The race to Sanya is expected to take between 23 to 27 days, with the fleet expected to arrive into the Sanya Serenity Marina between the 21 and 25 of February. To follow the progress of the teams, keep an eye on the Race Viewer and also the team pages for the daily Skipper Reports and Crew Blogs from the boats.
The 40,000 nm Clipper 2017-18 Race started in Liverpool on 20 August last year and will return there on 28 July this summer. The only event on the planet which trains amateur sailors to become ocean racers and complete a circumnavigation, the Clipper Race is the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.