The teams competing in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race set sail from Seattle today (29 April) as they embark on their next adventure which takes them to Panama. The intense 4,000 nm Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge is one of two stages in Leg 7. This part of the competition should take the crews approximately 26 days as they sail down the West Coast of the United States towards Central America.
All of the Clipper Race’s eleven teams were given a heroes’ sendoff by loved ones and Seattle locals at The Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbour Marina. After a week in its home city, the Visit Seattle team had the honour of leading the Parade of Sail, with the boats showing off their team colours. This farewell celebration included a water cannon guard of honour by the Seattle Fire Department. The crews were also greeted by ‘Swordfish’ one of the US Coast Guard’s boats who accompanied the fleet’s spectacular sail through Elliot Bay.
As it approaches the next 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. The Clipper Race is unique in that it trains non-professionals to be ocean faring sailors. Two Visit Seattle competitors have enjoyed some home comforts in the recent race stopover. Seattle residents, Shannon Dean (Nurse, 54) and Marek Omilian (Consultant, also 54) swapped their below deck bunks for their own beds this past week, after eight months away. They are both ‘Round The Worlders’ who were inspired to take part in the Clipper Race after seeing the fleet arrive into the city just two years ago.
Marek Omilian said; “It’s been the best stopover for me as I’ve been away from home since last summer. And it’s been phenomenal to have lots of friends and family come out to say goodbye as we head off again.
“In some ways it’s downhill from now on, as we’ve crossed the two biggest oceans (the North Pacific and Southern Oceans) but we’ve still got a big 10,000 miles left to sail. I’ll be welcoming the warmer weather but that brings its challenges as sometimes they’ll be no wind. We’ll also have migrating grey and humpback whales to watch out for as we sail south and they travel north to their feeding grounds.”
On departure, all teams competed in a ‘short course’ race. After two laps around Elliott Bay, the winning team was, very fittingly, Visit Seattle. The results determined the starting order for Race 10’s Le Mans start which will take place on Monday 30 April after the crews have passed through Puget Sound and into the North Pacific Ocean.
And that’s where things will start to get interesting, as Clipper Race Director Mark Light explains: “It’s going to get very tactical as the fleet heads south to Panama. If they stay inshore, there might be help from some tide and current but further offshore will generally will provide much stronger winds. Teams will need to think ahead – where do they want to be in three days time and how are they going to get there.”
The drysuits and thermal layers of earlier legs will gradually be replaced by sunscreen and shorts as the temperature rises near Mexico. The end of Race 10 will feature one of the highlights of the Clipper 2017-18 Race – the Panama Canal. Transiting this engineering masterpiece will be a once in a lifetime moment for the majority of the Clipper Race crew. The fleet arrives into Panama between 23 and 27 May. After a short respite, the second race of Leg 7 will see the yachts travel North from the coast off Panama City, to New York City.
As the Clipper Race departs Seattle for the penultimate leg of its 40,000 nm circumnavigation of the planet, it will be engaging in pioneering scientific research. One of its racing yachts, Visit Seattle, has been fitted with a special sensor, for monitoring the effects of ocean acidification around the US Coast.
The Clipper Race is working with the Port of Seattle, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – an agency within the US Department of Commerce – as well as the University of Washington, Sunburst Sensors and Visit Seattle to raise public awareness of itsOcean Acidification Program, which studies changes in ocean chemistry in response to increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, associated with climate change.