Clipper fleet sails on

Whitsunday Times - - ON THE WATER -

SINCE leav­ing Air­lie Beach al­most two weeks ago, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet has ex­pe­ri­enced a mixed bag of con­di­tions on the leg to Viet­nam.

The race com­mit­tee ex­tended the course af­ter a far faster than ex­pected pas­sage through the “dol­drums”, which the boats cleared in just four days, com­pared to nine dur­ing the last edi­tion.

The Viet­namese na­tional hol­i­days for Tet New Year mean crew are un­able to go through im­mi­gra­tion so many days early, so the length­ened course should mean they ar­rive at the ear­li­est time in the sched­uled Fe­bru­ary 17–21 ar­rival win­dow.

For the first time since es-

cap­ing the Solomon Sea dol­drums, the fleet is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing much drier con­di­tions and smoother sail­ing, as it con­tin­ues to head north-west to­wards the next way­point off the south coast of Tai­wan.

Derry~Lon­don­derry~Doire con­tin­ues to head up the fleet and has opened up a 35 nau­ti­cal mile lead over se­cond placed GREAT Bri­tain.

The bat­tle for third re­mains tight be­tween Qing­dao, Gar

min and LMAX Ex­change, but at the time of go­ing to press the Chi­nese spon­sored en­try was hold­ing a six nau­ti­calmile ad­van­tage over Garmin.

Skip­per Bob Beggs said his crew could now see their op­po­nents on the hori­zon.

“It is the first sight­ing of an­other yacht for nearly a week but as we ap­proach the next way­point yachts al­ways seem to come to­gether,” he said.

“Al­though Viet­nam is get­ting closer, our ar­rival in Da Nang is still two weeks away so our fo­cus re­mains with the rac­ing.

“With the new course hav­ing been set, there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties to trade places amongst the fleet and there may be some in­ter­est­ing rac­ing ahead.”

Qing­dao has been em­broiled in a bat­tle with Gar

min and LMAX Ex­change for days now, and the tight rac­ing is driv­ing the teams on as they wait for an op­por­tu­nity to out­wit their ri­vals.

With con­sis­tent and sta­ble winds fore­cast for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, there will be lit­tle op­por­tu­nity to make great gains for now but with the ex­tended course more tac­ti­cal plays are likely to un­fold.

As the trade winds weaken slightly, a low front will come down from the north be­fore sweep­ing east.

The smooth sail­ing has fi­nally al­lowed some of the Clipper Race fleet to have a spe­cial vis­i­tor on board – nearly a week af­ter cross­ing the equa­tor King Nep­tune vis­ited many of the fleet, with be­lated equa­tor cross­ing cer­e­monies held aboard. To keep up to date with the progress of the race, visit www.clip­per­roundthe­

RACE START: The Da Nang race start was ac­tu­ally 100 miles out to sea from the Whit­sun­day coast.

BIRDS EYE VIEW: Aloft on one of the 70ft Clipper yachts.

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