The International Race of Sailing Champs Arrives in Seattle
Last August, the 2017-2018 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was launched from the maritime city of Liverpool, England. Twelve teams, each on a Clipper 70 racing yacht, waited at the historic Albert Dock as thousands of spectators walked between them, hoping for a chance to shake hands with the skippers and crew members who would be taking off soon to circumnavigate the globe.
As the start time approached, team members gave their friends and family one last hug and climbed aboard. They guided their yachts out onto the River Mersey and performed a parade of sails for tens of thousands of spectators crowded along the waterfront. The Clippers spread out on the river and stayed behind the tug that represented the starting line of the race. The cannon sounded, and they were off down the Mersey and out to sea, bows pointed to Punta del Este, Uruguay, in the longest leg of Clipper Race history.
Since then, Clipper teams have sailed to the tip of Africa, round the Cape of Good Hope, and saw the sun-drenched beaches of west Australia. They passed the southern end of Tasmania, sailed up the east coast of Australia, and stopped at the city of Sanya on the tropical island of Hainan, China.
It was from Sanya that teams launched in early March, headed to Qingdao, China to begin the fifth leg of the global voyage. Situated on the Shandong peninsula, Qingdao is known as China’s “Sailing City” and where the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics took place.
For over ten days, Clippers battled it out, until at 1600 hours local time on March 15, the Seattle-sponsored Visit Seattle crossed the finish line and secured a first-place win. Visit Seattle is under the command of the youngest skipper in the race, 24-year-old Nikki Henderson of Britain. The win on March 15 is their third podium placing and second victory. In a statement about Visit Seattle’s second win, skipper Nikki Henderson said, “This reflects the hard work and determination and grit displayed by everyone on this boat – naturally a lot of luck and whilst we do feel for [fellow competitor] PSP Logistics, we can’t hide our elation.” As the rest of the teams arrive, they received a warm welcome and a much-needed break.
Leg 6 of the global race will begin on March 23 as Clippers depart Qingdao. As the boats are rocked by waves, their crews will face the fact that they are crossing the largest ocean on Earth and beginning what will most likely be the hardest leg of the race. Once they leave the coast of China, the teams will have to avoid fog and fishing boats as they sail past the southern tip of Japan, where they can catch the “Black Stream,” the Kuroshio Current, to accelerate their speed. The Pacific leg is famous for its rolling waves and enormous empty expanses.
The Pacific is so vast and empty that there will be times when the closest people to the Clipper teams will be the crew of the International Space Station. The leg is a total of 5,530 nautical miles, and once the teams have crossed the International Date Line, they can be confident that they are halfway through the leg and well on their way to Seattle.
Weather conditions and racing skill will determine exactly when the Clipper teams arrive, but expect the fleet to cross the Leg 6 finish line in Bell Harbor sometime between April 14 and April 19. Exhausted and relieved, the crews of the Clippers will get a few days rest on dry land and sailing fans will have a chance to get a look at the Clipper 70s up-close.
The fleet will be on display at Bell Harbor Marina on April 21-22 from 10:00 am to 21:00 and on April 24-27 from 10:00 am to 21:00. Come down and get a good look at the yachts; the largest yachts ever used in the race.
The Clipper 70 features twin helms, twin rudders, and a six-foot bowsprit. The bowsprit allows three asymmetrical spinnakers and a suite of Yankee headsails, together making the 70 faster than its predecessor, even with a slightly higher displacement. The interior offers a stripped-down design with minimal space for crew members—24 bunks, two heads, and a simple galley take up most of the yacht. Of course, a state-of-the-art navigation center and communication center is nestled onboard. After you see the Clippers, meet the skippers and crews that sailed them across the Pacific.
Visit Seattle has two Seattle locals serving as crew; Marek Omilian, a management consultant and Dell Ambassador, and nurse Shannon Dean. Be sure to congratulate them on their wins and welcome them back home. Stop by the Washington Athletic Club on Friday, April 27 (0730 to 0900 hours), to hear a talk given by one of the Clipper crew members.
This event is great for anyone who wants to learn more about the Clipper race from one who has done it. You’ll hear exactly what Mother Nature can throw at you and learn what it takes to make a trip around the world. This talk will cover the selection process, mandatory training regiment, the fleet, the race, logistics, and what a day on board looks like. You’ll leave this talk intimidated or inspired.
Then, on Sunday, April 29, return to Bell Harbor Marina to watch the departure ceremony and the start of Leg 7 as the Clippers make their way to Panama and eventually back to Liverpool in late July.