The leaders are now racing directly towards the leg’s finish line and Seattle. Or, that’s what they are most likely doing, as both Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef, who were sitting in second and third place yesterday, have opted to go into Stealth Mode for 48 hours.
For the first time in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, the teams have the option to use two 24-hour periods of Stealth Mode. These can be used either separately or concurrently to give 48 continuous hours of being hidden from both public view and from the view of the other Clipper Race teams. The Clipper Race Office though will remain in constant contact with all boats in Stealth Mode and receive regular position reports.
Explaining her team’s decision to go off the grid for 48 hours, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck says: “The race to the Emerald City is on. Qingdao, Unicef and us are all within cooee of each other. This is amazing after so many days and miles covered – with an uncertain forecast anything can happen.
“The boats behind us will have an advantage of seeing us if we hit a light patch and be able to avoid it, so this is anyone’s race still, no letting up at all. So, we have gone into sneaky Stealth Mode. We are creeping along and who knows where we will turn up next.”
There was similar reasoning for taking the full 48 hours in one go on board Unicef, and Skipper Bob Beggs is hoping to make the most of his time in Stealth Mode, commenting: “The mighty North Pacific just keeps on delivering mile after mile of fast downwind sailing, kiting with the swell rolling in behind us, giving surf after surf. I’m sure it won’t last forever, but we are making the most of it.”
Qingdao remains in first place overall and is yet to go into Stealth Mode, though Skipper Chis Kobusch is taking notice of the chasing teams, saying: “The weather forecast looks good for the next couple of days and we should clock down the miles fairly quickly. We had Sanya Serenity Coast on AIS for quite a while, chasing us down, but they went off the screen (presumably into Stealth Mode after the last position reports) and only in a day or two, when they go online again, will we know if they were able to catch us or not.”
Qingdao is due to begin the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint in the next 12 to 24 hours, with the sprint to be yet another milestone for the team. Chris explains: “We passed our last waypoint before the finish line earlier today and are now sailing the shortest distance to Seattle.
With less than 1000nm to go, we can almost smell land!”
HotelPlanner.com, which was in fifth place on Day 22, has also entered into 48 hours of Stealth Mode. After repairs to the mast track were completed yesterday, all is well on board, as Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “Good day of sailing today. We got our spinnaker out for an airing and have been managing some fast surfs.”
The back-half of the fleet remains spread out. Visit Seattle, which also successfully repaired its mast track yesterday, allowing the team to fly the main for the first time in three days, is trying to stay clear of the incoming high, as is Nasdaq, whose Skipper Rob Graham comments: “The high to our south is catching us faster than we can sail away from it, meaning that the wind is slowly decreasing and we’re having to point further and further from our ideal course in order to keep moving.
“It also means that the front of the fleet is stretching away from us in their stronger winds. We have nearly 1,300nm to the finish line, so there is still room for some shaking-up.”
Whilst the boats to the west will not see any dramatic wind increase, the incoming low is due to bring steadily building south-southwest to south-westerlies of 30-40 knots, with occasional 50 knot gusts, ahead of the next front.
The fleet are expected between Thursday 19 and Saturday 21 April.