The Clipper 2019-20 Race – Race 10: Sailing City · Qingdao Cup

The Clipper 2019-20 Race restarted from the Philippines today with the 11 yachts, crewed by non-professional sailors, departing for the North Pacific crossing to Seattle.

Race 10 is the first race to take place since the global sailing event was put on hold two years ago, due the pandemic. The 6,100nm race, named the ‘Sailing City · Qingdao Cup’ in honour of the Chinese city represented in this edition, will see the teams compete in one of the world’s most inhospitable places, the North Pacific Ocean.

Expected to take just over a month, the some 150 race crew, from diverse walks of life, will face frigid temperatures with hurricane Force 12 winds not uncommon. Fast sailing is most definitely on the menu and the result will be some of the most exhilarating sailing experiences that can be gained anywhere in the world.

Image: Clipper Race

Says Clipper race director, Mark Light, said: “The mighty North Pacific Ocean is one of the most hostile places on earth and few people venture there, let alone race across in high tech state-of-the-art race yachts. The feeling of remoteness is matched only by the absolute beauty of nature and the power of all elements combining to give an awesome display of the natural world. 

“Having a matched fleet of 11 Clipper Race yachts means that the closest competitors will be the best allies if needed and this offers comfort in that all yachts are reliant on each other for support as well as racing hard against each other.”

Now that they have departed, the Clipper Race fleet will spend the following four days making their way up the western coast of Luzon, Philippines.  This will be a period of final offshore race training and fine tuning ahead of the Le Mans Race Start on 24 March. It is approximately 290nm to the Le Mans Race Start area in position 19°00N, 120°30E.

Clipper Race Director, Mark Light, has summarised the conditions expected for Race 10: Sailing City · Qingdao Cup: “In the Le Mans Start area in the Luzon Strait, the forecast is for moderate to strong upwind conditions as the fleet commence Race 10 into the typical north easterly monsoon winds. Wind strengths of 15 – 20 knots (Force 4 – 5) will be expected and may increase slightly and veer more to the east. As a result, we can expect the fleet to start their Le Mans upwind on a starboard tack heading in a northerly direction toward the southern tip of Taiwan.

“After the first 24 hours, the wind will veer further to the south-east and moderate to 10 – 15 knots giving a much more comfortable but fast reaching conditions. As the winds clock round to the south, spinnakers will be prominent with some really favourable downwind conditions. This looks to continue to be the case for the following two to three days which will give the fleet a really good and fast start to the race.

“Looking forwards, the yachts that can make ground to the north and east quickest may be the first to pick up the favourable westerly winds which will propel them across the North Pacific Ocean.

“Weather conditions across the North Pacific will be dominated by the large low pressure (depression) systems that roll across every few days. Moving into the great expanse of the ocean there are no land masses that impede these weather systems and this creates large sea states and big waves. The larger and more intense the depression, the stronger the winds and larger waves. Hurricane force 12 winds are not uncommon in the North Pacific but they are very predictable and easy to track in advance.

“The main tactic and key to a fast race is to position yourself on the correct side (the lower quadrant) of the depressions in order make best use of the strong westerly winds and fast downwind surfing conditions. The Clipper 70 yachts are best equipped when on downwind and reaching points of sail and they are very fast in these types of sea states.

“Race Crew can expect very wet and wild conditions through the vast majority of this race. Grey skies, cold temperatures and fast sailing is most definitely on the menu and the result will be some of the most exhilarating sailing experiences that can be gained anywhere in the world.

“The end result of Race 10 will be the biggest achievement and sense of pride that any sailor can feel and a smile to match, as the dream of conquering the mighty North Pacific Ocean becomes a reality.”

The sailing event, which trains people from all walks of life to become ocean racers, was suspended in March 2020 after sailing halfway around the world. Race crew from 21 different countries are competing on this stage of the edition (700 over the full 11 month circumnavigation). The teams will be racing towards Seattle and are expected to arrive in the US city in mid April 2022.

The fleet will then race down the West Coast of America to Panama, where it will transit the Panama Canal, sail through the Caribbean and up to first time Host Port Bermuda. After some much needed R&R, the ocean racing yachts will head to New York, before racing across the North Atlantic to Derry~Londonderry for the city’s Maritime Festival running from 20 – 24 July of which the sailing fleet is the centrepiece. Then there is one final sprint, with London’s Royal Docks hosting Race Finish.

Prior to the event being put on hold, the teams had left London in September 2019, then raced over 20,000nm with stops in Portimão (Portugal), Punta del Este (Uruguay), Cape Town (South Africa), Fremantle and The Whitsundays (Australia). The Clipper Race fleet has remained in Subic Bay Yacht Club since March 2020 after organisers and Race Crew had to return home.

More news from All At Sea