Image: Matt Dickons
One of the closest races so far in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race has ended in a surprise win for Dare To Lead, after the team pulled off an eleventh hour victory in Race 10 from Seattle, USA, to Panama.
Race 10, officially known as the Garmin American Challenge, was dominated by light winds, which compressed the Clipper Race fleet of eleven identical 70-foot ocean racing yachts. This resulted in the teams being in either visual or AIS range for the majority of the race which took the yachts south down the western USA and Mexican coasts.
However, a decision to remain west in the last 24 hours of the race, rather than hug the Mexican coastline with the rest of the Clipper Race fleet paid off for Dare To Lead, with the team breaking away from the main pack to cross the finish line at 1059 UTC.
Skipper Dale Smyth said: “We took a gamble in the dark going into Stealth Mode so close to Mandatory Gate 2 and really had to work hard to get ahead of the lead pack.
“After emerging from yesterday’s wind hole, we encountered a strange headwind that blew almost 18 knots. We went to our Yankee 1 and staysail for the first time on this whole race and started beating to weather. The crew worked really hard and managed to leverage some advantage over the lead pack. I’m really proud of everyone on board and they definitely deserve this win.
“It really has been an amazing race, incredible to think that after thousands of miles that the teams remained so close together for most of the race. We made and lost marginal gains on each other and it really kept us on our toes and focussed on boat speed.”
Although the original finish line for Race 10 was in an area due south of Isla Jicaron in Panama, the Clipper Race Committee today informed all eleven teams that Mandatory Gate 2 would instead signal race end. As outlined in the Race 10 Course Instructions, any of the mandatory gates could have been used as a potential finish line should the Race Committee deem it necessary to conclude the race in interest of the race and crew.
Clipper Race Director Mark Light said: “We had been keeping a close eye on the weather as the fleet moved further south and we have been watching the conditions ahead of the fleet. In between Mandatory Gates 2 and 3, we could see a big wind hole opening up with very little breeze for the next two or three days.
“Therefore, the only sensible option was to finish Race 10 at Mandatory Gate 2, rather than have the fleet drifting aimlessly and trying desperately to get to the next gate.
“The race south from Seattle to this point had been really competitive, with close racing all the way, lots of spinnaker work, and really good breeze. We didn’t want the race to turn into a massive drift at the end.”
After crossing the finish line, the Clipper Race fleet will motor sail towards a scheduled re-fuel stop in Costa Rica, before continuing on to Flamenco Island Marina on the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal.
The Clipper Race is the only race of its kind for amateurs and was founded more than 20 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world, as a way to give anyone the opportunity to become ocean racers. More than 5,000 have done just that through the Clipper Race, though more people have still climbed Mount Everest than circumnavigated the globe under sail.
Over 700 people, representing 41 nationalities and all walks of life are taking part in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, with crew either taking part in the full 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation or one or more of the eight legs that make up the race.
As well as picking up 12 points for the race win, Dare To Lead will also collect three bonus points for being the fastest through the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.
This is the first win and third podium overall for Dare To Lead, which claimed second place in both Race 2 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Cape Town and Race 7 from the Whitsundays in Australia to Sanya, China. The team went into the race from Seattle to Panama in sixth place in the overall standings.
Dirk van Daele, founder of Dare to Lead said ”We have had a keen eye on the standings since the start of Race 10, with hopes of another top three finish. All be the ever-changing conditions, we are thrilled Dale and his dark horses have done fantastically well to gain our inaugural first place finish. Well done and on to the next!”
After traversing the Panama Canal – one of the real highlights of the circumnavigation – the Clipper Race fleet will regroup to begin the second and final stage of the US Coast-to-Coast Leg 7, a 2,000nm race from Panama to New York, which will begin on Friday 3 June.
Panama is the eleventh of thirteen stops on the global 40,000 nautical mile Clipper 2017-18 Race circuit which began in Liverpool, UK, in August 2017. After Stopovers in New York and Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the race will return to Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock for Race Finish on Saturday 28 July 2018.
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