Hasta la vista Clipper
The teams competing in the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race couldn’t have hoped for better conditions for the start of Race 8 from San Francisco, of their 35,000 mile challenge. A brisk 20-25 knot wind powered the fleet across the start line opposite the Golden Gate Yacht Club and out under the Golden Gate Bridge. Ahead lies a 3,329-mile leg to Panama which is set to deliver quite different conditions to the dramatic North Pacific race from Qingdao, China.
Wishing the crews well on the next leg of the race, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “This event brings together enthusiastic sailors for some great competition and I applaud all the participants for putting their talents and skills to work. As a former professional athlete I know what it takes to excel in demanding sporting contests. Everyone here has trained hard to be ready for this once in a lifetime opportunity and you can be proud of what you have accomplished so far.
“To all the participants I wish you the best of luck and happy sailing.”
Local entry, California, was keen to make a good impression in front of their home crowd and succeeded by being the first team across the start line. They were closely followed by overall race leaders, Spirit of Australia, with the latest leg winners, Cape Breton Island, third to cross. By the time the boats had reached the Golden Gate Bridge, Hull & Humber had moved into the lead with Team Finland and Uniquely Singapore moving up into second and third place respectively.
Having lost the mast when their boat was rolled 120 degrees by a wave during a North Pacific storm, the crowds thronging the breakwater were delighted to see California racing among the internationally sponsored fleet with her replacement mast. As the team was denied the home port win by a cruel act of fate they are determined to now prove themselves on the next leg.
Speaking ahead of the race start, California’s skipper, Pete Rollason, said: “It’s been a fantastic stopover and everyone has thoroughly enjoyed the warmth and hospitality extended to us by the people of San Francisco. The extended stopover has given us time to get the boat ready and, now we are well rested, everyone is really keen to go racing again.
“We’re really fired up for this one and the weather is looking pretty lively on Wednesday so the first couple of days could be interesting. Then after that it is likely to get lighter and lighter as we head further down the coast. We’re expecting to get the spinnaker up after we’ve passed under the bridge and run with it as far as we can, get a good position early and hopefully hold it from there.”
Having layered up to keep themselves protected from the elements, the crews who come from all walks of life will soon replace foul weather gear with shorts, T-shirts and sunscreen as they race down the west coast of the North American continent to Panama.
Race Director, Joff Bailey, says, “The Californian current flows in a southerly direction but the helping hand this gives the fleet may be counteracted by the heating effects from the North American land mass which might change the winds unfavourably. The race down to Panama should be a fast one but it’s not over until the finishing line is crossed and the light winds of the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone or Doldrums) could decide the finishing position in the final stages of this race.”
The first boats are expected to arrive in Panama around 11 May after which they will transit the Panama Canal before commencing Race 9, a 591-mile sprint to Jamaica.