Published: Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet began Leg 6 of the series, as the crews head across the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, USA from Qingdao, China.

Clipper Race Fleet Begins Leg 6 To Seattle

The Seattle Pacific Challenge will push the 12 teams to their limits for 6,637-nautical-miles, the longest single ocean crossing of the entire circumnavigation.

“The Pacific is a huge ocean and this leg is a long one,” says Clipper Race Founder and Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. “The feeling of isolation is probably the biggest challenge our crew is about to face because they’ve already seen the sort of weather they’ll get. In that respect it’s rather like the Southern Ocean with big seas and strong winds. So I think it’s going to be the length of time they’re isolated from the rest of the world that is going to be the hardest thing for them to cope with.”

The crossing is estimated to take one month with the arrival window in Seattle from April 15-20 and at times throughout the race, the teams’ nearest neighbours could be those on the International Space Station some 300 miles above them. 

After the Parade of Sail in China’s Sailing City on Sunday, the fleet motor-sailed approximately 130 nautical miles offshore to a virtual mark in order to avoid the high volume of fish traps and nets.

“We took the decision to start the race offshore in order to ensure the safest conditions for the teams because outside Qingdao there are so many fishing vessels and so much fishing gear that there are simply too many obstacles that could hamper the start,” says Race Director Justin Taylor. “Now that the race has begun, the first key milestone will be off the southern tip of Japan. Then tactics come in to play again as Skippers are faced with the age-old dilemma: take the shortest or great circle route and risk headwinds or take the southern route which is longer but with following wind.”

Clipper Race Fleet Begins Leg 6 To Seattle 1

For Visit Seattle, this race is a homecoming for the team and Skipper Huw Fernie is looking forward to the reception after what promises to be a long and arduous leg.

“If I were to sum up what I think this race will be like, I’d say cold, wet, windy and challenging,” says Fernie. “It’ll be light at the beginning but then the nitty gritty of this race starts, so it’s just head down, plough through it and get to Seattle!”

Approximately 3000 miles and 15 days into the race, another milestone will occur when the teams cross the International Date Line, crossing from the eastern hemisphere to the western hemisphere, resulting in living another day in the calendar.

This is the first time in the race’s 20-year history that the fleet will visit Seattle. From there the teams will race to Panama, New York, Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Den Helder in the Netherlands and on to race finish in London on July 30.