Published: Wednesday, 04 May 2016

The international Clipper Round the World Yacht Race teams departed Bell Harbor, Seattle on on April 28 from the shore led by ‘home’ team Visit Seattle, in front of crowds watching the Parade of Sail.

Clipper Race Fleet Departs Seattle

A large flotilla of boats from local yacht clubs also watched the parade while helicopters buzzed overhead and completed with a flying display by pilot Tracey Curtis-Taylor in her Boeing Stearman plane.

A fireboat also saluted the amateur teams as they prepared to head out to start Race 10, of the 14-race global series, the PSP Logistics Panama Cup; one of two races that comprise the six weeks US coast-to-coast leg via the Panama Canal to New York City. 

Big crowds gathered by the marina including family and friends who said their emotional goodbyes and waved off the teams during a departure ceremony which included the US Navy Band Northwest. It kicked off the opening ceremony with the US national anthem before playing a selection of music as the teams boarded their yachts ahead of the 4208 nautical mile long race to Panama. 

For local Seattle man Larry Garner, this day has been a long time coming since he joined the fleet for the US leg. He says, “Now I am on the boat it and that I am really doing it. I’m excited to get on board to work and live with the crew while experiencing the boat’s energy. I know it is going to be a lot of fun so I am looking forward to some of the challenges.

“I think the start of the race is going to be great since Seattle is a great place to take off from. I will sail out here a little bit and go up to the Straits of Juan de Fuca when the ocean breeze fills in , we have the swells. That’s when it’s really going to hit me and the adrenaline is going to kick in.

“I chose this leg because I have always wanted to go through Panama and I have never seen it from the waterside. I know that the whales are migrating and there is a possibility of seeing some marine life. Coming into New York from the water will be interesting - it’s a totally different perspective from seeing everything on land,” Visit Seattle crew member Emily Bambridge says before the next race to Panama, “We have been welcomed to the city like we are honorary Seattleites. People are really interested to hear about our journey to get here and experience on the race. It’s really great to be able to go home and talk about Seattle.”

“Now we are ready to start the next race to New York via the Panama Canal,” Emily adds.

LMAX Exchange crew member Junior Hoorelbeke spoke about the stopover and the race ahead to Panama before he left.

Clipper Race Fleet Departs Seattle 2

“After a rough time on the last race, we needed to be looked after and Seattle has been extremely hospitable. The next race is a long one - the next shower I have will be in New York! We have had a big change in crew so it will be completely different.

“The last race was long but cold and wet, this will be hot and dry but it will be just as challenging. I am looking forward to crossing the Panama Canal and sailing to New York. Not many people can say they have done that.

“We know that we have to get into a strong position at the first week in the stronger winds to have a good start and stay in the leading pack before the light winds set in. When we came to Seattle, we had 30-40 knots of wind so I think we will have the same for the first week or so and then it will pass.

“We are gunning for a podium at least as we need the points. It has been a long time since we have been on the top spot and all the crew want to be there again,” Junior adds.

Claire Chapman, a crew member on GREAT Britain, said it was going to be a very tactical race with lots of difficult decisions for the teams to make on how close to stay inshore or whether to head further offshore for the stronger winds.

Clipper Race Fleet Departs Seattle 3

“It could really shake up the standings. If some of the lead boats decide to stay inshore and that’s a mistake it might give an opportunity for other teams to take some bigger points on the scoreboard, there is still all to play for. Anything could happen.

“We are fully focused on winning the next race. We have chatted about what we want to get out of the next few races and how to improve our position. We are raring to go and are going to bring it to LMAX Exchange and Derry~Londonderry~Doire,” Claire adds.

Janice Tadros, a Unicef crew member, also said the pressure was on for her team to perform. “We are really keen to get going again. Coming second in the last race has really boosted our morale and made us keen to show that this is not by chance and we can do it again.  We are heading back out there for a podium. 

After motorsailing the 120 nautical miles to the official race start location overnight, the fleet had a Le Mans start at 1500 local time on Friday 29 April near Tattoosh Island.