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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race departs South Africa for tough Southern Ocean test

by Chris Harris 31 Oct 2017 16:34 GMT 31 October 2017
The Clipper 2017-18 Race fleet depart Cape Town for Race 3: The Dell Latitude Rugged Race © Clipper Ventures

The third stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Race, officially known as Race 3: The Dell Latitude Rugged Race, got underway today from Cape Town for its highly anticipated 4,754nm Southern Ocean sleigh ride towards Fremantle, Australia.

The race start follows a fantastic stopover in the stunningly scenic city that has hosted the global sailing event nine times. Crowds of supporters lined the marina at Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to see the teams off and, following a colourful Parade of Sail in balmy conditions, the race officially got underway at 1200 UTC (1400 local time) in light and variable conditions.

First to cross the start line, ahead of a triangular course in Table Bay, was Capetonian Dale Smyth's Dare To Lead team, closely followed by Visit Seattle, led by youngest ever Clipper Race Skipper Nikki Henderson, and, Skippered by Conall Morrison from Derry-Londonderry.

Sanya Serenity Coast was first to the next mark with its kite up, followed by Greenings, Unicef and As the fleet headed out of Table Bay, Sanya Serenity Coast continued to lead the rest of the teams who were tested by fluky winds swinging between the north and west.

Early tactical decisions will need to be made after leaving the fickle winds of Table Bay, and passing the Cape of Good Hope, as the twelve teams negotiate a potential wind hole when crossing the Agulhas Bank, an area notorious for very disturbed seas where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

This Southern Ocean stage of the Clipper Race is seen as the first major test of nerves and courage as the teams head into the notorious Roaring Forties, an area laying between 40 and 50 degrees latitude which is respected by sailors as one of the best places to fully appreciate Mother Nature in her most raw and powerful glory.

Once reaching the strong easterlies, spinnakers are likely to appear and ocean racing tactics will be in full flow as the matched fleet of Clipper 70s will aim to reach downwind surfing speeds of more than 25 knots as they steam towards Australia.

Greenings has won both stages of the Clipper 2017-18 Race so far but is currently in second place in the overall standings after receiving two penalty points from Race 1, lying behind Dare To Lead, which elected to play its Joker Card in Race 2 and came second into Cape Town.

This is the first race where more than one team – both Qingdao and Greenings¬ - have elected to play the Joker Card, meaning that both teams will double their race points once final positions are confirmed in Fremantle.

Greenings Interim Skipper Andy Woodruff is not letting the pressure get to him, saying: "I have no expectations, just going to go out there and deal with whatever gets thrown at us, really.

"The team has really pulled together over the last two races and are in a strong, consistent position which is why we have taken the decision to play our Joker Card in this race. The last race was a good warm up and we're feeling ready to take whatever the Southern Ocean throws our way."

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is unique in that it is the only event on the planet which trains non-professional sailors to become ocean racers. Approximately 40 per cent of crew members have never sailed before they sign up. 40,000 nautical miles in length, the circumnavigation is divided into eight legs.

Teams are expected to arrive into Fremantle, Western Australia, between 21- 25 November.

Following a stopover there, they will depart on 2 December for Sydney, where they will once again take on the bluewater classic Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race between Christmas and New Year. After a short stop in Hobart, the race continues north up the east coast to Airlie Beach in the heart of the picturesque Whitsunday Islands which mark the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, which will tie up Leg 4, the All-Australian Leg.

Clipper 2017-18 Race Standings after Race 2: (and penalty points awarded from Race 1)

1 DARE TO LEAD 31pts
4 QINGDAO 21pts
6 GARMIN 16pts
8 LIVERPOOL 2018 14pts
11 NASDAQ 6pts
12 UNICEF 5pts