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Clipper 2017-18 Race: Extraordinary encounter with giant of the sea

by Clipper Round the World 26 May 2018 22:03 BST 26 May 2018
Clipper Race Fleet's extraordinary whale encouter © Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

Over the past nine months, the Clipper 2017-18 Race crew have witnessed elements of Mother Nature few ever get to see. And the wildlife show throughout Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama in particular has been one to remember.

Amid the close and tense racing, the fleet were wowed by numerous sightings of 'glow in the dark' dolphins, turtles and seabirds, culminating in Dare To Lead's experience with a whale off the southwest coast of Mexico in the final few days of the race.

In a moment that best summed up the majesty and beauty of the waters surrounding Central America, the crew aboard Dare To Lead were within touching distance of the whale, which must have been a lucky charm with the team going on to win the current race.

Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth says: "We got treated to a 40 foot whale deciding we were his playmate for about an hour. The whale swam alongside us and then would roll onto his back under us and was virtually touching the hull.

"It was the most incredible display of nature and he seemed as fascinated by us as we were by him."

Dare To Lead crew member Emily Dixon, a 31-year-old jeweller from London, UK, adds: "I was in heaven for forty-five minutes as he swam from side to side, rolling over showing his belly, almost rubbing up against us. I laughed, cried and jumped for joy as he repeatedly came up to us and I really think he loved it as much as we did.

"I will never get bored of seeing such huge and graceful creatures out where they are meant to be, reminding me that I am as small as a pea in comparison."

Whilst the encounter with the whale will be the highlight of her race, Emily will take countless memories away, including one night when she witnessed a light show with a difference.

"I finally got to see the glow-in-the-dark dolphins with my own eyes midway through the race and I can honestly say it's one of the most incredible things I've ever seen," she says.

"They looked like a torpedo zooming through the water with some sort of phosphorescence on their nose which literally lit a path through the water throughout our four hour watch."

The wildlife sightings have particular meaning for the Clipper Race crew during what is the penultimate of the eight legs that make up the 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation. One of the eleven yachts, Visit Seattle, has been fitted with a special sensor to monitor the effects of ocean acidification around the US Coast. The pioneering research, which is being run in conjunction with the Port of Seattle, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Washington, Sunburst Sensors and Visit Seattle, will be carried out for the entirety of The US Coast-to-Coast Leg 7, which will see the fleet race from Seattle to Panama, transit the Panama Canal, and then race to New York. See the Clipper Race website for more information.

The Clipper Race fleet is currently motor sailing 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. After traversing this feat of engineering– one of the real highlights of the 40,000nm circumnavigation – the teams will regroup for Race 11 to New York which will start on Sunday 3 June.

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