Join us in this week’s video as we go surfing down waves in the Luzon Strait, just north of the Luzon Island in the Philippines. The end of the race is fast approaching, and there is a slight chance that we may be able to finish on the podium. Click on the video link below to watch. And don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel!

We have passed the northern most point of the race course for race 6 in Leg 5 of the 2019-2020 Clipper Round the World Race. The weather system that we had been in provided an advantageous wind compared to the five boats in the lead pack. This favorable weather saw us make huge gains on the fleet.

February 11, 2020 – race day 21, days at sea 23

Location: 19° 44.67’ North 121° 25.23’ East

Distance to race finish 377 nautical miles.

Photo Credit Susie Blair

We are flying along in the Luzon Strait and making great progress. Below is an excerpt from my journal on February 11th.

“I’m feeling very fortunate and grateful for this Clipper experience. The sailing has been absolutely amazing. The crew have been supportive, fun and energizing, with each person bringing something to the table. It’s hard to describe the experience of helming in different conditions, as each type offers it’s own unique challenges and rewards. Upwind sailing, powered up in 18kts of wind with a 045 apparent wind angle (AWA) with the boat doing 11kts, a slight tweak of the steering wheel and the 70 foot yacht “walks-up” on it’s chine and picks up 2kts of boat speed. You can actually feel the difference. She is “loose” and fast. All she needs are subtle helm inputs. This was all the while under a cloudless and moonlit night. Just magic.”

Just crossing over the Calayan Bank in the Balintang Channel. The chart shows heavy rips and you can feel it on the boat. Sea depth goes from 6,000′ to 79′ in 5.4 nautical miles. That’s a massive gradient change! The current is very strong here, flowing south to north, up to 6kts.

The photo above is of the Time Zero routing software, currently displaying the ocean currents. The red represents very strong current. Current can be advantageous or disastrous to race performance, so it is critical to plan and monitor accordingly.

Conditions continued to be epic but eventually we would have to make a decision on how to proceed in the remainder of the race.

THE NEXT DAY…

February 12, 2020 – race day 22, days at sea 24.

Location: 17° 54.83’ North 119° 39.50’ East

210 Nautical miles to race finish.

Race Position was 6th but recently we moved up the leader board to 4th and are now chasing down 3rd place. It’s starting to get exciting!

In one 6-hour “sched” or schedule update from the race office, we ticked off 75 nautical miles. This meant we averaged 12.5 knots of boat speed, that is flying along! Although, the current may have had something to do with it.

The reality of a podium finish is getting more real, as third place is now some 20 odd nautical miles in front of us. If we keep this pace there is a chance of a podium place. The front two lead boats, Team Qingdao and Team Ha Long Bay Vietnam, are in a match race against one another and took a route farther offshore from the west coast of Luzon Island. The theory being more wind farther away from the island due to the wind shadow of the island causing potential light wind near the shore.

In the navigation station.

We would watch their performance and plot their position at every 6 hour “sched” update. One major takeaway from this race is that if you follow the leaders, there are minimal opportunities to gain on them. Tactical advantages only come from taking calculated risk.

Our skipper saw a potential opportunity by taking a route much farther inshore than the leaders. This would be the shortest route to the race finish but it could also mean much lighter winds. The following is an excerpt from my journal on February 12, 2020.

We are 210 nautical miles to the finish, now 9 nautical miles away from 1st place. This reminds me of the last leg of the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race (now known as The Ocean Race) when the fleet split between an offshore route and an inshore route, where the correct choice was not revealed until the last few miles to the finish line, when the routes converged. Any one of the three leading boats, was racing not only to win that particular race, but also the overall championship. Two boats went offshore and one boat went inshore.”

We are doing the same thing, taking the inshore route with better VMG (velocity made good). The wind forecast looks to back and we will follow it. This is our gamble. If we follow the leaders we won’t catch them. It’s important to cover the boats behind us, but we must pave our path forward to the best of our knowledge, with faith that our decision will pay off.”

The first week of the race we spent within eyesight of the other boats. Then we spent weeks without seeing any of our competitors. Now we are in sight again after 3,000 nautical miles. This is going to be a close race finish.”

The decision was made, inshore we go, and it wouldn’t be for another 24 to 48 hours before we knew if this calculated risk would pay off. We’re committed, here we go!

Next week’s video is the end of the race from Airlie Beach. Who will win? Subscribe and stay tuned to find out!

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