The Qingdao team, skippered by 32-year-old German yachtsman Chris Kobusch, crossed the finish line off the northwest coast of the USA at 22:27 UTC on Thursday 19 April, some 27 days after setting off from China to claim its first race win of the 2017-18 edition.
Speaking on arrival, Chris said: “It is an incredible feeling to win Race 9 and I am very happy for the team. Everyone was anxious that Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef would catch us, we were watching them on AIS as they appeared on and off.
“I think when the big low came through and strong winds came it was probably the angles we sailed and the sail settings that clinched the win, but it was a tough race with some very strong competition.”
The race from Qingdao to Seattle, the ninth of thirteen races that makes up the Clipper Race circuit, included the toughest conditions faced so far in this eleventh edition of the biennial ocean adventure.
Following a light wind battle off the coast of Japan, which added nearly a week onto the overall time spent at sea, the eleven Clipper Race teams experienced a ‘Phenomenal Sea State’, which saw the fleet battle waves of over 14 metres and hurricane force gusts of up to 80 knots. The skill and preparedness of Chris and his fellow Skippers ensured all emerged the front unscathed, and also set up some incredible racing, with the 70-foot ocean racing yachts reaching record speeds of up to 35 knots.
Circumnavigating crew member Mike Sweet, 61, a Carpenter and Company Director from Nottinghamshire fondly recalls the biggest weather conditions of the 2017-18 edition so far. He said: “It was really exciting. I was on the helm and during the storm, the boat was nearly flat in the water it was pretty exhilarating.
“It didn’t seem like it was a hurricane at the time, but it was pretty powerful. It was a great experience.”
On the weather conditions, Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch added: “The team was definitely aware of how strong the winds can be in the North Pacific and the really strong low-pressure systems coming through but the Clipper 70 yachts handle it really well.”
The racing was once again down to the wire as second to sixth place were separated by just eight nautical miles (nm) on the final day of racing across the world’s biggest ocean.
Fellow Chinese team, Sanya Serenity Coast, led by Australian Skipper Wendy Tuck, crossed the finish line at 08:01 UTC on Friday 20 April to claim its fifth podium of the Clipper 2017-18 Race and maintain its lead in the overall standings.
Just 47 minutes later, at 08:48 UTC, Unicef crossed the finish line to claim its first podium position since winning Race 3 from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia.
As well as picking up 12 points for the race win, Qingdao, which has scored more bonus race points than any of its competitors so far, will also collect three extra points: two for being second through the Scoring Gate and one for being third fastest through the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.
Whilst this is the first win for the team, it is unlikely to affect its overall standings where it is second to Sanya Serenity Coast.
Qingdao is the longest serving Team Partner and Host Port of the Clipper Race, with the fleet marking its recent record seventh visit by being hosted at the Wanda Yacht Club, a newly constructed, state of the art facility in the West Coast New Area of Qingdao.
The Clipper Race is the only of its kind for amateurs and was founded more than 20 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world, as a way to give anyone the opportunity to become ocean racers. It is the nautical equivalent challenge of climbing Mount Everest.
The full Clipper 2017-18 Race fleet is expected to have arrived at Seattle by Monday 22 April. The fleet will be berthed at Bell Harbor Marina in the Port of Seattle until the first race of the US Coast-to-Coast Leg 7 from Seattle to Panama begins on Sunday 29 April.
Seattle is the tenth out of 13 stops on the global, 40,000 nautical mile Clipper Race circuit which began in Liverpool, UK, in August 2017. The race will return to Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock for Race Finish on Saturday 28 July 2018.