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Clipper Race Arrives in Washington

Here they come! Even the tail-enders of the Clipper Race fleet have only a few days left to reach landfall in Washington.

© Clipper Race

As we were writing this, Clipper Race entry Derry~Londonderry~Doire reached the finish line of the Pacific Ocean leg, at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The crew, consisting of a paid professional skipper, Scotsman Daniel Smith, and an international, pay-to-play crew of amateurs, did a horizon job — actually a couple of horizons — over their nearest competitor, Unicef, 127 miles back.

The crossing from Qingdao, China, has been marred by tragedy — the death of a crew overboard, Sarah Young, on April 1 — and significant damage caused by what event founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston called "very bad weather." He added: "The waves are so big and powerful that the boat is like a plaything." These are 70-ft boats we’re talking about.

Despite the big seas, this helmsman is grinning and someone had time to snap a photo during the Ocean Sprint, which most of the fleet has now completed.

© Clipper Race

Garmin’s British skipper Ash Skett reported "some of the worst seas that I have ever experienced. A particularly enormous wave picked us up and spun us downwind into a crash gybe. Everyone is fine on board and no injuries were sustained. The preventers failed immediately and the boom crashed over into the runner. Damage was sustained to a stanchion on the port side near the helm and the pushpit, which is bent. Shortly after this, a huge breaking wave hit us and the boat slewed to windward. The wave submerged the aft deck and smashed into the framework on the port side, ripping the forward frame from the deck. All the welds on the forward framework failed and the entire thing is separated from the boat." Another huge wave caused the starboard-side steering to fail.

The same storm knocked down Da Nang – Viet Nam yesterday. Having sustained damage that included the loss of the port helm station — and minor injuries — Australian skipper Wendy Tuck and crew dropped out of the race and began motoring toward the coast in order to make port as quickly as possible. 

Seattle is making its debut as a host city of the around-the-world race, replacing the Bay Area in this edition. The race village at Bell Harbor in downtown Seattle will open on April 20.

The beautiful Bell Harbor Marina is right downtown.

© Port of Seattle

Boats will be available for free tours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 22-26. Onboard sailing experiences will be offered on April 24. Recruitment presentations are scheduled for April 22 at Corinthian Yacht Club, April 24 at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel, and April 26 at Seattle YC. Also on April 26, Visit Seattle’s British skipper Huw Fernie will throw out the opening pitch at Safeco Field for a game between the Mariners and the Houston Astros. The 12-boat fleet will parade out of Seattle on Thursday the 28th, and the dash to the Panama Canal will start from Port Townsend on April 29. Click here for the all the details of the Seattle itinerary.

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