After a brief, rescheduled stopover in Okinawa replaced the trip up the Yangtse to Shanghai, the fleet is preparing for tomorrow’s start of race eight, to Hong Kong

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s fleet of eight identical Pedrick-designed 60ft boats will leave the Okinawan port of Naha at midday tomorrow bound for Hong Kong, 850 miles west-southwest through the East China Sea.

After leaving Naha, the leaders will probably head west a little to escape the worst effects of the Kuro Shio current, running northeasterly at 2-3 knots immediately east of the island of Okinawa, before heading south towards a waypoint in the Bashi Channel at the southern end of Taiwan. Then they bear due west for Hong Kong.

In weather terms, this will be a frustrating leg. The winds are very variable as a result of their position between the north Pacific low pressure and the high pressure over the Gobi desert but the chances are they will set off with running spinnakers in a light northerly or northeasterly breeze.

These winds will be variable and often light, making progress tricky for these fully-crewed, fully-equipped, heavy yachts. The wind will probably increase after the waypoint as the fleet races further away from the convergence zone of the two dominant systems in the area.

This slightly stronger breeze will also arrive on the starboard beam after the waypoint, making it effectively a gate: the first boat to that gate will bang the pole onto the forestay, appoint someone to trim the vang and enjoy 400 miles of champagne sailing and, almost certainly, a race win.

Race nine, in which the fleet joins the San Fernando Race to the Philippines, will start on 12 April.

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