The race will be won or lost on boat speed.

The Clipper 98 fleet crossed the start line off Shanghai to race down to Hong Kong at midnight on the 15th March 1999, GMT which equates to 0800 on the 16th, local time. This, the last race in the first half of the Clipper round the world yacht race, is bound to be a tightly fought contest, as the yachts race downwind in a tight bunch to Hong Kong.

The weather is unlikely to be hugely variable and the race is won and lost on boat speed. The yachts also have to round five waypoints along the course to Hong Kong. This is to keep them at least 12 miles out of Chinese waters, as yacht racing within them attracts a huge penalty, in the region of US$80,000! The 12 miles provides a reasonable buffer zone, but any yacht that crosses the line formed by these waypoints will be penalised under the Clipper racing rules. In Clipper 96 some four yachts received penalty points for infringing this rule – some merely by leaving a vital gybe a little late.

Sir Robin Knox Johnston, the chairman of Clipper Ventures is racing aboard Serica on this leg, along with Matthew Pryor – a journalist from The Times newspaper. Acting also as duty yacht for this leg, he reported back this morning that the after motor sailing out beyond the muddy waters of the Yangtse and the 12 mile limit, the fleet set up a start line on the 30th parallel.

“It’s the obvious place to start the race to Hong Kong – well, obvious for racing yachts equipped with GPS, radar and electronic charts anyway!” said Sir Robin.

It is another example of the clear benefits that the electronic charts, provided to the Clipper fleet by the UKHO and interfaced using Euronav software, brings the fleet. It should also be easier for the fleet to avoid crossing the imaginary line as the system can be set up to provide a warning should the yacht get to within a certain distance of the line formed by the waypoints. Whether the crew would be likely to hear this whilst beavering away on deck, trimming and changing sails, is another matter!

Sir Robin also noted a little less hopefully that the “steady” wind looks as if it might head the fleet and possibly lighten. So it could be a long trip with even more of the nail biting and heart-stopping action that Clipper 98 has become used to.

Clipper 98 Positions as at 0500GMT 16/03/99

Leg 3C – Shanghai – Hong Kong. Commenced: 2400 GMT 15/03/99

Race Distance: 728 Nautical Miles

  1. Chrysolite-Tim Hedges – 681.5
  2. Antiope-Keith Harris-681.5
  3. Taeping-Nick Fleming- 682.5
  4. Ariel-Alex Thomson-682.5
  5. Serica-Rupert Dean-682.5
  6. Mermerus-Barney Sollars-682.5
  7. Thermopylae-Malcolm Tod – 682.5