Clipper Race Route Map
THE ATLANTIC TRADE WINDS LEG
After experiencing the emotions of saying goodbye to loved ones at Liverpool’s Albert Dock, untying lines at the start of this 40,000-mile, eleven month long challenge, the fleet will race away to start an epic adventure round the world.
Ahead is the first major ocean crossing, the Atlantic, where you will spend three weeks at sea. Routing towards the Canaries, the weather becomes warmer as you seek the Trade Winds to take you towards the Equator. Warm sun, constant breeze and long days with the spinnaker flying; expect to break boat speeds of 30 knots.
The first key tactical decision is whether to pass the Canaries to port, starboard or go through the middle of the islands. The surrounding mountains can create a wind shadow for several hundred miles – get it wrong and you will feel the frustration of snail pace sailing.
The Trade Winds come as a great relief but up ahead another challenge awaits; the dreaded Doldrums with fickle wind holes and sudden squalls that will test your patience to the full. Taking time out to acknowledge King Neptune as you go from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere, the breeze returns but there are counter currents to avoid before South America appears over the horizon.
A famous Latin welcome is a fitting reward to celebrate your amazing achievement!
THE SOUTH ATLANTIC CHALLENGE LEG
Upon leaving South America you will be straight into the Trade Winds and the long, rolling swells of the South Atlantic as you head south towards the infamous Southern Ocean, with spinnakers quickly becoming the sail of choice.
Surfing down the front of swells brings boat speeds well above 20 knots – whoever is on the helm will be guaranteed to be wearing the biggest smile! But this is a marathon, not a sprint – and looking after kit is essential. One false turn and the spinnaker will be in tatters, requiring the on-board repair team to begin up to 30 hours of laborious stitching. This leg can throw everything at you – from raging South Atlantic storms to long surfing runs which, together, combine to pose a unique mental and physical challenge.
After the plunge south, your bow will turn eastward toward the distant shores of Africa, bringing even more exhilarating surfing conditions and some magnificent wildlife. Albatrosses swoop above your head, whales are a common sight and crews will marvel at the clarity of the night sky as they take in the Southern Cross for the first time.
As you close in on the point where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean the race will almost be over and the wind can die off, leaving a nailbiting finish to a 3,400 mile race. A traditional African welcome awaits, as you finally step ashore. From sampling the best wines, safaris and diving with great whites, there’s plenty to keep you busy, in between preparing your boat for the next leg.
THE SOUTHERN OCEAN LEG
After a parade of sail past the waving crowds, it’s out onto the waters of one of the world’s Great Capes — Good Hope — and getting ready to face what, for many sailors, will be their ultimate challenge. As the Cape of Good Hope falls astern, the racing yachts tack down towards the 40th parallel. This is where the Roaring Forties start and the Southern Ocean provides some of the most extreme and exhilarating sailing in the world.
Crew safety and kit preservation are the watchwords. If the cloud is thick, night sailing happens in inky blackness with just the compass and the instruments to help. It’ll be chilly, too, because although it will be a Southern Hemisphere spring, the wind might be coming straight up from the ice of Antarctica.
Leaving the lonely and remote Kerguelen Islands to starboard, the combination of strong winds and large ocean swell that are bigger than buildings will keep crews on their toes. So, too, will the chance of vicious in-coming low pressure systems that can bring with them intense, gale force storms. Expect 80 foot swells, boat speeds of well over 30 knots and wind speeds that can reach up to 70 mph. A downwind run you’ll never forget.
Your reward is the knowledge that you’ve raced in the most remote ocean on the planet, where outside of the Clipper Race fleet your nearest companions are the astronauts on the International Space Station.
The beautiful, sun kissed beaches of Western Australia and a well chilled drink will be a welcome sight.
THE ALL-AUSTRALIAN LEG
Leg 4 will challenge you in every way. The constantly changing conditions, from brutal to mild, mean that there is no relaxing – you will be pushed mentally and physically in what is one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet. Further south than on any other leg, this race around the south of Australia demands your absolute best. From Western Australia, the bows of your racing yacht point south, out of the Indian Ocean and back to the challenge of the Roaring Forties.
Cape Leeuwin marks the south western tip of Australia and is one of the three Great Capes that only a privileged few get to race past. Once again, the race route takes you below the 40th Parallel for another sleigh ride east. On your port beam, far across the horizon, is the Great Australian Bight and the unforgiving shores of the Nullarbor Plain. At sea, you will route toward the southern tip of Tasmania and into the Tasman Sea for the first time.
This is a region steeped in sailing history, being the battleground for the Sydney-Hobart Race, the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to the Fastnet Race. Just because you are out of the Southern Ocean, it doesn’t mean that the conditions are any easier – the Tasman Straits await…
As you route north for a challenging race to port on the eastern Australian seaboard, the huge ocean swells, so popular with the Aussie surfers on the east coast, continue to challenge kit, sails and crew stamina. This leg will test you mentally, physically and emotionally.
THE ASIA-PACIFIC LEG
This marathon race gives crew the most variety. Sailing so far south to north and across the equator means that you’ll face the tropics with the heat and light winds associated, then approaching China you can expect below freexing conditions, up to 60mph headwinds and maybe even snow.
You will start in the the heat of the Southern Hemisphere summer up into the tropics and back across the Equator, a tricky routing challenge through the islands of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
The race can be broken down into three distinct sections. The first is the tough beat north into prevailing winds as you head up the Gold Coast, past the beauty of the Whitsunday Islands and the wildness of the Northern Territories. Section two involves crossing the Equator, with the challenges of the Doldrums and tropical temperatures, and sailing past the remote communities on Papua New Guinea and into the Pacific Ocean for real. As the race finally enters the South China Sea and takes advantage of the north east monsoon winds, the fleet will hoist spinnakers and charge towards a warm welcome in Asia.
After a relaxing stay soaking up the culture it’s back on board for a race of extremes. It starts in tropical heat and light headwinds and then, as you track north, the weather turns colder, the winds come from directly ahead and the sea state kicks up to deliver a real challenge. Thermals are added to the layers of clothing and snow might be even make an appearance as you route east of Taiwan into the East China Sea and point towards the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao.
If you watched the Against the Tide series you will get an idea of the scale of the greeting laid on for your heroic arrival and, wherever you go, autograph hunters will be keen to add your signature to their book. One of the coldest and toughest parts of the race, ends with possibly the warmest welcome.
THE MIGHTY PACIFIC LEG
As you depart China, expect to be treated like a superhero as the media and spectators snap away, video, cheer and applaud as you walk down to your racing yacht. The first few days when snow fell on a grey sea will be long forgotten as you work your boat to the maximum and reach the first waypoint at the southern tip of Japan. It might be a bit early to smile at the memory of the huge Pacific rollers that picked up your 70-foot yacht and allowed it to surf at 30 knots down into the trough ahead, save that for your first cold beer ashore.
After more than a month at sea, crossing the International Date Line and with nearly 6,000 miles left in your wake, you will be preparing to make one of the most momentous landfalls of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
If you are on watch, it could be your shout that alerts your team that the west coast of America has been spotted. By then, the incredible start spectacle put on by the Chinese sailing city of Qingdao will be distant memory but one that will live with you forever.
Knowing that you are one of the few people that will ever race a yacht across the planets greatest ocean makes the cold, wet and exhausting race completely worth while. You lived team work, not just talked about it. You stayed safe, raced fast and looked after yourself and your crew mates. The only thing better than living one of lifes greatest challenges, is sharing it with an amazing team.
THE USA COAST-TO-COAST LEG
Leg 7 begins under the eyes of the American media as Race 10 heads back out into the vast Pacific Ocean. While California and the Baja slip by to port, the talk will be of tactics; inshore or offshore? The inshore current can give a decent ride but, with the land close by, fickle winds affected by night and day temperature can provide an unpredictable breeze. Further offshore, the current can’t help you but more consistent winds can. A poor tactical decision could cost you the race, even at this early stage.
Whatever the decision, the charge south will be a swift one, to begin with. To make life more difficult, the further south you go, the more fluky the breeze gets. Central America typically brings high temperatures and light winds. This is a real test of yacht racing skill. Patiently and constantly trimming your sails to find an extra quarter knot of boat speed will certainly mean the difference between first and last. You wont be able to switch off for a moment. Ocean racing is like a lengthy game of chess and often the final results only become clear on the last couple of days. With boats sometimes finishing within a few minutes of each other, it’s never over ‘til it’s over. Then from the finish line off Panama City, stand by for one of the engineering wonders of the world: the Panama Canal.
You rise through the locks on the Pacific side up to Gatun freshwater lake, fed from the surrounding rain forests. Then it’s down the locks on the other side and the waters of the Atlantic welcome the race fleet again. It really does feel like coming home. Back in Atlantic.
The next race takes your north through the blue water sailing playground of the Caribbean. Stand by for tropical heat, trade winds and squalls. You can expect the challenges to come from every point of the compass all the way up to New York. As you draw closer, don’t be surprised if thunderstorms make a regular appearance over the horizon. But, as you sail past the Statue of Liberty and moor close to Ground Zero, you will probably be the only people in the city who have arrive from the west coast by sea. The city never sleeps, and you definitely wont. You’ve got some serious celebrating to do after taking on such a tough mental and physical challenge.
THE ATLANTIC HOMECOMING LEG
While this might be the homeward bound leg, there is plenty of racing still to be done. With more individual races, an Atlantic crossing and homecoming, this is one of the most sought-after legs on the race. And, with almost 40,000 miles of racing already behind you, there are still valuable racing points to be won. Third place on the overall race has been decided on the last race of Leg 8 on the last two Clipper Race editions.
The weather might be mixed but the competition is hot, with teams battling it out for the final race points. The first race takes you north and a check of the sea temperature will tell you when your racing yacht is getting a helping push from the Gulf Stream. A further check will tell you when it gives way to the cooler Labrador Current and the mixture in seawater often produces unpredictable fog banks. Your last ocean race across the Atlantic might seem like familiar ground, especially to a Round The World crew, but don’t take this mighty ocean for granted. You need to stay focussed, race hard – and sail safe. The route will have waypoints to avoid any risk from ice and will take your close to the Flemish Cap, a fishing ground made famous by the book and film, The Perfect Storm.
Then it’s a 2,000-mile blast back towards Europe and one of the warmest welcomes of the whole race in Derry-Londonderry. A week long celebration to mark your achievements – you can expect concerts, festivals and an endless flow of Guinness!
With your odyssey almost over, it’s a great place to gather your thoughts and put your achievements into perspective. But still the challenges come thick and fast. A short and intense race from Ireland back to the finish port, more important race points to collect and a hero’s welcome. More people have climbed Everest than sailed around the world. Round The World members of the Clipper Race crew are about to join that small and elite group. These final miles have all the pressure of extra time in the World Cup final. Although it’s not just the winners who receive a hero’s welcome…