Following final goodbyes on the pontoon and a spectacular Parade of Sail, the eleven-strong fleet mustered at the start line ready for the cannon blast to start the Clipper 2023-24 Race.
Light conditions and the Solent’s strong tidal flow made for a particularly tactical start of the circumnavigation. First over the start line, which was just outside the entrance to the south coast’s historic harbour, was Yacht Club Punta del Este, followed by Bekezela Community Foundation and Qingdao.
Image: The Yacht Club Punta del Este team yacht
Clipper Race Director Mark Light said: “There was glorious weather and it was a beautiful day for spectators. Light south easterlies provided a challenging but clean start for the teams, with many different sail plans on display. The skill in keeping the boats moving in such light winds shone through across the fleet. After a short course in the Solent, the fleet headed east around the Isle of Wight and into the English Channel where they will find stronger south easterly breezes to carry them through towards the north west tip of France and down across Biscay.”
Image: Qingdao yacht
Dale Smyth, Deputy Race Director, reporting from on the water, added: “The fleet made steady progress out of Stokes Bay and the tide will be turning in the fleet favour, flushing them out of the Solent into the more consistent easterlies to the South.”
Perseverance, Skippered by Ineke van der Weijden, maintained a strong lead around the first markers, with Our Isles and Oceans hot on the team’s heels.
Whilst today made for a light start to the first race of the circumnavigation, the fleet can expect a real mix of conditions for the next 1,200nm to Puerto Sherry in Spain. Says Dale Smyth: “As the fleet heads south into the English Channel, they can expect the easterlies to build giving some fantastic spinnaker runs down to Ushant. From there things will get a little more complicated with a low pressure approaching from the South, causing a big transition into more upwind sailing for the fleet. How the fleet change gears into this new weather could determine the leaderboard. As it stands, the Bay of Biscay looks to offer some light easterly winds and depending on how fast the fleet cross this area, will determine how far south they get before the headwinds arrive.”
Follow the fleet on the Race Viewer here