Reflections from the Clipper Race Finish Line

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This is the eleventh (and Samantha’s final) blog entry in a series by Dell ambassadors competing in the Clipper Race, a 40,000 nautical mile race around the world in 70-foot racing yachts. If you haven’t read the previous blog entries from Samantha Harper and Marek Omilian detailing their adventures thus far, you may want to start from the beginning. Those entries are all in the “Sport & Recreation” section of Direct2Dell. For background on Dell’s involvement in this incredible event, read our initial blog here.

Reflections from the Clipper Race Finish Line

So, here we are at the finish of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race. We’ve just crossed the finish line near Liverpool and tomorrow will begin our sail up the Mersey River into Albert Dock, where we first left nearly a year ago and where our friends and family await us. What a ride it’s been!

This last leg (Leg 8) started out Le Mans style again, just outside of New York. A solid start for Dare to Lead, where we kept in the top three early in the race. As with our previous race up to New York, the race across the North Atlantic involved lots of tacking and strategic navigation, ending up with an early split in the fleet. In each race there is a Scoring Gate, virtual marks set up to give extra points to boats that reach it; however, it is often out of the way and in this case was south of the Rhum Line. This tempted several boats into diverting south, who also hoped to catch part of the Gulf Stream and get propelled ahead.

As always, relying on weather predictions can be a gamble and it looked like for the most part it would pay off.

Those of us who headed north had been monitoring weather forecasts which predicted a large wind hole evolving south of the Rhum Line which our crew was keen to avoid. Our plan was not to jeopardize a potential podium position for the sake of a few extra points. As always, relying on weather predictions can be a gamble and it looked like for the most part it would pay off.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned wind hole never materialized, and the southern portion of the fleet carried on full steam ahead. In the end, Garmin, Visit Seattle and Unicef edged us out to claim podium spots and despite a valiant effort, we were left with a mid-pack finish into Derry-Londonderry.

Derry-Londonderry lived up to its reputation as a lively and welcoming stopover as the crowds were lined up on the Quayside to cheer us in. Local boat owners moored nearby had air horns and banners out to welcome the Clipper Race fleet into Foyle Marina. It was good to have finally arrived!

During the stopover I had the chance to participate in a Dell Rugged event. It was great to network with others users of Dell products in the marine industry as well as other sailors and adventurers undertaking extreme challenges. The following day, the Clipper Race hosted those participants in a sail day on board Qingdao at the mouth of the Foyle River near Greencastle. The winds were light but everyone still got a flavour for life on board a Clipper 70 yacht and a few tried their hand at helming!

The final race start in Derry-Londonderry was also a spectacle with crowds cheering us off both at the Quayside and at the start line in Greencastle.

This start was traditional, with a countdown gun and a fixed start line and course to be navigated around.  We positioned ourselves well and with the starting gun blast we were mere inches away from the line. We had a solid lead out of Lough Foyle and for the first few miles of the race. Sadly, light winds turned a promising start into a drift-off among the fleet and it became anyone’s game.

As the days went on, the second part of Leg 8 involved countless tacks as the fleet navigated around the coast of Ireland. It still remained anyone’s game, but as we began to approach the Irish Sea it became clear that Qingdao and Liverpool 2018 had pulled ahead. Choosing your angles and timings of tacks can be a tricky business and hats off to those teams for getting it right. Our strong downwind skills meant we picked off a few competitors towards the finish but ultimately Dare to Lead crossed the line in eighth place, for a seventh place finish overall in this year’s race.

It’s been a long year – sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes exhausting. Overcoming the crazy seas, harsh weather and difficulties of living life constantly at an angle have helped build character and has given us memories we’ll never forget. Many thanks to Dell for supporting me and the broader Clipper Race fleet on this crazy journey. Our Rugged Laptops have been 100 percent reliable and have been our lifeline to the outside world, running our navigation software and incorporating information from our peripheral sensing and tracking devices. Without them we’d literally have been lost!

I’m not sure how I’ll adjust to being back in the real world in a few days’ time. Despite the physicality of such an undertaking, there is a refreshing simplicity to life at sea. Eat, sleep, sail, repeat. For now, my body will appreciate being able to walk on a surface that doesn’t move and sleep in a bed that doesn’t try to eject you with every wave. I will head back to work and in a few months’ time, my mind will begin to wonder… what’s the next big adventure?

And for those wondering if a Clipper Race might be in their future – if I can do it, you can too!


Samantha Harper profile photo About Samantha Harper, crew member, Dare To Lead

Samantha is a 37-year-old doctor from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The Dell Latitude Rugged laptop was made for people like Samantha; when she is not sailing 40,000 nautical miles around the world on board Dare To Lead, Samantha splits her time between working in remote communities as a GP, and pushing herself to the limits mountaineering and running ultra-marathons (she has done the infamous Marathon des Sables, a 250 kilometre race in the Sahara Desert, five times). However, the Clipper Race is Samantha’s first sailing experience, and after initially considering only doing three legs, she signed up for the whole circumnavigation, knowing that once she started, she wouldn’t be able to stop until she completed and experienced the entire thing.

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