Header image: Henri Lloyd in St Katharine Docks before the race start

A bizarre race finish

As you know, this race started with us passing under Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Where it would end, we didn’t know.

With light winds forecast on the southern part of the race course to Panama, and a
finite time window to channel all 12 boats through the Panama canal, Clipper gave us
five possible finish lines, each four hundred miles apart. It made long-term race
planning difficult as we didn’t know which of these finish lines would actually be used,
or indeed whether Clipper would introduce another line midway between any two of them.
What was a good speed and direction for one finish line, could put us in worse position for the next or the one after. We also knew that Clipper could end the race
retrospectively if they determined that not all of the 12 competitors would cross a given finish line in the required timescale.

So what happened? We crossed the first and second finish lines, making our way up the
fleet as we did so, in true Henri Lloyd style. We seem to do better at hunting others
down and then overtaking them, than we do at being the hunted and maintaining a lead.
From looking at and interpreting the weather forecast information we are given, Eric
determined that the race would most likely be ended at the third finish line. We crossed that line in first place, with GB second a few hours later.

That was not the end though. Clipper introduced a new finish line one hundred miles further on and announced that the race would finish there.

When this communication came in, Eric was up the mast rescuing a crew member who had got
stuck up there. She was swinging and getting tangled up in the halyards from which she was suspended. Both came safely down.

So we continued. The winds became ever lighter as we raced further south. We, along
with most of the rest of the fleet, were averaging speeds of only 4 knots over six
hours. Then came the news that we had fifteen miles to go, but that GB had finished an
hour earlier. Somehow their average over the same six hours had been 8 knots. Just a
few short miles away but different wind conditions than the rest of us meant that they
had finished first. Well done to them. We crossed second, and then a battle between
Jamaica and Garmin for third had Jamaica narrowly getting third place, shortly followed by Garmin in fourth.

The rest of the boats never made that finish line. For them the race was finished at the original third finish line that we had crossed first.

Who ever heard of a race with different finish lines for different competitors?

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