Checking off every sailor’s to-do list: Transiting the Panama Canal

Checking off every sailor’s to-do list: Transiting the Panama Canal

by Clipper Round the World Race Jun 4 04:12 PDT

Clipper Race © Clipper Race

For the crew participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, transiting through the Panama Canal is a highlight of the circumnavigation. Over the past few days, the Clipper Race fleet has navigated one of the greatest man-made wonders of the world, moving from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, for the start of Race 12.

The Panama Canal is one of the world’s most incredible feats of engineering and a vital waterway for commerce. It is a 50-mile man-made waterway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The canal transit is listed on Leg 7: the coast-to-coast leg of the United States and takes eight to ten hours. Clipper 70s embark in small groups to cross the canal, passing huge cruise ships and freighters as they travel from coast to coast. While moving through the channel, the lock system raises each vessel to 85 feet above sea level and specially trained pilots take control of each vessel to help navigate it safely through the channel. .

Patrick van der Zijden, Skipper of Zhuhai, who also transited through the canal in the 2013-14 edition of the Clipper Race, said before his team’s transit: “Transiting the Panama Canal is truly an incredible event. Traveling through the canal with huge ships and cruise liners for a day in the large purpose-built locks is an incredible experience and a real tick in the box.”

Due to the logistical requirements of transiting the canal, the Clipper Race fleet is pre-booked and dates are set in the race schedule. On Tuesday May 31, the first group of yachts (WTC Logistics, Ha Long Bay Viet Nam, Punta del Este, Go To Bermuda and Unicef) departed Flamenco Island Marina at dawn and began the day-long transit.

Dan Jones, Skipper at WTC Logistics, reported from the Miraflores Locks: “We carried three boats each, with Punta del Este and Go To Bermuda alongside us, and Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Unicef are following us. It’s really exciting! The whole crew is super excited – there will definitely be lots of pictures of our crossing.”

Candela Guo, crew member of the round the world race on GoToBermuda, commented on the transit aboard her team yacht: “So far we’ve seen so much nature, it’s beautiful! I think really amazing and unbelievable how humans and modern technology have been able to create the Panama Canal. It’s really weird to be on the boat as a passenger and not change sails! But it’s nice to be relax and soak up.

Heather Broadbent, crewmate and round the world, added: “That’s one of the highlights of this trip. It was truly spectacular – the scale of it, the size of the ships was absolutely phenomenal. The pilots who helped us navigate the canal were so professional, they guided us through each lock seamlessly. For me, the canal is one step closer to home. We left the Pacific behind, which was a Huge crossing, and now that we’re on the Atlantic side, ready to start the next race, it’s a little closer to being with my family and friends back home.”

While waiting to go through the locks, Jeronimo Santos Gonzales, Skipper of Punta del Este said: “It was very exciting, there was a lot of water coming in, coming up to the top of the lock so that we could pass. There were pelicans playing next to the boat and a huge boat next to us, it was amazing, really something! We also had a great female pilot who worked here to help us steer the boats through each lock.

Clipper 2015-16 Race Crew Jilly St John, who now works for Clipper Race in crew recruitment, recounts her experience transiting the canal during her race: “I think going through the Panama Canal is really something. I have to spend time at the top of the mast passing the gallery, greeting all the visitors which was very hot but also very cool!

“There were lots of wild animals roaming around, crocodiles being the most common and most talked about. Rafting with Telemed and Unicef ​​was wonderful, traveling with new blood with new stories, sharing the experience through the stanchions. Being in the same lock with a huge tanker dwarfing what you previously thought of as your relatively high mast and passing through the locks, you might have the prospect of descending into a new ocean…as thousands write many times before, it really is a feat of engineering.”

The second group of five yachts (Imagine your Korea, Seattle, Zhuhai, Visit Sanya, China and Dare To Lead) began their journey through the Panama Canal early morning Wednesday June 1, and joined the rest of the fleet at Shelter Marina by the bay.

Qingdao, which arrived in Panama in the early hours of June 1 (local time) is due to complete transit on Thursday, June 2, joining the fleet at Shelter Bay Marina on Panama’s Atlantic coast.

Race 12 will begin with a start from Le Mans on Saturday June 4, with all eleven yachts lined up in the approaches to Panama ready for the start of the race. The Skipper leader of the Le Mans Start will be Ian Wiggin on Unicef, who will take charge of the meeting and officially give the start of the race.

Is it on your bucket list to experience the wonder of the Panama Canal? Applications for the 2023-24 race and the 2025-26 race are now open. Visit the link to learn more.

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