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Clipper Race Fleet Departs Whitsundays In Style

January 31, 2018 Sports No Comments Email Email

The Whitsundays was picture-perfect today for the Clipper Race fleet’s departure, with its blue skies, azure waters and steady winds providing the ideal scene as they bid farewell and headed off for the Le Mans start for Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, China.

In return, the teams also did their bit to put on a show and add to the excitement of the day. During a short course exhibition race in Pioneer Bay, off the Clipper Race’s time in the Whitsundays ended exactly the way it began – with a Visit Seattle win. Skipper Nikki Henderson and her team were the first team across the line, and maintained that lead for the remainder of the race to finish ahead of PSP Logistics and Sanya Serenity Coast.

The win means Visit Seattle will have the advantage of being the windward boat in tomorrow’s Le Mans start, with PSP Logistics and Sanya Serenity Coast to be the second and third boats respectively.

Sanya Serenity Coast goes into the 4,300 nautical mile race to its home port on top of the overall Clipper 2017-18 Race standings, and 25-year-old Victor Ansart, an Electrical Engineer, who joined Sanya Serenity Coast here in Airlie Beach for Leg 5, says: “Racing towards Sanya gives us extra incentive to win and do well.

“We haven’t done a Le Mans start before but we’re a good crew so I’m sure we will manage. The big advantage is that is a long race and whilst we are definitely going to try and win the start, there will be plenty of opportunities to catch up.”

Whilst the Clipper Race crew were eager to resume racing, many were sad to leave the beautiful Whitsundays behind. The region had a particular impact on 18-year-old Unicef crew member Tom Dixon who says: “Before I came to the Whitsundays I had never even been out of Europe.”

“I’ve just finished my A-Levels and have a deferred entry to Cardiff University to study Biology. Marine Biology has been at the back of my mind so being here in Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays and seeing all the coral and the fish has been absolutely stunning. I did a tour to Cape Tribulation, one of the oldest rainforests around here with prehistoric plants and it was just so interesting. I loved it, really loved it.”

Both GREAT Britain and Unicef unfortunately missed the Parade of Sail and short course race after suffering minor technical issues shortly before slipping lines. Race Director Mark Light explains: “GREAT Britain had a small problem with their throttle connector which was easily fixed and Unicef had an alternator that failed and we quickly replaced that and got both boats out on the water.

“We had said the finishing positions for the short course in the bay would form the starting order for the Le Mans start but with GREAT Britain and Unicef not being able to take part in that, we slotted them into the middle of the line-up. Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs is the lead Skipper for the Le Mans so he is position number six and GREAT Britain will form up in position number seven.”

With the fleet now motoring its way to the start area outside the Great Barrier Reef, Mark also took the time to reflect on the past few weeks, saying: “The Clipper Race stopover in the Whitsundays has been really good. It’s a beautiful area, we’ve had a great time to relax and recuperate. The teams are now off on a pretty long race to Sanya but they are all ready for it because of the break we’ve had.”

During the Clipper Race’s stopover, Tourism Whitsundays, Whitsundays Regional Council and Abell Point Marina teamed up together to organise the inaugural Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival, a calendar of local events in celebration of the race’s stopover in the region, which included a Welcome Party on Airlie Beach foreshore, a White on Whitehaven Beach party, a Progressive Lunch around the Whitsunday Islands, and a Rodeo on the Reef in nearby Bowen.

Al Grundy, Chairman of Tourism Whitsundays, who was present for the fleet’s arrival and departure and also attended many of the events during the stopover, said: “The first Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival has been outstanding for all involved. Following Cyclone Debbie and the impact it made on us less than a year ago, opportunities like this, which enable us to show off our beautiful region to such an international audience and also bring our community together in such a positive manner, are more important to us than ever.

“We have all been left captivated and inspired after getting to meet the amazing Clipper Race crews who are taking on this huge challenge and their positive impact will be left on us for a long time to come. For now, we wish them all well and will follow them closely as they continue their journeys, and hope to welcome them back for another visit in the future.”

Though Race 7, the Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya is a long one, the Race Director is expecting some tight racing, especially from Visit Seattle and Sanya Serenity Coast.

Visit Seattle is clearly in really good form, winning into the Whitsundays and pretty much leading from start to finish in the short course race,” says Mark.

“It’s been really close racing so far in the Clipper 2017-18 Race and we’ve got some close positioning at the top of the standings. Sanya Serenity Coast is going in on top and hasn’t played its Joker Card yet so is doing really well. There has been some really exciting racing in the first four legs and I’m really looking forward to see what happens next.”

The race to Sanya is expected to take between 23 to 27 days, with the fleet expected to arrive into the Sanya Serenity Marina between the 21 and 25 of February.

The Clipper Race is unique as it is raced by people like you. In 1996, legendary yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop around the world in 1968-69, founded the race as a way to give everyone, no matter their sailing experience, the chance to become an ocean racer. Approximately 40 per cent of crew members have never sailed before they sign up for the 40,000 nautical miles circumnavigation, which is divided into eight legs and features six ocean crossings.

From Sanya, teams will head to Qingdao, China; across the mighty Pacific Ocean to Seattle; Panama; and New York; before heading back across the Atlantic to Derry-Londonderry. The Clipper 2017-18 Race finishes in Liverpool, UK, on July 28, 2018.

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