Farewell to paradise

The Clipper Round the World Race teams will be leaving the east coast of Australia in a Le Mans-style start, after a well-earned break at Abell Point Marina in the Whitsundays.

29 January 2018


The order of the start has been decided in a short course race off the coast of Airlie Beach today, after the fleet’s Slipping Lines Ceremony and a Parade of Sail.

This is only the second time in the race’s 21-year history that it has stopped in Airlie Beach, which has fast become one of the highlights for the sailors. Other ports visited so far are Punta del Este in Uruguay, Cape Town, Fremantle, Sydney and Hobart.

The fleet’s stay from 17–29 January has provided an extraordinary boost for the local tourism industry, with Clipper Race organisers, local councillors, Tourism Whitsundays and the marina coming together to host an array of events over the two weeks, drawing local and international guests alike.

“Abell Point Marina is the perfect location for a stopover in this iconic race,” said Joscelyn O’Keefe,
 Abell Point Marina’s Marketing and Business Development Manager. “The 74 incredible islands, our second-to-none facilities and our superb weather make a stunning backdrop. The Clipper Race crews may be quite reluctant to set off for the next leg of the race!”


For one crew member in particular, making landfall in the Whitsundays was very special indeed. Nigel “Jack” Pemberton is an Airlie Beach local who runs the Shingley Beach Resort, where many of the support team and some crew members have been staying during the stopover. The 68-year-old manager said, “It’s awesome coming into your home port with family and friends waiting for you. My only experience of sailing before this was inshore in the Whitsundays, with Airlie Beach Race Week. This has been a lot more involved, and very intense.”

Overall leader Sanya Serenity Coast was expected to play its Joker Card in the upcoming race to its home port in China, but Skipper Wendy Tuck said she is happy to keep that advantage off the table for now: “We don’t have much of a lead in the overall standings but it is a lead nonetheless so that’s great and we are just keeping the little Joker Card up our sleeve to spring it when people least expect it.”

Each team has the opportunity to play its Joke Card once only during the overall race. Activated at the pre-race briefing, it means that all points gained from the yacht’s finishing position for a particular race are doubled.

The CYCA’s Tuck is keen for Sanya Serenity Coast to do Sanya proud in this race, commenting: “I am really, really excited about getting to Sanya. But it’s going to be a tough, long race. We’ve just had a few short races so it’s going to be hard to get our mindset into that, but knowing that we are going to Sanya is what is going to keep us all going because it just looks fabulous.”

Meanwhile the Visit Seattle team is still savouring its win in the race from Hobart to the Whitsundays, and 24-year-old Skipper Nikki Henderson will be looking to harness that energy for what will be a challenging race.

“The team is feeling good, we are now starting to say the ‘w’ word – winning,” she said. “We are not going to change anything, just keep enforcing our team values and culture and hopefully the results will come from that.

“I’m very excited to go back to the Northern Hemisphere, it feels like we are on our way home now. Race 7 will throw up its own challenges and it’s going to be quite tactical I think at times which the crew like.”

Tactics will be crucial, especially as the teams are expecting to navigate through a mixed bag of weather conditions with changeable winds in the tropics, requiring a lot of rapid sail changes.

The squalls and accompanying rain will be a welcome relief from the other big challenge of this race. “The biggest impact is the heat,” said PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell.

“From previous experience, it is just crushing in that part of the world so that will be the hardest bit about this whole thing.”

HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison added: “We are looking at something between three and four weeks to Sanya so we have just got to have our marathon not our sprint heads on. We need to make sure we look after our sails and don’t get ourselves too tired. But we are getting better at looking after ourselves that way.”


For the first time in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, there will be a Le Mans start in Race 7. Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth commented: “It’s going to be interesting. I’ve never done one myself so I think we are just trying to get away clean and make sure it’s fair.”

There has been a significant crew changeover between Leg 4 and Leg 5, meaning there are plenty of new faces on board each of the eleven teams. Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch said: “Pretty much all the leggers on board are new, only the round the worlders are staying on from Leg 4. So, we will have to go back into teaching mode for the first couple of days or weeks, so that is a big challenge. But the refresher sail went really well and it all looks promising.”

It’s not only in the crew that there have been changes, with Dave Hartshorn returning to the race to take over from Andy Burns as Skipper of GREAT Britain.

“The team is feeling great, really excited and we’ve had a really, really constructive past few days getting to know each other,” said Hartshorn.

“We had a great training sail on Friday, and there are lots of new crew joining here for Leg 5 so I think it is going to be an exciting race.”

The race is now at the halfway point in terms of distance from its starting point in Liverpool, UK.

The next main event on the Whitsundays sailing calendar is the 2018 Airlie Beach Race Week from 10-16 August, which will offer racing across divisions including IRC, PHS, cruising, sportsboats, one design and multihulls.





More news on the Clipper Race Facebook Live page.

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