16 January 2024
Zhuhai has won Race 6 from Newcastle to Airlie Beach, adding not just a fourth consecutive podium place to its run, but the first win for the team on the circumnavigation so far.
It was celebrations all the way into port as the Chinese team entry, led by Skipper James Finney and First Mate Mike Davies, bagged its first win, crossing the Finish Line at 05:57:26 UTC.
Zhuhai was a frontrunner from the outset, remaining firmly in the top four until it pulled into the top spot, racing up the Queensland coast and establishing a storming lead. In just six days of racing, Zhuhai managed to put almost 90 nautical miles between themselves and Our Isles and Oceans who are set to arrive in second place.
In such a short race, any minor error or wrong tactical decision could cause a rapid drop down the leader board. James, Mike and the team on board Zhuhai did the opposite, with the decision to opt for ‘the short and slow route rather than the fast and long one,’ as quoted by James in a Skipper Blog, paid off despite the risk of current and wind holes famed on the inshore route.
Conditions on Race 6 proved testing for the teams, with torrential rain and little to no wind, coupled with the notorious East Australian Current running against the fleet all the way up the coast. After an initial upwind first section of the race, following a thrilling start out of Newcastle Harbour, the fleet enjoyed downwind conditions up to the tropics ready to enjoy the final of three Aussie stopovers.
The Zhuhai team was greeted at the Coral Sea Marina, Whitsundays, by Clipper Race Officials, family, friends and marina representatives, ready to meet the team with celebratory fizz, ice cold beers and freshly grilled prawns: a welcome treat after a hot and humid race.
Skipper James Finney said: “I am feeling pretty good, and pretty tired! It wasn’t a long race, but it was pretty full on still. I’m super pleased for everyone, and they really deserve this. We’ve done so well in the last few races, getting into first place but not being able to quite hold onto it so this one has been fantastic.”
On clinching the win by over 100nm, James added: “It was down to a mixture of good tactics and good sailing! We made the right decision to go inshore, which was a decision we put to the crew, so they played a big part in that as we were a little bit 50/50 on that. Then the crew just sailed their hearts out! I have never won a race on the Clipper Race before so you can’t really ask for more to be honest- it’s as good as it gets!”
AQP Mike Davies added: “99% of the crew voted to go inshore, so luckily, we took that decision! We are very happy; we crossed the currents at the right point. We thought we would be gybing through the gates, but we ended up having a nice reach through.”
Chee Wah Lum, round the world Race Crew from Malaysia added: “I don’t know how to describe how I feel right now. I’ve sailed halfway around the world, and we came in first on this race, I can’t describe it! Race Start was a lot of criss-crossing, with a crowded space in Newcastle Harbour, then when we got out, we sailed as fast as we could, as best we could, and then suddenly realised, wow, we’re leading! Then we decided, do we go east or west, and we decided to go towards the shore, and we made the right call!”
Zhan Shi, known as Jarod, the Leg 4 Zhuhai Ambassador was very happy with the win. He said: “I am feeling so excited! It’s my second official race and we just won! It was great teamwork. I want to use this time to send thanks to Zhuhai, without them I wouldn’t be here to win this race and thank you to the Clipper Race on such an amazing race!
“It feels wonderful to be involved in decision making and strategy and we were able to make it happen in the end- to make the decision and execute it well is amazing.”
Congratulating the team, Clipper Race Host Port and Team Port Partner Jiuzhou Group Holdings said: “It’s really a big, good news, congratulations to you all! We can see that Zhuhai is becoming stronger and stronger every time it starts a new trip. We are together with you and our team in Zhuhai is busy preparing and getting everything ready, waiting for you. Enjoy the sailing and we are looking forward to meeting you in Zhuhai.”
Washington DC arrived in second place 15 January at 14:15:31 UTC, followed by Our Isles and Oceans, at 14:38:32. More here.