As the sun set on Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) celebrations for the Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test Prizegiving begins!

With the last of the fleet arriving in the early hours of the morning, smiling faces were a true testament that the Race Crew were happy to be back on land, soaking up the Aussie sunshine and looking forward to sharing a moment of pride and gratitude with their fellow teammates, Clipper Race staff and supporters.

Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test lived up to its name, as the teams faced harsh conditions and challenging weather during their epic 2,510nm race, featuring the Southern Indian Ocean, a dip back into the Roaring Forties and the Tasman Sea, as the fleet sailed from Fremantle, WA to Newcastle, NSW.

Kicking off the evening Clipper Race Director, Mark Light said: “This race unfolded as a captivating mix of conditions, keeping participants on their toes throughout. The initial stages saw a swift and dynamic start around Cape Leeuwin, setting a high tempo for the competitors. However, as the fleet progressed, they encountered a challenging wind hole off the south coast of Australia, significantly slowing their advancement in the opening days.

Image: Mark Light with VIPs on stage to present the awards

“Once the teams navigated through this windless stretch and caught a favourable breeze, the entire fleet accelerated its pace around the southern tip of Tasmania. The race took another twist after rounding the island, with the fleet once again grappling with a tricky wind hole. In this challenging situation, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Dare to Lead showcased exceptional strategy, capitalising on a slightly stronger southerly wind to create distance between themselves and the rest of the fleet.

“The remaining nine teams faced the arduous task of battling through a prolonged wind hole on their journey towards the finishing lines. The race's unpredictable mix of conditions added an extra layer of excitement, highlighting the strategic prowess required to navigate through the diverse challenges presented by the Australian waters. Fantastic viewing for all!

“Before we commence, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club. It is our first time here, and so far, we have been made to feel incredibly welcome. There are many people who have made this stopover possible, but a particular thank you to Paul, Jack, Ethan, Matt, Barry, John, Tracey, and all the incredible volunteers who have been so warm and welcoming.”

Above: Watch the action from Prizegiving

Mark handed over Declan Clausen, Deputy Lord Mayor City of Newcastle, who said: "It is such a pleasure to welcome the Clipper Race to the city of Newcastle. We heard you had a fairly unique welcome, and I am so very pleased to be able to represent Newcastle for this wonderful partnership. I am looking forward to meeting some of the winners and learn about your experiences to get here. Once again welcome to Newcastle and I hope you enjoy your stay".

Then it was over to the awards. The first award of the evening was the Race 5: Sta Lok Endurance Award, sponsored by the Clipper 2023-24 Race Official Standing Rigging Supplier Sta-Lok. The company wanted to know what endurance meant to the Clipper Race teams, and so asked teams to submit photo or video content that illustrated this.

Third place went to Perseverance, for the team’s creativity in incorporating the Sta-Lok brand colour, humour and emotion into their video. Jade Golder, the team’s Media Crew member was invited to stage to collect the prize, a £40 voucher for a local artisan product.

For encapsulating copy, and capturing the spirit of endurance in an image, second place went to Zhuhai. Media Crew Frances ‘Cisco’ Kruger came up to the stage to claim a prize of £80 towards dinner in a local restaurant.

The winning entry went to crew member Oliver Hooton from Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam team for a fun take on the brief, using captivating visuals and humour, showing the endurance needed to simply move across the yacht whilst at sea. The winning prize was £100 toward a massage- the perfect remedy after a long and challenging endurance test.

Image: Oliver Hooton, winner of the Sta-Lok Endurance Award

The focus then turned to the racing. Firstly, the Scoring Gate results were announced. On this race, only two teams opted to go for the Scoring Gate, racing closely across the virtual line. Qingdao took the top spot, gaining an additional three points, whilst Perseverance swooped in and took second place to take two additional points.

Next, keeping everyone in suspense was the highly anticipated results of the Ocean Sprint, with results kept a secret until the big reveal at Prizegiving. This race’s Ocean Sprint was set between latitudes 041°S and 036°S and the distance on the rhumb line across was approx. 300nm

As with all Ocean Sprints, each team’s arrival at the start point is always dependent on the weather at the time, and as usual, the fleet had varying conditions throughout. This was due to the ridge of high pressure stretching out into the Tasman Sea and the transition from strong southerly downwind conditions to equally strong north easterly upwind conditions, plus the notorious East Australian Current (of Finding Nemo fame) that flows with force in a southerly direction, against the fleet. With all these factors combined, there was the largest ever split in overall times that has ever been seen on the Clipper Race.

The bonus points were awarded, as follows:

1st CV31 Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam 3 points

2nd CV20 Dare To Lead 2 points

3rd CV22 Bekezela1 point

Congratulations to Josh / Ella, Ryan / Charlie and David / Maisie, and their respective teams... Very Well Done!!

The full results of the Ocean Sprint are listed below:

34:27:23 CV31 Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam

43:51:00 CV20 Dare To Lead

55:23:42 CV22 Bekezela

59:45:13 CV28 UNICEF

60:42:36 CV25 Zhuhai

72:24:51 CV27 Qingdao

72:40:18 CV23 Perseverance

74:04:47 CV21 Our Isles and Oceans

79:03:50 CV29 PSP Logistics

85:31:32 CV26 Yacht Club Punta del Este

86:06:18 CV30 Washington, DC

Finally, onto the Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test podium placings. No strangers to the podium, and for the third race running, Zhuhai take a spot on the podium, this time in third place. This now puts the team led by James Finney and AQP Mike Davies into third place on the leader board. James, Mike and the team were awarded their third-place pennants by David Fitzgerald of Heineken.

Image: Zhuhai place third on Race 5

A familiar team on the podium, second place went to South African Skipper Ryan Gibson and his team Dare To Lead as they swooped in and take another podium place, further adding to their top spot points on the leader board heading into Race 6. Barry Kelly, Commodore of Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club presented the team with their award as they celebrated on stage.

Image: Dare To Lead on stage celebrating second place

Finally, to the roar of cheering crew and supporters Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam took to the stage to receive their second consecutive win, which raised the team's overall race standing to fourth place. Skipper Josh Stickland and AQP Ella Hebron were joined by their crew, as they were handed the winning pennant by Declan Clausen, Deputy Lord Mayor of City of Newcastle.

Image: Race 5 winning team Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam

Once the official awards were wrapped up, it was time for a drink and dance as the sun set over Newcastle.