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 it 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.”
HotelPlanner.com was the fourth team across the finish line in the short course race and Skipper Conall Morrison was happy with his team’s effort, commenting: “The new crew have been busy settling into the team and have been working hard on boat maintenance and on the refresher sail. All the hard work showed when we had a good result in the short inshore race in front of Abell Point Marina, coming in fourth place with lots of good teamwork and tactics.
“We are now motoring 150 nautical miles away outside the Great Barrier Reef and the Le Mans start will be a fun and exciting way to start the long race to Sanya.”
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 a 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. To follow the progress of the teams, keep an eye on the Race Viewer and also the team pages for the daily Skipper Reports and Crew Blogs from the boats.
To learn more about the upcoming stopover in Sanya, see the host port page on the Clipper Race website.
Full results of the short course exhibition race in Pioneer Bay:
CV26 Visit Seattle
CV28 PSP Logistics
CV27 Sanya Serenity Coast
CV20 Liverpool 2018
CV21 Unicef Lead Skipper
CV27 GREAT Britain
CV25 Dare To Lead