The finale of the Clipper Race, Race 14 to London, has started from Den Helder in The Netherlands.
After a Departure Ceremony from Willemsoord Marina and a Parade of Sail in the presence of Dutch Royal Navy ships ZrMs Luymes and the Urania, the fleet started the final short sprint to London off the Dutch coast at 1400 local time.
Derry~Londonderry~Doire was first over the line, followed by Garmin second and Qingdao third, with teams flying spinnakers in around 5 to 6 knots of wind.
The 198 nautical mile race to London is going to be one of the most nail-biting yet with just six points separating the top two teams when there are still twelve points up for grabs.
LMAX Exchange, Skippered by Frenchman Olivier Cardin, leads with 142 points vs Scottish Skipper Dan Smith’s Derry~Londonderry~Doire team on 136 points. Both teams have had four penalty points each. However Dan’s team has picked up 20 bonus Scoring Gate and Ocean Sprint points vs Olivier’s 17 bonus points.
Ahead of the race finale, Stephen O’Connor, a round the world crew member on board LMAX Exchange, said nothing was going to stop the team winning.
“Everyone in the team is very positive. We believe it is ours to lose now. We are out to win, nothing is going to stop us apart from a calamity. We are not over-complacent. We recognise Derry~Londonderry~Doire is a very good boat but for us to lose this now at this stage would be devastating.
“This race has pushed me physically and emotionally in more ways than I could have imagined before we set off. I am incredibly proud to go home to my home city and see all my friends and family and arriving in St Katharine Docks in London on Saturday will be the culmination of a lifetime goal,” Stephen added.
David Mercer, the CEO of the Team’s Sponsor LMAX Exchange, a British-owned financial technology (fintech) company, said after 40,000 miles there was still all to play for and the company was on tenterhooks back at its HQ.
“Derry~Londonderry~Doire has shown its strength over the last half of this Clipper Race epic and it’s sure to be an exciting finish to what has been an inspiring and arduous race.
“We have faith in our Skipper Olivier Cardin to get back to his match racing roots and ensure that we protect our six-point margin in this last sprint for glory. The team have bonded incredibly well over the last 11 months and I know they will give it their all.
“May the best boat win. I wish all the intrepid sailors Godspeed, fair winds and look forward to welcoming them all home safely at St Katharine Docks on Saturday," David added.
Departing The Netherlands was Immie Greveling, a Dutch crew member from Den Helder. Immie is racing on board Unicef having completed the Atlantic Coast to Coast leg already.
Ahead of the race finale, she said: “It has been a very special atmosphere here in Den Helder at the stopover over the last week as the town and crew celebrated everyone’s achievements at the end of the circumnavigation.
“I have been proud to represent Den Helder and achieve what I set out to do on the race,” Immie added.
The whole fleet is engaged in various battles for vital points, whether for podium places, the top half of the leaderboard or individual places further down.
To read more about the Race 14 course, route, timing details and battle for points, click here.
The Race Viewer will poll every 30 minutes throughout Race 14. To follow all the action, click here.
To see all the details and timings for the London Race Finish and Parade of Sail on the River Thames, click here.
For a gallery of Race Start images, click here.
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