LMAX Exchange wins Henri Lloyd Hobart to Whitsundays Race ahead of GREAT Britain

09 January 2016

The tightest, most thrilling battle of the Clipper 2015-16 Race so far came right down to the final miles as LMAX Exchange claimed an incredibly narrow victory over constant rival GREAT Britain in the Henri Lloyd Hobart to Whitsundays Race.

Just 42 seconds separated the teams which crossed Airlie Beach’s Pioneer Bay Finish Line at 2137 (1137 UTC) and 2138 (1138 UTC) after spending the past 48 hours locked in battle, match racing within close sight of each other up the tropical Queensland coast.

Garmin finished almost 90 minutes later at 2305 (1305 UTC) to take the third podium spot ahead of Da Nang - Viet Nam in the final race in this All Australian fourth leg which had the most amount of lead and fleet position changes of all six races completed so far.

LMAX Exchange Skipper Olivier Cardin summed up the intensity of the race as he stepped ashore in Abell Point Marina, saying: "It was more than hard. Since the beginning, we had the battle with GREAT Britain for the Scoring Gate, then fighting against the current and dealing with heavy weather. Then we sailed into a wind hole and all the fleet were catching up and we were with GREAT Britain and Garmin. Then it has been just us and GREAT Britain the last two and half days. The finish was just crazy.

"In fact, as we approached the finish and we had a 1 nM lead, it looked quite easy because we were going at the same speed, but then as we passed the first island and night fall came there were wind holes everywhere. It was really, really difficult. They won back some distance and nearly overtook us. We managed to keep the lead but it was difficult.

"It has been very tense on board. For the last couple of days we have been focused on speed, watching GREAT Britain on the AIS and pushing the boat. On top of that, it's quite hot here. We haven't experienced this type of weather since Leg 1 and that also makes it difficult."

Stephen O'Connor, a former Group Commander for the London Fire Brigade is sailing round the world on LMAX Exchange, describes the last 100 nM on board: "We were watching everything that GREAT Britain was doing; if they were tacking, gybing; we're looking at their speed, their COG, their Speed Over Ground (SOG), we're looking at everything about them and I'm sure they are looking at us. We are gleaning this information every two to three minutes to get an idea of how they are progressing. If they are catching up on us then we are looking to adjust our sail strategy to compensate for incursions they make into our ground. Luckily for us that managed to hold us in good stead."

Despite finishing in second place GREAT Britain Skipper Peter Thornton says his crew really enjoyed the close match racing with LMAX Exchange: "It's been brilliant. We were saying the other day how all the crew is loving how close the racing is with LMAX Exchange. We were neck and neck, the sun was rising and both under full spinnakers, everyone was taking photos and had big smiles on their faces, it was just insane.

"Of course for the Skippers it is the complete opposite. I'm thinking 'Aaah, give me half a chance to have not such close racing. People are grinding and constantly looking over their shoulders and we're shouting 'Grind, grind, grind.' The hype is just brilliant.

"It's very nice to be in the Whitsundays, I've never been up here and I'm very much looking forward to it. It's an early doors arrival too so the crew will get a little more time off. I didn't expect to get here this early in the evening either, I thought it would be the early hours of Sunday morning, so had planned to give the crew Sunday off and start the deep clean on Monday. But now only starting on Monday seems like quite a lot of time off so we'll see..."

Round the world GREAT Britain crew member Phil Orford explained ecstatically: "It’s been the closest finish of the Clipper Race so far at 42 seconds! It’s been nip and tuck right from the start, we managed to beat LMAX Exchange at the Scoring Gate but they managed to nip us in the final miles but it’s been fantastic. What’s great about the race is the comradery between the two teams, we’ve all arrived into port and are sharing a beer congratulating one another on what has been achieved over the past 8 days.

"We drive LMAX Exchange on they drive us on that’s what it’s all about and if we didn’t we wouldn’t be arriving in first and second place! Coming in early means we get a couple of days extra time here and I am looking forward to enjoying the Whitsundays sun and beach life."

On the second day of racing GREAT Britain beat LMAX Exchange to cross the Scoring Gate first and pick up three and two additional bonus points respectively, meaning that both teams will end up tied for this race on points – at 14 apiece (12 + 2 for LMAX Exchange and 11 +3 for GREAT Britain). Just five points will still separate the teams in the overall Clipper Race leaderboard with LMAX Exchange still holding on to a narrow lead.

Commenting on his third place finish, equalling his best result to date, third place Garmin Skipper Ash Skett said: “It was an extremely tight race, throughout we had boats visible on our trackers and we never really felt like we were getting ahead. I could see the back markers on the trackers for most of the race, the fleet was very compact. I am very proud of the team, we’ve achieved an incredible result in such a tight race.

"My first ever yachting experience was 12 years ago in this marina, I stepped on board a boat for the first time and sailed the Whitsundays. I remember at the time thinking what a fantastic job and something I could see myself doing and as it transpired that’s what got me into the yachting industry and that’s why I’m here today. I was a complete novice back then I didn’t know anything about sailing, I grew up in the midlands so it was a whole new experience for me but one that stuck with me and now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else."

The Airlie Beach stopover marks the first time the Clipper Race fleet has ever visited the Whitsundays region in Queensland, world renowned for its tropical coastline and 74 islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

Abell Point Marina is the one of the largest marinas in Australia and making a name for itself as the benchmark marina in Whitsundays and along the east coast of Australia.

Click here to read the arrival quotes and order for the rest of the Clipper Race fleet.

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