Next stop Australia: Clipper Race teams embark on huge race across the Roaring Forties
18 November 2023
The Clipper 2023-24 Race has passed its quarter-way mark as teams embarked today (18 November) on the 4,750nm Roaring Forties stage of the race from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Western Australia on Race 4: Marlow Roaring Forties Challenge.
Waving goodbye to friends, family and the laid-back atmosphere of Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront, the eleven teams of non-professional sailors departed the marina with an impressive send off from a traditional African Choir. Following a Parade of Sail with the beautiful Table Mountain backdrop, the teams lined up to begin the fourth race of the circumnavigation and jostled for positions in the changeable winds of Table Bay.
Image: African choir leading the teams through the V&A
This stage of the event, Leg 3: Roaring Forties is one of the longest and most testing races of the circumnavigation, where huge swells, ferocious weather conditions and freezing temperatures are not uncommon, and the crew can expect to spend around 20-25 days at sea, in heavy weather in one of the most remote parts of the planet before arriving in Fremantle to some well-earned Aussie sunshine.
Capetonian Skipper Ryan Gibson, who led his Dare To Lead team to victory into his home port on the previous Race 3: TIMEZERO South Atlantic Showdown, spoke ahead of the race to Australia:
“I think everyone is ready, and the boat is ready. It’s a north westerly wind, so it should be a really nice start and a nice way to leave Cape Town. This is a difficult leg, so I’m a little bit anxious but excited. It’s a long leg, so we have to be really safe but still we want to push the boat and have a really good race.
“We are getting a low pressure quite early, by day two. There’s a lot of low-pressure systems between here and Australia and in the middle, I think we will get some really big seas. We want to find wind, but we don’t want a lot of wind. We could have 70-80 knots in a big system so we’ll try and avoid that, but hopefully it will be big, downwind, fast sailing, I think! Everyone is feeling so good, and I think everyone is still going to bring the momentum from winning the last race. The crew are fitting in, but everyone is feeling good and ready for another good result and a good sail. The current is something to watch out for in the beginning, then it’s just looking for good systems all the way to Australia.”
Image: Parade of Sail before the teams make their way to the start line
As the yachts race away from the Cape of Good Hope, the teams will head toward the Roaring Forties, where the crew can expect some of the most exhilarating sailing on the planet, in one of the most remote areas- something that few sailors get to experience.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Clipper Race founder and Chairman of Clipper Ventures summed up the conditions ahead for the team: “If you get it right, and are reaching, you’ll really go. Then the fun comes when the waves build up, and you tend to start surfing. In the past we’ve had boats going over 30 knots going down the front of the wave. Until you see this, you haven’t seen how majestic raw nature is.
“When you see the crews come into Fremantle, you’ll see them stand a little taller, a little more confident and self-assured. Because they’ve done it. They’ve been in the Roaring Forties; they’ve had their turn sailing through the Roaring Forties. Not many people have done it, so they will become part of an elite and something very special in sailing terms.”
First to cross the start line was Yacht Club Punta Del Este, followed closely by Our Isles and Oceans and Qingdao.
Image: Qingdao and Our Isles and Oceans crossing the start line
Race Director, Mark Light said: "It was a good upwind start, Yacht Club Punta Del Este got across the line first, followed by Our Isles and Oceans and Qingdao. The yachts all used different tacks to cross the line, they looked really powered up and well healed over.
"It was a really good start and I think they will have a great beat up to the first virtual mark"
Among the Clipper Race fleet, there are 13 Australian crew members who will experience the pride of sailing into their home country. Among them is Justin Howard, an agronomist from Queensland who is sailing around the world on PSP Logistics: “I get to go home three times: Fremantle, Newcastle and Airlie Beach, and my children are going to come and see me then! In your mind, when you hit the tough times, but when you think about seeing your family and going back to your home country where you are very comfortable really gets you through those times. I’m really excited about this race. We have seven new crew on board who have a really nice vibe and they’re ready to go!”
The fleet is expected to arrive in Fremantle between 8-11 December. From here, the crews will have time to recharge before Leg 4: The Australian Coast-to-Coast Leg where the teams will race to Newcastle and Airlie Beach.