With the whole fleet of Clipper Race yachts alongside in the Coral Sea Marina, and the tropical lushness of the Whitsundays in the background, it was time to celebrate Race 6 with the final of the Australian prizegiving ceremonies.

It was a short and sharp sprint for the fleet on Race 6, as the 950nm contest from Newcastle, New South Wales to Airlie Beach was completed in just seven days of sailing. With no room for error, it was very much a game of tactics. Choosing between an eastern or western route could be a critical tactical decision. Boats going west may benefit from the protection of the coastline, potentially avoiding strong currents or adverse weather conditions associated with heading east. On the other hand, those going east might face more challenges, including navigating through tougher weather conditions and a longer path to the finish line. The boats heading west would do so in an attempt to avoid the in famous EAC, which can have a notable impact on their race, influencing navigation and providing an additional layer of complexity.

In his opening words to Race Crew, Race Director Mark Light said: “What an amazing race. It was superb to follow on the Race Viewer and it had spectators gripped until the very end.

“Before we start, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Coral Sea Marina. It has been four years, but we are finally back. There are many people who have made this stopover possible, but a particular thank you to Joscelyn and Trent for all their hard work in making it possible. I think we can all agree it was worth the hard work to be in such a beautiful place.”

Huge thanks were extended to Jeronimo for his contribution to the Clipper Race and to the Qingdao team as he stepped in as Skipper for the past two legs. We will miss you. We would also like to welcome Phillip Quinn, who will be taking over as the skipper of Qingdao.

It was a big round of applause as the current UNICEF Fundraising total for this edition was announced as it tops a whopping £333,300.00.

A shout out to the fleet fundraisers, it was Yacht Club Punta del Este who has put in some cracking work over the past few races and is now third with a total of £41, 537. 65. UNICEF in second with a total of £44, 352.16, but still at the top of the table is Bekezela with an impressive £54,004.57.

On this edition, it was Marilou Wilshire from Qingdao who took home the pride of being named UNICEF Charity Champion. Marilou set up a music concert at her local church hall, where her husband, son and daughter-in-law and friends played thought provoking music and recited poetry about the sea. It was such a success that between Christmas and New Year Marilou held a more condensed ‘sending off to sea’ version where, in her words, things were a bit more light-hearted.

Image: Charity Champion Marilou Wilshire

Marilou paid for everything – including leaflets, advertising, and piano tuning – herself so that the entirety of the profits could go to UNICEF, raising the fantastic total of £1,940 for the charity. 

On to the Media Award, it was congratulations to Our Isles and Oceans. Set to the theme tune of 80s classic Boogie Wonderland, Our Isles and Oceans produced a fantastic New Year’s Celebration video, with Race Crew donning glowsticks to make life size neon stick people helming, grinding and even a bit of disco jive’ing in the pitch black somewhere around the south of Australia. If you haven’t already seen it, check out the Clipper Race Instagram page – it's a great watch.

Image: Media Winners Our Isles and Oceans

In a very special turn of events, it was over to Race Manager Grace Kitching to present the Race 6 podium winners with their pennants. Airlie Beach marks the final stopover for Grace as she leaves the company at the end of the month to emigrate from Gosport to her hometown in North Yorkshire.

Image: Grace Kitching

A familiar face in the Clipper Race, Grace works very hard to make all of our races possible. Grace was a multi legger on the 2015-16 edition, sailing from Qingdao all the way home to London. After returning from her race, Clipper Ventures poached Grace from her role at Women in Sport, and she joined the Comms Teams and then the Race Office. Calm under pressure, diligent, voice as loud as a Race Start airhorn, this really has been the Grace of all of our lives, and we will miss her greatly.

First up to the podium, it was Our Isles and Oceans who celebrated the third-place spot in Race 6. A raucous arrival on stage as the team enjoy their first taste of a podium place. Congratulations to Max, Tom & the Our Isles and Oceans team.

Image: Our Isles and Oceans receives its third place Pennant

Next up was second place winners, Washington, DC. This is the first podium for Hannah, Cameron and the team. Congratulations Hannah, Cam & the Washington, DC Team.

Image: Washington, DC's first podium finish in the Clipper 2023-24 Race.

Lastly it was time for the first place winners to take to the stage. James, Mike and the Zhuhai team have fought tirelessly to take the top spot having come so close in previous races. This now put Zhuhai into the third on the overall leader board with 50 points in total.

Congratulations James, Mike & the Zhuhai team.

Image: Zhuhai celebrates its first win.

Following on from the celebrations, Race Director Mark Light welcomed the new joiners for the upcoming Leg 5: “I would also like to acknowledge and welcome our new Leg 5 Race Crew who have flown into Australia to join their teams for the second Leg of the Clipper 2023-24 Race. Good luck, and we are glad to have you join us”. We wish them all the best on their epic journey to Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam.

To conclude the evening’s celebrations Mark Light wanted to acknowledge the crew that were leaving this Leg 4: “Our final mention of the evening goes to Leg 4 Crew Members. What an adventure you guys have had. A huge ocean crossing to tick off your bucket list”.

“Thank you for playing a part in our Clipper Race, we hope you have enjoyed it and would love to see you all carry on sailing!”

Image: Leg 4 leavers celebrating their epic achievement

As the sun set over Airlie Beach, the crew enjoyed a well deserved drink and time with family and friends.

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