Race 6, from Newcastle to Airlie Beach, started today, with the fire of a cannon off the city’s Fort Scratchley. The 950nm sprint is one of the shortest stages in the 2023-24 edition and is the second race in Leg 4: Australian Coast-to-Coast.

Expected to take only six to seven days, this stage is devoid of normal race features meaning there is no Ocean Sprint, Scoring Gate or Stealth Mode. Therefore, Race Points will be all the more coveted.

At Skipper Brief yesterday, Our Isles and Oceans declared its Joker and will be looking for a maximum haul of 22 points (a Joker doubles Race Points) if the team takes first place.

Clipper Race Director, Mark Light said: “Race 6 is rather unique in the Clipper Race circumnavigation. Firstly, it is only 950nm in total, short by Clipper Race standards, but still a lengthy passage for most people. This will be a fast and furious race with little chance to make up ground in the event of a poor tactical choice or sailing evolution that may not have gone completely to plan.

“After a spectacular harbour start in the port of Newcastle, the fleet will race out into moderate easterly winds which should at least 24 hours of upwind challenges. The route will still be dominated by the south flowing East Australian Current which will be against the fleet until it is past Fraser Island. This will then turn into a quick downwind drag race to the Whitsundays through a series of Mandatory Race Gates which will funnel the fleet though the numerous reefs and shoals enroute.

“There is no Scoring Gate, Ocean Sprint or opportunity to use Stealth Mode. This race is going to come down purely to boat speed and the excitement of match racing on ocean-going Clipper 70 yachts!”

Another feature of Race 6 are the series of Mandatory Gates. These have been put in place to keep the teams clear of the many reef and shoal areas up to the Whitsundays. These gates were used successfully on the previous edition, with five gates on the course which are not optional. The first one is about ten to eleven miles wide. The smallest one is still three and a quarter miles wide- about the size of the Solent, in the UK, in which the Clipper Race trains.

Image: Clipper Race fleet in Coral Sea Marina on the 2019-20 edition.

The Race 6 Finish Line outside of Airlie Beach is in Pioneer Bay, where the Coral Sea Marina sits and three quarters of a mile north of the marina’s entrance.

As always, the Race Viewer is live to watch the fleet’s progress. The first Skipper blogs of Race 6 will be published tomorrow (11 January).

Missed the departure yesterday? Click here to read about the action at Race Start within Newcastle Harbour.

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