The Clipper Race is currently monitoring an imminent tropical low-pressure system which is likely to develop into a cyclone. The timing of this depression will impact the departure for Race 7, as the safety of crew must be ensured. Therefore, the fleet will now depart Airlie Beach on 26 January (4 days after the original planned departure).

The Race Office is working closely with the Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), the regional harbour authorities and Clipper Race Meteorologist, Simon Rowell.

Race 7 will only commence when the Clipper Race Office is certain that it is safe for it to do so. The option of bringing forward Race Start was considered, but there was no realistic possibility for the fleet to depart Airlie Beach early in order to safely avoid the predicted cyclone.

As the predicted formation of the cyclone in the Coral Sea gets closer, the overall picture is now much clearer. The four weather models that are being used for analysis mostly align which is an indication of much greater accuracy.

The weather system is currently predicted to develop into a Category 3 cyclone. After development, it should move in a south-westerly direction where it is predicted to make landfall on the Queensland coast around 24 January.

The yachts have been prepared for heavy weather and secured. The prep work includes the booms being lowered and secured, any loose equipment being stowed below deck and doubling up on all mooring lines.

Coral Sea Marina Resort offers the best shelter in the area, and given the location and surrounding topography, may also afford some extra protection from the storm force south-easterly to easterly winds when they peak.

The fleet departure on 26 January is subject to the weather on the day. Current plans are for the fleet to carry out a Parade of Sail and then complete MOB training drills and other Refresher Sailing manoeuvres, before leaving Pioneer Bay and the Whitsundays. Once clear, the fleet will motor-sail overnight 70nm down the coast to Mackay where the teams will complete Customs and Immigration clearance out of Australia.

The passage down should take approximately 12 hours and the fleet should arrive early morning in daylight on 27 January. The yachts will temporarily berth at Mackay Marina for a few hours only, to allow the Australian Border Force officials to carry out their duties.

Once all formalities are complete, the fleet will depart and motor-sail out through the Great Barrier Reef to the Le Mans Start Area. This is a journey of 125nm through the Hydrographer’s Passage and should take 18 – 20 hours. The offshore Le Mans Start for Race 7 will take place at approximately 1000 LT (0000 UTC) on 28 January and this is effectively 5 days after the originally planned Le Mans Start.

Whilst the Clipper Race Office believes this is the most likely schedule based on the current weather forecasts, the above timings could of course alter.

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