05 January 2018

Overall Clipper 2017-18 Race leaders Sanya Serenity Coast has had the perfect start to Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race from Hobart, Tasmania, to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays.

It was an earlier start than usual for the Clipper Race fleet, who began slipping lines at Constitution Dock at 0800, local time. HotelPlanner.com was given the honour of leading the teams in the Parade of Sail after winning the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Clipper 70 Class, and by the time each of the eleven yachts had finished their MOB drills, a light south-easterly had arrived for race start at 1100.

Australian Wendy Tuck, now a veteran of eleven Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races, put her experience on the River Derwent to good use, with Sanya Serenity Coast the first across the line, closely followed by Visit Seattle and Dare To Lead.

Speaking before Race Start, Sanya Serenity Coast crew member and Airlie Beach local, Jack Pemberton, said: “Being involved in a Clipper Race and on a boat with Wendy Tuck and the Sanya Serenity Coast team, and having a win and a line honours, has been absolutely fantastic.

“Now I’m looking forward to sailing up the Australian coast to Airlie Beach and having that homecoming and showing all the crew my home town of Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays.”

By the time the fleet had reached Dennes Point and the Iron Pot, PSP Logistics had worked its way into the lead, with Visit Seattle maintaining its second position, whilst Sanya Serenity Coast remained strong in third.

The wind is predicted to continue to build in strength throughout the day, and become north-north-easterly as the fleet rounds Tasman Island and points north to the Whitsundays.

This means Race 6: The Wonderous Whitsundays Race will predominantly be an upwind battle, with crews needing to negotiate the dominating Eastern Australian Current (EAC). Speeds in the core of the EAC, an oceanic current which moves warm water from the tropical Coral Sea, are some of the strongest in the South Pacific and each team will need to agree on the best race tactic; staying closer to the current, where speeds are stronger, or heading further offshore where the effects of the current are weaker, but will add extra miles to the sprint.

Teams will also need to think tactically about both the Scoring Gate and Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint. These virtual gates offer the chance to pick up bonus race points, but could make the race route longer and teams could risk losing valuable leaderboard places.

The addition of headwinds from prevailing Easterlies could make the race a bit of a slog for Skippers and their crews. Luckily for the Clipper Race fleet, the stunning surroundings of the Whitsundays will be the reward.

One team in particular will be hoping for an early arrival into the Whitsundays. Garmin has played its Joker Card, a device which will double any race points earned. Garmin crew member Mia Showell-Woodsmith says: “Our Skipper Gaetan checked with everyone before making the decision and everyone was pretty keen to play the Joker for Race 6.

“GT knows the area relatively well and it’s quite nice playing the Joker Card on a relatively shorter race rather than having the pressure of having to perform for weeks on end during a big ocean crossing.

“I’m not worried by the upwind predictions. Champagne sailing is brilliant but I’m here on the Clipper Race to get wet and covered in salt and salt water so I don’t mind a bit of upwind racing and it makes the arrival so much more sweet.”

Teams are expected to arrive into Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays, between 13-15 January 2018, where the fleet will be berthed at Abell Point Marina and the region is expected to come alive for the inaugural Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival.

The Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival will be a two-weeklong celebration of vibrant regional events and activities showcasing the beauty of the Whitsundays, and will be Queensland’s pre-eminent National and Global sailing festival. The events include a long lunch on the iconic Whitehaven Beach, a rodeo on the coastal beaches of Bowen, and a large-scale community welcome event.

For more information, please see the Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival website.

Keep an eye on the Clipper Race Viewer to follow the teams as they make their way up the east coast of Australia.

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