The fourth stage of the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race, the 3,400 nautical mile long Australian Coast-to-Coast Leg, has got underway from Fremantle today (Sunday 22 December).

The fifth race of 15 races that forms the complete circumnavigation, named ‘The Whitsundays, Heart of the Great Barrier Reef’ race, saw eight teams slip lines from Fremantle Sailing Club at 1200 local time with friends, family and locals lining the breakwater to wave them off. The Clipper Race Office has confirmed that the remaining three teams, delayed during Race 4, will be racing on elapsed time against the rest of the fleet.

Allowing for adequate rest and preparation time, Unicef, Punta del Este and Visit Sanya, China will be departing on the 24 December, exactly 48 hours after the other eight teams, starting from the same line, and racing the exact same course as the rest of the fleet.

This race, expected to take around 20 days, will see the 180 crew members from all over the world celebrate Christmas and New year at sea. On Christmas Day, each of the eleven identical evenly-matched teams will be sailing down Western Australia back towards the Roaring Forties and dipping back into the Southern Ocean.

Getting underway from Fremantle Sailing Club, which has played host to the Clipper Race fleet since 7 December, the starting cannon sounded at 1500. As the teams competed for prime position to cross the start line, reigning champions Qingdao crossed first, shortly followed by Ha Long Bay Viet, Nam and Dare To Lead.

Queensland-born crew member, Jane Lever, sailing on board Seattle, said: “I signed up to Leg 4 (and Leg 5) as they have the widest variety of weather conditions and I wanted to learn how to deal with the extremes of being at sea.

“It’s good to be sailing from one side of Australia to another. I think once we get south, it's going to get chilly and possibly lumpy, down the bottom of Tasmania where it could be very cold, and there is not a lot of continental shelf, so, we are going to get some big swells too I think. Then, up around Sydney into big summer storms and then the nemo current [East Australian Current], then the great eastern current…we might have to go wider than that, if the wind is quite strong.”

This Australian leg of the epic circumnavigation, which is open to anyone over the age of 18 regardless of previous sailing experience, is expected to be one of the most varied stages of the 2019-20 edition. Challenging crew both mentally and physically, the Bass Strait will be offering up choppy conditions and the East Australian Current will provide challenging tactical obstacles.

After rounding Rottnest Island, the bows of the yachts will point south as the fleet tracks along the coast of Western Australia, out of the Indian Ocean, and back to the challenge of the Roaring Forties. Cape Leeuwin marks the south western tip of Australia and is one of the three Great Capes, the second of the Clipper 2019-20 Race route, that only a privileged few get to sail.

Far across the horizon is the Great Australian Bight and the unforgiving shores of the Nullarbor Plain. At sea, the fleet will route toward the southern tip of Tasmania and into the Tasman Sea for the first time. Then, the Tasman Strait awaits. As the teams’ route north for the challenging race to port on the eastern Australian seaboard, the huge ocean swells, so popular with the Aussie surfers on the east coast, will continue to challenge technical ability and crew stamina.

The race start follows a brilliant stopover for the crew in Fremantle where the crew have spent time resting, preparing the boats for the race ahead, catching up with friends and family and talking to local media about their Clipper Race experiences. Many also enjoyed a host of tourism activities including a trip to Rottnest Island for that all important Quokka selfie.

The fleet is expected to arrive at the Whitsundays between 09 and 12 January where the Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival awaits.

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Want more? The Clipper Race is open to anyone over the age of 18 with a thirst for adventure - no previous sailing experience necessary. We’ve opened applications for the 2021-22 edition of the race, hit the button below to find out more and book in for one of the information days at Clipper Race HQ.

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