Clipper Race: Upwind to Airlie Beach

Published on January 5th, 2018

Hobart, Australia (January 5, 2018) – The third and final stage of the All-Australian Leg 4 in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race got underway today with the fleet headed to Airlie Beach, in the Whitsundays with Wendy Tuck, the Australian Skipper of Sanya Serenity Coast, at the top of the overall race Leaderboard.

Wendy and Sanya Serenity Coast was first across the start line in Hobart, and continued to lead the rest of the Clipper Race fleet up the River Derwent.

Officially known as Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race, the eleven Clipper 70s will race over 1,600 nautical miles up the East Coast of Australia and all eyes will be on the Skipper from Sydney who secured a hometown victory in Race 4 from Fremantle and also took line honours (eventually finishing second after redress) in the Clipper 70 Class of the iconic Sydney to Hobart Race.

Just before setting off from Hobart, Wendy Tuck said: “The crew is excited to go into Race 6. It does help to have a good result and then having a good result that could have been better because it makes them all work even harder.”

The fleet is expected to face a predominantly upwind race 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.

Wendy is not phased by the challenge and hopes to keep up her recent performance streak,, adding: “I’ve done a lot of sailing up and down this coast so I’ve done a fair few miles but at the end of the day it’s the current that we’ll all be looking at on the charts and getting the information on that, so who knows if it will make a difference.

She adds: “Fortunately, the team is really good at upwind sailing. The boat sails really well upwind, too. We look forward to upwind conditions because we normally do well. Even though its cold, wet and uncomfortable, we normally do well in it.” During the course of the race, 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.

Garmin Skipper Gaëtan Thomas, who has played the Joker Card meaning that the team will double its points for this race, has sailed much of the Whitsundays solo and also completed his RYA Yachtmaster Offshore qualification in the area. Speaking ahead of the race he says: “We played our Joker Card (single use card which doubles a team’s points for one chosen race stage) because it’s a short race, we’ve got the same team as the previous two races so we are working well together and because I also have some local knowledge in the Whitsundays. We felt it was the right time.”

Teams are expected to arrive into Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays, by January 13-15, with the teams to later depart on January 29 for the Chinese Host Ports of Sanya, the home port of the overall race leaders, and Qingdao, which completes Leg 5: The Asia-Pacific Leg.

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The fourth stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Race, officially known as Race 4: The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test, includes three races along the Australian coast. The 11 teams will race from Fremantle to Sydney, Sydney to Hobart, and Hobart to Airlie Beach in the heart of the picturesque Whitsunday Islands.

The All-Australian Leg is the fourth of eight legs that make up the 40,000-nautical mile, eleven-month Clipper 2017-18 Race.

Background: Held biennially, the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race got underway August 20 for the fleet of twelve* identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. The 40,000nm course is divided into 13 individual races with the team having the best cumulative score winning the Clipper Race Trophy. Each team is led by a professional skipper with an all-amateur crew that signs up for one, some, or all the races. The 2017-18 race, expected to take 11 months, has attracted 712 people representing 41 nationalities, making it the largest to date.

* Twelve teams began the first leg but one yacht (Greenings) ran aground just hours after the start on October 31 of the third leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia. The crew was safely evacuated but damage to the boat was deemed too extensive for it to continue in the 2017-18 edition.

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