Photography by Brooke Miles Photography and Riptide Creative
The well-travelled one-design fleet has set off on Leg 5 of the biennial race that saw it depart Liverpool, England, on 20 August 2017. They made landfall at Abell Point Marina on 17 January, days later than expected due to tricky wind conditions.
The order of the start was decided in a short course race off the coast of Airlie Beach, after the fleet’s Slipping Lines Ceremony and a Parade of Sail.
This is only the second time in the race’s 21-year history that it has stopped in Airlie Beach, which has fast become one of the highlights for the sailors. Other ports visited so far are Punta del Este in Uruguay, Cape Town, Fremantle, Sydney and Hobart.
The fleet’s stay from 17–29 January provided an extraordinary boost for the local tourism industry, with Clipper Race organisers, local councillors, Tourism Whitsundays and the marina coming together to host an array of events over the two weeks, drawing local and international guests alike.
Luke McCaul, General Manager of Abell Point Marina, said, “The Clipper Race stopover is a wonderful opportunity for us to introduce the Whitsunday experience, our hospitality and our enviable sailing conditions to an international audience. It has been a real pleasure to welcome the crew and their supporters.”
“Abell Point Marina is the perfect location for a stopover in this iconic race,” said Joscelyn O’Keefe, Abell Point Marina’s Marketing and Business Development Manager. “The 74 incredible islands, our second-to-none facilities and our superb weather make a stunning backdrop. The Clipper Race crews may be quite reluctant to set off for the next leg of the race!”
The competitors were indeed thrown a warm welcome in Airlie Beach’s centre, with a parade, concerts and reworks, a White on Whitehaven Long Lunch on Whitsunday Island’s famous 7-kilometre beach, a Progressive Lunch Cruise, and a Rodeo by the Reef in nearby Bowen. There were several open days where the public was invited to meet the crews and visit the yachts, as well as a VIP cocktail event and a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity for corporate visitors to join in a race around the Whitsunday Islands on the 70-foot, custom-designed yachts.
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner said the region was very excited to be welcoming the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race crews to the Whitsundays. “The Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival has been created to showcase the whole region – from the islands, to the coastal mainland, to the inland country towns. We hope the Clipper Race crews, their families and friends enjoy experiencing our wonderful region while they are here.”
For one crew member in particular, making landfall in the Whitsundays was very special indeed. Nigel “Jack” Pemberton is an Airlie Beach local who runs the Shingley Beach Resort, where many of the support team and some crew members have been staying during the stopover.
The 68-year-old manager said, “It’s awesome coming into your home port with family and friends waiting for you. My only experience of sailing before this was inshore in the Whitsundays, with Airlie Beach Race Week. This has been a lot more involved, and very intense.”
The race is now at the halfway point in terms of distance from its starting point in Liverpool, UK. After stops in Sanya and Qingdao in China for Leg 5, the Asia–Pacific Leg, the race will call in at ports in Seattle, Panama, New York and Derry/ Londonderry, before the big finish back in Liverpool, in late July 2018.
The next main event on the Whitsundays sailing calendar is the 2018 Airlie Beach Race Week from 10-16 August, which will offer racing across divisions including IRC, PHS, cruising, sportsboats, one design and multihulls.
More news on the Clipper Race Facebook Live page.