by DeeDee Taft
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet departed on race ten from Oakland to Panama on 14th April. After more than a week of repairs in the marina in Oakland, California, recovering from the effects of being hit by a huge rogue wave which ripped off the yacht’s helm and injured four crew members, the Geraldton Western Australia yacht resumed racing today by sailing under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and back into the Pacific Ocean.
The Clipper Race fleet left Jack London Square in Oakland on 14 April to start Race 10, to Panama, escorted by US Coast Guard cutter Sockeye - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Leaving the marina, the morale was high on Geraldton Western Australia. Skipper Juan Coetzer said, 'Our boat is back in order. The sail is back on the boom, we have our steerage back in and we are all ready to go. Nik Brbora is back on board, he is still sore, but has helped to prepare the boat and repair the sail. The crew is very excited to get back to sea and focus on racing again.'
The 10 strong fleet competing in the Clipper Race left Jack London Square in Oakland today with hundreds of fans cheering them on, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, in the warm spring sunshine, before heading out to San Francisco Bay for the start line. The US Coast Guard SOCKEYE led the fleet out to the San Francisco Bay, where the yachts positioned for the official start in front of the Golden Gate Yacht Club: home of the 34th America’s Cup, which kindly provided facilities to start the race from their deck at 2 p.m.
There was a highly charged competitive atmosphere out on the water in the shadow of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. So much so that three boats crossed the line prematurely and were ordered to circle back to cross it again. This gave Visit Finland an early lead, hotly pursued by the only US entry New York and the Chinese team from the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao, China as they jostled for position racing under the bridge and back out into the Pacific Ocean, heading south towards Panama to begin their 5,500 miles to New York, the next stopover on the world’s longest yacht race.
'We have had some great hospitality in Oakland with all the local restaurants and bars welcoming us with open arms,' said New York Yacht Skipper Gareth Glover, which departed San Francisco in second place. 'Nobody has yet won the race into their home port, but we aim to do so, passing the Statue of Liberty first. But it’s so open at the moment, and the boats are very close together.'
Looking ahead to the next leg, the only US entry New York is extremely motivated to win in their home port. 'The next leg is quite short, and for us is all about the gate points, that is what we are concentrating on,' added Glover. We have to make sure that we finish in the top three in these legs ahead, but it’s a tough challenge, as we also historically don’t do that well in light winds which may be the case when we start the New York entry. We are pushing very hard to at least get a top three finish overall, which would be a great achievement.'
'It will be a real highlight to be able to pass through the Panama Canal, it will be warmer and it’s something new which I’m looking forward to, a real contrast to our last leg,' New York Crew Member and Retired Airline Captain Alastair Taggart, who resides in Florida. 'Then, sailing into our home port of New York will be stunning. I’m very proud to be an American and being on New York is a great privilege, so it will be good to get to the East Coast as well.'
The first boats are expected to arrive in Panama around May 7, after which they will transit the Panama Canal before commencing Race 11, for the final 2,100 miles to New York.
The race started in Southampton, UK on July 31, 2011 and will end there on July 22, 2012 after taking 51 weeks to travel over 40,000 miles visiting 15 ports of call on six continents.
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website