Gold Coast Australia has continued its winning streak, recording a fourth consecutive victory in the first four stages of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
The team finished Race 4 of the 40,000-mile circumnavigation, the world’s longest ocean race, at 0704 local time this morning (2304UTC Saturday), under clear blue skies, racing in towards the finish line off the Geraldton shore at more than 11 knots.
The ecstatic skipper, Richard Hewson, 31, from Hobart, Tasmania, said, 'It’s fantastic to be home – I love Western Australia, it’s like a second home and it’s fantastic to be back here.'
Asked about the secret to their continuing success, Richard said 'It’s down to good management and good sailing. The guys pushed really hard, we’re a good team and everyone works hard and really deserves this, so it’s fantastic.'
During the race the team had a severe spinnaker wrap that cost them their workhorse heavyweight kite.
'The spinnaker issue was quite full on – we knew we had a big storm approaching and when the spinnaker wrapped we knew we had to get it down. If we didn’t then we probably would have lost the rig so there was no choice but to cut it away. Luckily we had two other spinnakers. Other than that there were no other breakages, no injuries, everyone enjoyed themselves and we had a good race.'
In addition to the ten points for winning this race Gold Coast Australia also secured three bonus points for being the first team to reach the Scoring Gate. Visit Finland denied them a clean sweep by beating them in the Ocean Sprint.
As he stepped off the yacht Richard was engulfed in a hug from his proud mother, Lyn, who had travelled to Geraldton from her home south of Perth, Western Australia, to be in the marina as he arrived.
On board the ten 68-foot ocean racing yachts each sponsored by a city, state, country or corporation around the world, are people like you – crew members from all walks of life, aged between 18 and 72 who between them represent more than 40 nationalities. Each one of them has put their everyday life on hold to take part in a unique challenge of a lifetime: racing across the world’s oceans.
Their arrival in Geraldton marks the end of a gruelling, three-and-a-half-week, 4,800-mile (7,680-kilometre) race across one of the planet’s most feared and forbidding expanses of ocean during which they had to dodge icebergs and deal with mountainous waves whipped up by winds of up to 70 knots.
During the race from Cape Town, South Africa, Gold Coast Australia raced across the Southern Ocean, descending to latitude 48 south deep in the Roaring Forties. Rain, hail and even snow blown up from the Antarctic made for uncomfortable living conditions on board the stripped down 68-foot yachts as they battled their way towards the sunshine and glorious beaches of Western Australia.
Round the world crew member Lisa Blair, a sales assistant from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, said, 'The opportunity to sail in the Southern Ocean was one of the reasons I joined the race. It was fantastic. To sail in the Southern Ocean and to head down to 48 degrees south was quite the experience. We had one big gale that came through and that was really eye opening with the size of the waves and how tricky the conditions can get down there. And then we were completely becalmed in the Southern Ocean as well!'
She continued, 'I’d never made it to Western Australia yet but now I’m here and I’m excited to go and take a look around. It's great to see some friends and hear the Australian accent.'
As soon as the crew had completed the customs and immigration formalities they were treated to cold beers and a good Aussie barbecue, laid on by the members of Geraldton Yacht Club.
Councillor Bob Hall from the City of Greater Geraldton was at the Batavia Coast Marina to greet the first of the ten internationally-backed yachts to arrive. The entire community has come together to make the stopover possible and Councillor Hall said, 'It puts us on the world map for a place of sailing and waterborne activities as well as opening up the world’s eyes to what a beautiful place we’ve got here. We’re very privileged to get our boat in this race and to show our hallmark right across the world.
'It also gives businesses here some new markets and some new dollars into the community, so it’s a big boost on our economy. As to measuring the tangible dollars and cents, I don’t think you can do that; I think it’s the human capital, the well-being, the messages that leave here with the people who crew the boats – that’s what sells the place abroad and makes people want to come here and see it.'
The yachts will spend the week in Geraldton before setting sail for Tauranga in New Zealand. It is a much anticipated return visit to the West Australian port that became an instant hit with the crews when the city hosted its inaugural stopover during the last edition of the event, Clipper 09-10.
Among the activities during the stopover the crews will enjoy the typically Australian atmosphere of Melbourne Cup Day with a day out at the Geraldton Turf Club; they will visit the beautiful Abrolhos Islands; and pay their respects in a wreath laying ceremony at the HMAS Sydney Memorial where the new reflection pool is due to be officially dedicated next month. The teams will process along the Foreshore ahead of the official welcome and, during a weekend of public entertainment, music and international food stalls, just before the start of the next stage of the race, on Sunday 6 November, there will be a stunning Parade of Sail past the Foreshore which will featuring all ten yachts in formation.
In addition to the packed programme for the crew, team sponsors will be travelling to Geraldton to host events for their clients and partners. The delegation will be part of a larger international trade opportunity created by the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race which will make a significant economic impact, not just by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the City of Greater Geraldton and but also by introducing its destination and trade sponsors to Australia’s Mid West region with longer term business building potential for local companies. The Clipper Race provides its sponsors with access to 15 markets on six continents during the 12 months of the 40,000-mile race.
Dutch entry, De Lage Landen, is expected to arrive in Geraldton tomorrow, with six more of the teams, including the home yacht, Geraldton Western Australia, anticipated on Tuesday and the final two on Wednesday morning.
Race 5 from Geraldton to Tauranga, New Zealand, will begin on Sunday 6 November.