Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fleet set off today on race six, from New Zealand to Gold Coast Australia, to a traditional Maori kapa haka farewell in Tauranga Bridge Marina.
There was a blast of the horn as a passenger liner at Tauranga’s cruise terminal saluted the teams setting out into the lively waters of New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty. They were accompanied during the parade of sail and at the start of the race by a huge flotilla of local boating enthusiasts who were thrilled to be part of the send-off.
In fairly murky conditions and a stiff north easterly breeze, the yachts crossed the start line off the Mount Main Beach when the gun fired at 1430 local time (0130 UTC). With no distinct advantage at either end of the line, the fleet was divided equally on port and starboard tack and Welcome to Yorkshire was first across, followed in short order by De Lage Landen, Visit Finland, New York and Gold Coast Australia. Geraldton Western Australia, was mid-fleet at the start but seized the advantage and was first to round the windward turning mark before heading back towards Mount Maunganui. Qingdao, Derry-Londonderry, Singapore and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital completed the order over the start line.
At the first turning mark, Derry-Londonderry, who’d moved up to fifth place, let their advantage slip away when they stalled, allowing five other boats to slide past them. As they race towards New Zealand’s North Cape with Geraldton Western Australia in the lead, the yachts’ positions are expected to change many times before they begin crossing the Tasman Sea. The 1,300-mile race to Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, is expected to take the ten internationally backed teams between seven and ten days to complete.
With five out of five wins under their belts already, Gold Coast Australia’s crew desperately want to win this next race. If they do they will be the first team in Clipper 11-12 to secure a coveted home port victory, and only the third in the history of the event to do so. Victory in this race would also equal the most consecutive wins in the Clipper Race, a record set by Alex Thomson in Clipper 98 and held for more than a decade.
Gold Coast Australia - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 - Clipper Race/onEdition
Richard Hewson, skipper of Gold Coast Australia said, 'If I want to win a race out of this whole series around the world, it’s this one. I don’t want to put myself or the crew under any more pressure than they’re already under. We’re just been sailing how we normally sail, sailing safe and obviously trying to keep it at the back of our minds but trying to sail hard.
'Normally we make our ground and get ahead through tactics and we don’t really have those options during this race. But there’s some interesting weather coming across the Tasman Sea and I’ve got some local knowledge as I’ve been across there a few times before, so hopefully that will help us out. It’s going to be interesting to see where people go with this big high pressure system that’s coming across in the next few days.'
Other teams have proven themselves just as fast as the Gold Coast Australia crew, with Visit Finland, Welcome to Yorkshire and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital all scoring bonus points in the Ocean Sprint time trials to date in the world’s longest ocean race.
Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean, said, 'I think that all the boats are similar in terms of boat speed. The difference with Gold Coast Australia over the rest of the fleet is how they route themselves but I think in this next leg there is less opportunity to have a routing strategy so I think it will be very close.'
While they have been relaxing in the Bay of Plenty the crews, who come from all walks of life and represent more than 40 nationalities, have been enjoying the multitude of activities on offer. White water rafting, fishing, sky diving, paddle boarding, hiking, land yachting, sampling the excellent local seafood and wines have all been on the agenda. Groups of crew have visited the stunning volcanic White Island and climbed Mount Maunganui in the company of a Maori guide, before soaking in the geothermal salt water hot pools at its base.
They were farewelled from port with a kapa haka Tuwairua Performing Arts whose members are all from Ngaterangi Iwi.
Scotsman, Robin Oliver, a crew member on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital said, 'I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Tauranga, it’s just like being at home except with sunshine and lots of it! I felt very much at home even before I got off the boat, just looking at the countryside. It’s wonderful, everybody’s so friendly here. It has been brilliant.'
Glenn Ormsby, Tourism Bay of Plenty’s General Manager, said, 'The Clipper Race has been a great opportunity to showcase Bay of Plenty to the world and show our water’s clean, the beaches are open and we’re ready for summer. The race has been great for the local economy too – the hotels, bars and restaurants have been booming, there's been plenty of work for the local marine industry doing maintenance and repairs on the boats, and we've had fantastic exposure to international media as well.'
This is the first time the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has visited New Zealand since its inception in 1996 and during the stopover organisers have met with local businesses and government representatives to strengthen links with the region and demonstrate how partners use the event as a global platform to promote trade, tourism, culture and social inclusion.
Each yacht is sponsored by an international city, region, country or company, with many visiting Tauranga to host events and engage with New Zealand businesses, trade contacts and media.
Hundreds of Tauranga residents have visited the yachts during the stopover, meeting crew and discovering for themselves what life is like on board. Presentations in Wellington, Auckland and in Tauranga for those interested in taking part in Clipper 13-14, when the new fleet of 12 70-foot yachts will be introduced, have also been well attended and several Kiwis have been offered berths on the race.
More presentations will be held in Australia, in Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, and there will be a Clipper Race stand at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Fremantle, WA, from 3 to 18 December.
Those who prefer to take part in ocean racing can pit their sailing skills against the crews racing to Gold Coast by taking part in the Virtual Clipper Race. Unlike the real thing, where the top prize is the glory, the Virtual Race offers a prize pot of €30,000, along with Rotary Aquaspeed watches and Henri Lloyd gear. Registration is free online
The fleet is expected to arrive in Southport Yacht Club between 11 and 13 December. Standings after race five:
1. Gold Coast Australia - 53 points
2. Visit Finland - 42 points
3. New York - 36 points
4. De Lage Landen - 34 points
5. Welcome to Yorkshire - 31 points
6. Singapore - 26 points
7. Derry-Londonderry - 26 points
8. Qingdao - 21 points
9. Geraldton Western Australia - 19 points
10. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 10 points Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website