In a thrilling end to what has been a gripping race in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, Visit Finland has denied the home favourite, Gold Coast Australia, their sixth consecutive victory and a coveted home port win.
The Finns crossed the race six finish line just after sunrise at 0444 local time today (1844 UTC Monday) with the sun glinting off the distinctive high-rise skyline. They were just six minutes ahead of Gold Coast Australia at the end of the 1,300-mile race from Tauranga, New Zealand.
Olly Osborne, skipper of Visit Finland said, 'This is our first podium top spot and we’ve been on the heels of Gold Coast Australia for a long time. It feels fantastic, it really does; we’ve been wanting to get there for so long. Bit of a shame it had to be her home port – I feel a bit mean about that, but that’s the brief and you’ve got to do your best, haven’t you!'
The people who take part in the Clipper Race come from all walks of life and between them represent more than 40 different nationalities. They have one aim in common – to take on the challenge of a lifetime, a 40,000-mile (64,000-kilometre) circumnavigation under sail.
Chichester yachtsman, Olly, continued, 'The team is pretty ecstatic – the guys are over the moon. They really gave a hearty cheer when we crossed the line because they didn’t know either until the last half hour how it was going to pan out.'
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For Tasmanian skipper, Richard Hewson and the crew of Gold Coast Australia, the arrival in their home port is bitter sweet. The warmth of the welcome, as Southport Yacht Club members, family and friends applauded them up the pontoon to the club house where breakfast awaited them, countered by the disappointment of such a narrow defeat to Visit Finland.
'Everyone did their best and the crew worked really hard. They sailed to the best of their ability, pushed themselves beyond the point they would normally push themselves in everyday life and that’s all I can ask for. I had a really good time, racing among all the other yachts.'
The record of six consecutive victories in a single edition of the race, which is now in its 15th year, has stood since Clipper 98.
'We didn’t get Alex Thomson’s record this time which I was really gunning for, but hey, there’s still another nine races to go so maybe we’ll get nine in a row, who knows!' said Richard.
The victory is extra special for one of Visit Finland’s crew members: Tea Tuominen is celebrating her birthday today.
'She came to me just after we finished and said, ‘It’s the best birthday present ever,’ and gave me a big hug!' said Olly.
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De Lage Landen finished third, one hour and nine minutes after the Australian team and while Gold Coast Australia and Visit Finland consolidate their first and second positions respectively at the top of the overall leader board, the Dutch team’s result is enough to lift them back to third place.
Gold Coast City Council Mayor, Ron Clarke, was at the marina to welcome the teams and said, 'The Gold Coast is a dynamic city and we’re thrilled to host a dynamic event such as the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
'During the stopover we’re excited to showcase our diverse industries. For instance, the crew members in the Clipper fleet will receive first-hand experience of our innovative marine industry when the boats undergo maintenance at the Gold Coast Marine Precinct.
'We are a city that excels in business through our Investment Attraction Program and incentive fund which assists eligible companies from export-focused and knowledge–based industry sectors.’’
This is the first time the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has visited the Gold Coast since its inception in 1996. 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 the Gold Coast to host events and engage with local businesses, trade contacts and media.
The crews have play rather than work on their minds and after the mini refit at The Boat Works, where each yacht will be lifted, re-antifouled and checked below the waterline, they will have plenty of time to enjoy all the Gold Coast has to offer.
'The Gold Coast has always been famous for fun,’’ said Gold Coast Tourism Chief Executive Officer Martin Winter.
'There is an inherent feeling of a Gold Coast holiday that people recognise and which can’t be replicated elsewhere.
'The Clipper Round the World race is a fantastic event and we intend to show the crews an unforgettable time during their stopover which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.’’
In a packed programme of activities the crews will enjoy visits to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, take helicopter flights over the coast, paddle board lessons with ten-time champion, Jamie Mitchell, and enjoy lunch at Oskars Restaurant in Burleigh Heads. All of the teams have been ‘adopted’ by local Surf Life Saving Clubs and restaurants which have provided welcome hampers for each one.
Many friends and family have flown in for the stopover and, as Gold Coast is one of the major crew changeover ports, with approximately 50 people leaving the race and the same number arriving to join their boat, a large proportion of the visitors will enjoy extended holidays on the Gold Coast and the surrounding area.
The yachts will be open to the public during the stopover, with open boat sessions on Saturday 17, Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 December. There will also be presentations for Queenslanders interested in finding out how to take part in Clipper 13-14 and beyond at Moreton Bay Yacht Club, Scarborough, and at Southport Yacht Club, Gold Coast.
Members of the public will be invited to sign Gold Coast Australia’s keel at The Boat Works before she goes back in the water on Saturday morning (17 December) to wish the team well for the remainder of their epic circumnavigation, and to raise money for Hollywell-based Sailability, the team’s official charity. The Gold Coast Australia skipper and crew will also visit Sailability during the stopover.
The fleet will set sail for Singapore in Race 7 of the 15-race series on Christmas Eve. All ten yachts will sail in formation along Main Beach in a Parade of Sail from the Gold Coast Seaway to Southport SLSC before the race start, which will take place at 11.30am on 24 December.
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website