Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on day thirty one of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.
The ecstatic Derry-Londonderry crew have arrived in Batam, Indonesia, after securing second place in race seven. It is the team’s first podium finish of their campaign.
The crew arrived in Nongsa Point Marina just after Gold Coast Australia who secured their sixth victory of the 15-race competition. They will wait here for the other eight 68-foot yachts competing in the world’s longest ocean race before all ten cross the Singapore Straits to Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore, for a ceremonial arrival there on Saturday 28 January.
As he arrived in the marina at 0730 local time (0030 UTC), Derry-Londonderry’s skipper, Mark Light, described his joy at securing the team’s first pennant of the competition.
'It feels amazing to come in second. It was a long race. We’ve been dying for a podium position and I knew we had it in us. To finally get it confirmed was brilliant. I just can’t wait to get on the stage and accept the pennant,' he said.
Explaining the pressure the team was under as they led the fleet in the South Pacific, Mark continued, 'It is worse leading, I think. We are always looking over our shoulder and making sure we are doing the right things. Gold Coast Australia are quick and we knew they were going to be close and they just got us at the end.'
Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson, paid tribute to the team who represent the UK City of Culture 2013, describing the atmosphere on board his yacht as both crews closed in on the finish line.
'It was really exciting. Towards the end I called a meeting around midnight and got everyone around. I said, ‘We’ve got 30 miles to go and we are neck and neck with Derry-Londonderry. We either go hard now and win, or we take it easy and there is a chance that we come second.’
'The guys really pitched in and we did a ‘super-watch’ for a good five or six hours and in the end we only won by a bit over an hour. I think if we hadn’t done that then Derry-Londonderry could have well taken us.'
Gold Coast Australia finished just 79 minutes ahead of Derry-Londonderry in the 4,600-mile race from the Gold Coast.
Derry-Londonderry crew member, Michelle McCann from Greencastle, Co. Donegal, said, 'The race was fantastic; the best one yet. We had everything, we had plenty of wind at the start and we did really well with the right plan, strategy and tactics. Everything just worked for us.
'We deserve first I think, because we raced so well, but we just got pipped to the post. However, coming second to Gold Coast Australia, which is the fastest boat in the race, is brilliant. Just brilliant!' she beamed. 'This is the start of our pennant collection – that’s how we’re thinking of it!'
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Third placed Geraldton Western Australia are also celebrating after securing their first podium result and round the world crew member, Ian Geraghty, could not be more excited about the prospect of collecting it in Marina at Keppel Bay on Saturday.
'The anticipation of standing on that podium in Singapore is just something that we are all tingling about. It is going to be absolutely amazing. We have seen what it is like for the other teams, we’ve been watching them up there and for us it’s going to be absolutely brilliant to be looking back at the other people and waving saying, come-on, we’ve done it!' he said.
Qingdao’s arrival was all the more special for crew member, Zhiguo Qu, known to his team as Brett, who reached port in time to celebrate Chinese New Year. Appropriately for welcoming in the Year of the Dragon, the hull of the Chinese yacht is emblazoned with a striking dragon design. The festivities included fireworks and a traditional lion dance – and before the dancers began, Brett could not resist trying on the head of the costume.
He said, 'It is a special day arriving for the Chinese New Year celebrations in port. It is the first time I’ve held Chinese New Year at sea with so many people from so many different countries and walks of life. I’ve written Chinese characters on the deck and have explained them about the Chinese culture and celebrations. They have told me more about the western culture too. So it’s a melting pot where the western culture meets the eastern culture. I cherish every moment with the crew members and it has been a great experience.'
The home team on this race is Singapore, led by skipper Ben Bowley, who reflects, 'If we had had another 50 miles we’d have been on the podium in Singapore. It was a tough and frustrating race but I am delighted with the way the crew performed.
'It is going to be fantastic to sail the boat into Singapore. From what I hear there is going to be a fantastic reception laid on for us. I just can’t wait to get over there and meet our sponsors and thank them for the fantastic support they have given us over the last six months,' he added.
Singaporean, Celina Chan, is one of three Keppel ambassadors taking part in the race and will bring the skills she learns on board back to her company. In everyday life she is an engineer but has now completed one of the two races in which she will take part and is also looking forward to the team’s arrival in Keppel Bay on Saturday.
The 27-year-old said, 'I feel really good being back on land. All my friends are waiting for me in Singapore, so I am really excited to get there. It is a beautiful place, with a beautiful marina and my colleagues from Keppel Bay will there as well, together with our Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Keppel Corporation.
'It has been a great experience with so many highlights, like crossing the Equator when I was up the spinnaker pole. It is a once in a lifetime experience,' she adds.
Michal Szmidt is from Poland and joined the De Lage Landen yacht in the Gold Coast for the races to Singapore and then Qingdao, China. He is one of eight ambassadors for De Lage Landen, the global provider of asset-based financing programmes which is leveraging its partnership with the team to launch a world-wide employee engagement programme. Inspired by the Clipper ethos, ‘Raced by People Like You’, De Lage Landen hopes that the way the race crew face challenges as one team will provide many inspiring examples in everyday practice.
The remarketing specialist has also found the race to be a life changing experience and said, 'It was quite a long race. It was my first Christmas and New Year a long, long way from home. But I really enjoyed it. It really makes me happy that my vision before I left home is true – that when I put my feet on dry land, I realise that anything is possible.'
New York completed the group of seven yachts arriving in port today. As the last glimmer of daylight faded, they arrived alongside, looking forward to an ice cold beer at the end of a month at sea.
Skipper, Gareth Glover, admits the going was tough. 'It was a very long time at sea for the crew. It was the first time that they spent nearly a month at sea together. The first few weeks were just like any race, but then they realised they had to be out there for another few weeks, so at times all the talk was about being inventive and setting up menu systems and other logistics to keep things going.'
The final three yachts in the fleet are making excellent progress towards Batam and are expected to arrive in the marina on Wednesday.
'This morning the wind made a welcome return to the boat, with far more than the GRIBs currently suggest,' says Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean. 'This is great, because we can travel quickly in silence, saving our diesel for when it goes light again. All are looking forward to arriving in Batam as it's been now a full month at sea.'
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Olly Osborne, Visit Finland’s skipper, says, 'We are getting our first taste of the north west monsoon which is giving us a pleasant beam reach and a couple of extra knots of boat speed. With the new air stream we are experiencing the familiar squalls again, but this morning a large water spout passed close astern of us shortly after the watch change. It was quite a spectacle and we watched as the narrow column of water arched up into the cloud above, sucking up great volumes of sea water.'
And while Olly and his crew were able to watch at a fascinated distance, for the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crew it was a little too close for comfort.
Skipper Gordon Reid, explains, 'We dropped our main sail yesterday morning and took the whole sail off the boom to do some repairs, lubricate the mast track and inspect the rig, so we made our way under engine alone for a while which causes the boat to roll a little from side to side. As the wind picked up we hoisted the main sail and the headsails, which not only helps us make better speed but also stabilises the yacht on the building swell.
'This morning we found ourselves approaching a fairly large squall and as we made sure all the hatches were secured and our sun shade was taken down, we saw a massive tornado (water spout) off to our starboard side.
'At first, fascinated by this unusual spectacle, I soon realised it was coming straight for us, so we quickly made sure everyone had their life jacket on and safety line attached, then secured the main sail on the side deck and the Yankee 1 on the bow. The tornado was sucking up vast amounts of sea and looked huge as it approached. The winds increased dramatically and I am sure it must have been well over 100 knots in the monster, as we tried to outrun it. It was looking pretty dicey for a time, as we continued to navigate around a collection of fishing boats and an oil rig, but talk about luck… as the tornado was about 400 yards away it just fizzled out and disappeared. Phew that was close!'
The fleet will arrive on Saturday morning, 28 January, in Marina at Keppel Bay, the centrepiece of Keppel Bay’s premier waterfront precinct, the only residential development in Singapore to have its own world-class marina on its very own private island. This will be the fourth visit of the fleet to Keppel Bay, whose skyline is now dominated by the towers of the stunning new Reflections at Keppel Bay development, designed by master architect Daniel Libeskind.
During the stopover the yachts will be open to the public between 10am and 2pm on Sunday 29 and Tuesday 31 January. There will also be presentations for those interested in getting on board for Clipper 13-14 and beyond. Demand for berths on the race has never been higher and already several hundred people have committed to competing in the next edition of the Clipper Race, taking on the challenge of a lifetime. Find out how you can join them at here
. Overall standings after Race seven:
1. Gold Coast Australia 73 points
2. Visit Finland 53 points
3. De Lage Landen 46 points
4. New York 40 points
5. Singapore 38 points
6. Welcome to Yorkshire 37 points
7. Derry-Londonderry 35 points
8. Qingdao 34 points
9. Geraldton Western Australia 31 points
10. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 14 points Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website