The start of Race 5 from Fremantle, Western Australia to Singapore took place at 1400 local time (0500 GMT) on New Year’s Day, with Durban 2010 and Beyond, Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper and Uniquely Singapore the first three boats to cross the line as the cannon fired. Huge crowds turned out to see the event and were entertained with some close tactical light wind racing in Fremantle’s Inner Harbour.
The local sea breeze known as the Fremantle ‘Doctor’ failed to blow as predicted, and although Durban 2010 and Beyond made steady progress towards the first of three marks in the harbour, they were hampered by patches of wind shadow. Following them round the first mark was the home-port team, westernaustralia2011.com, who with tactical positioning moved into second place.
The light winds played havoc with the whole fleet as they concertina-ed at the far end of the harbour and positions changed as each mark was rounded. With some of the closest racing seen so far in the Clipper 07-08 Race, the excitement built as the boats raced back out of the harbour and past Fremantle’s iconic Maritime Museum. To the delight of the home crowd, the Western Australian team managed to sneak ahead of Durban 2010 and Beyond as they headed out to sea.
Speaking ahead of the race start, westernaustralia2011.com’s skipper Martin Silk said: 'We have a full crew for the next leg and I’m fairly optimistic about our chances as we have some good local knowledge onboard. I hope we can do Western Australia proud by gaining another podium position into Singapore.'
The close racing in the Inner Harbour was always going to be challenging for the ten teams taking part in the race. Qingdao remained at the back of the fleet around all three Inner Harbour marks and reflected Marcus Cholerton-Brown’s pre-race plans for a clean start. 'With ten boats moving in close proximity to each other in the harbour, it’s going to be a real challenge,' said Marcus prior to their departure. 'The crew will need to be focused and we’re aiming for a clean start.'
Heading our of the harbour, the teams readied their spinnaker poles for the downwind leg of the course and, despite rounding the harbour mark first, westernaustralia2011.com struggled to set their spinnaker and Durban 2010 and Beyond took advantage and reclaimed the pole position. Battling it out for third place was Glasgow: Scotland with Style Clipper and Hull & Humber, closely followed by Liverpool 08. New York, Nova Scotia and Qingdao were tightly packed as headed into the downwind section of the course with Jamaica and Uniquely Singapore bringing up the rear due to problems with their kite hoists.
The pressure will be on for the team from Singapore, as they race the 2,429 miles to their home port. One of the teams with the biggest crew changeover during the two-week stopover in Fremantle, Uniquely Singapore skipper Mark Preedy indicated that he was planning on taking things easy. 'We have twelve new crew onboard which will make it tricky at first,' explained Mark this morning. 'Hopefully we can build their confidence early and have a successful race into our home port.'
The South African team showed no signs of letting up as they headed towards the final mark before turning towards the Sunda Straits. This is contrary to how their skipper Ricky Chalmers suggested they were going to take the beginning of Race 5. 'We’re going to play it cool at the race restart,' said Ricky. 'I’ve told the crew to see it as a bit of fun and not get too competitive.'
However it was the homeport team, westernaustlia2011.com who rounded the final mark in first place and a successful kite hoist saw them extend their lead as the fleet headed North to Singapore at the end of a successful two-week stopover Fremantle.
Western Australia’s minister for Tourism Sheila McHale was present at the race start and spoke of their pride in hosting the Clipper Race. 'Fremantle is the perfect location for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race,' said Ms McHale. 'Through sponsoring the event we are able to promote the harbour, the city and the region around the world. It is a magnificent event and money can’t buy this sort of publicity.'
The fleet has a two week race ahead of them to Singapore and it is one of the most complex courses within the whole round the world race. With strong winds predicted as they race up the WA coast these will be followed by lighter winds and squalls as they approach the monsoon trough and the Indonesian islands. Added to this there is the ever-present danger of a Tropical Cyclone and the crews have to remain alert. The yachts will then enter the confines of the Java Sea through the Sunda Straits before crossing the finish line off the coast of Indonesia.
The boats are due to arrive in Singapore on 19 January after a short stopover in Batam, Indonesia to ensure the fleet arrives together for the grand opening of the Marina at Keppel Bay where they will be hosted for the duration of the Singapore stopover.