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Emotional podium result as toughest leg in Clipper Race history reaches Fremantle, Australia

by Morgan Kasmarik 25 Nov 2017 14:01 PST 25 November 2017

Unicef claimed its first ever Clipper Race victory at 11:10UTC (19:10 local) today, in one of the toughest ever legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race; Race 3, the 4,754 nm Dell Latitude Rugged Race, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Fremantle, Australia.

After 25 days battling through the Southern Ocean, the racing remained dramatic to the very end. Unicef ended up finishing just forty minutes in front of second placed GREAT Britain which managed to pull off an incredibly strong result following the tragic man overboard fatality of crew member Simon Speirs on Day 18 of this Southern Ocean trial.

Winning Skipper Bob Beggs said: "GREAT Britain drove me insane for the last 48 hours! They pushed us hard. I really would have liked to GREAT Britain to have won but we had to make it hard for them, we had to make them work for it. I think they really appreciated that strong competition between the two boats."

Simon Spiers, 60, from Bristol, UK, was on the foredeck of GREAT Britain assisting with a headsail change from Yankee 3 when he was washed overboard. Although he was clipped on with his safety tether, he became separated from the yacht and whilst he was recovered back on board within 36 minutes, resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful.

The GREAT Britain crew demonstrated amazing teamwork and spirit, and found the courage, not only to keep racing but to also leap from ninth to second place in the final four days of the race, accrediting the result to Simon.

Crew member Pip O'Sullivan, 30, said: "Last night it dawned on us that we still had a really good chance to do well in this race. I only realised this when I started receiving emails from home saying how proud everyone was of us and how well we were doing. We realised this could be the ultimate tribute to Simon, to get the podium finish that we have all hoped for since we started the race."

A full investigation is now being carried out, as is standard practice, into the full details of the incident, including the reasons his safety tether did not keep him on board, in cooperation with the appropriate authorities.

PSP Logistics, skippered by Matt Mitchell, wrapped up the podium places, making it the team's second third place finish out of the three races so far.

Further back, the tight racing continued to the end as sixth placed Sanya Serenity Coast pipped Dare to Lead, in seventh, across the finish line by just 57 seconds after almost a month's racing.

Not only did Race 3 end in dramatic fashion, it also started that way too. Just a few hours after setting sail from Cape Town, the Greenings team ran aground on rocks along the Cape Peninsular, a notorious shipwreck spot.

All crew were safely evacuated and no one was harmed but unfortunately the damage to the yacht was such that it was deemed irreparable and the team would not be able to take any further part in the Clipper 2017-18 Race. A salvage operation is now in advanced stages in removing the vessel.

On the extreme challenges crews have faced on this leg, Clipper Race Chairman said: "This has undoubtedly been the toughest leg in Clipper Race history. Ocean racing is an extreme sport and the training our crew go through is intense for this purpose, designed to prepare crew for the many eventualities that occur, even in the professional races.

"Whilst these are situations we aim never to encounter, it is always impressive to witness how strong the human spirit is when faced with adversity. Investigations are already underway and we await the full details of what happened in both incidents."

There are currently four teams still battling to the finish line, but the entire Clipper Race fleet is expected to be at the Fremantle Sailing Club by Sunday evening, local time. The teams will be berthed there until Saturday 2 December, when the fleet will depart for Race 4, the 2,500-nautical mile race to Sydney.

The Clipper Race will take part in the 73rd Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, before racing from Hobart to the Whitsundays, where the fleet will arrive in just under 50 days from today.

The All-Australian Leg is the fourth of eight legs that make up the 40,000-nautical mile, eleven-month Clipper 2017-18 Race. Other stopovers include Punta del Este, Uruguay, Cape Town, South Africa, Sanya and Qingdao, China, Seattle and New York, USA, Panama, Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and Liverpool, UK, where the race will finish on 28 July, 2018.

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