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Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test - Newcastle arrivals

by Clipper Round the World Race 3 Jan 04:55 PST
Zhuhai crossing the Finish Line - Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test © Clipper Race

With the sun shining onto a glistening harbour at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC), it's another day of Clipper Race arrivals here in Australia.

With Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Dare To Lead already berthed and enjoying all Newcastle has to offer, overnight the remaining boats battled it out for the last of the podium spots on Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test, a race that has us all glued to the Race Viewer, especially over the past 30 hours!

It's a trio of top spots for Zhuhai

Sailing across the Finish Line at 22:04:40 UTC (09:04:40 LT), its Zhuhai who clinched third place on Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test.

The team has raced hard to keep the hotly contested podium place, with an ongoing battle with the front of the pack since the teams set off from Fremantle 16 days ago. The team was sitting in the top three from rounding Cape Leeuwin and has been bouncing around the top of the standings since, even slipping into first place earlier in the race.

However, nothing if not consistent, Zhuhai's results includes a second-place finish in Cape Town, third into Fremantle, and after a jostle with Bekezela and UNICEF another strong third place finish for the team today.

Speaking on arrival at the NCYC, Zhuhai Skipper James Finney said: "I'm feeling relieved! That was much closer than I would have liked. We had a bit of a wobble about midway through, we'd sailed so well coming out of Fremantle, it was just rounding the bottom of Tasmania we got completely wrong, it turned out! Then we had to fight super hard. We were within two miles of UNICEF and then Bekezela came flying in out of nowhere, so it was very tense last night. I'm super proud of the team, they did so well. They've shown so much resilience and done so well."

Chee Wah-Lum, a round the world crew member from Malaysia added: "It's amazing to come in third! We ripped our kite and had holes in our Yankee, but we still came in third! We celebrated New Year too with sparklers and party hats, it was a beautiful night."

Congratulating the team, Host Port and Team Partner Jiuzhou Group Holdings said: "Well done and Happy New Year!

"It's a special sailing trip. We hope you enjoyed Christmas and New Year's Day all together. The race was not so long but there were both strong winds and wind holes during this leg. We believe that you had an unforgettable memory. Hope you will have a wonderful stay and rest in Newcastle.

"We will always be together with you, and believe that our Zhuhai team will choose the right course in the right time.

"Good luck to you all in 2024, and looking forward to meeting you in Zhuhai soon."

The teams third place on Race 5 and nine race points will bump Zhuhai up the leader board into third place.

Bekezela sails into Newie in fourth

Next to arrive in sunny Newcastle was fourth-placed Bekezela. The team crossed the Finish Line at 23:13:07 UTC, after a real battle toward the end of the race, just missing out on the podium.

Bekezela Race Skipper, David Hartshorn said: "Zhuhai got us by an hour and five minutes! It would have been nice to get a podium. The strategy was good, the crew worked really well, but I made two poor decisions which cost us the podium, but we learned a lot. Next time! We are consistent, one fifth place and two fourth places, and consistency is what wins races so we're all good.

"We knew where UNICEF was because we could see the yacht on AIS. But we had no idea where Zhuhai was. They had a nice angle and a better boat speed, so they did it.

"Our First Mate, Maisie has now crossed every line of longitude on a Clipper Race yacht, so that should not be underestimated, and before she turns 21 too."

Maisie said: "So on this race I have officially circumnavigated around the world, which is really, really cool. We did this on Christmas Eve which was special. This week I am looking forward to some sun, a cold beer and it is my 21st birthday on Sunday which is exciting!

"It's been an interesting race, we were actually leading for a bit at the beginning, but then we headed down south and we knew we were slower than the other boats going downwind, so we knew we'd probably drop back a little bit. We then dropped behind UNICEF just as we came around Tasmania. But then we took 50 miles out of them in 200 miles which is really impressive!"

Richard Wonders, who grew up in Newcastle, got to experience the pride of sailing into his hometown. On arrival into port he said: "I'd forgotten how beautiful Newcastle was! It looked absolutely magnificent from the sea and the river. It's fantastic to be back! I only live in Sydney now, which is just a couple of hours away."

Richard is also sailing alongside one of his best friends Tim Turpin, sharing the experience together on board Bekezela. Tim said: "It was fantastic, I got to surf massive waves down near the Southern Ocean. My dream was to go 20-25 knots helming the boat, I got to 19.4 knots, that's pretty cool and I am very happy with that! It was amazing, but I am totally exhausted!"

UNICEF places fifth in Race 5

Placing fifth, it was UNICEF that arrived next to a dock full of supporters and fellow crew from other teams cheering them in.

Dan Bodey, UNICEF Race Skipper said on arrival: "It's great to be here in Newcastle, we are super happy to have arrived today. It's been a lovely day, with some really nice sailing. The conditions on this race were really quite varied. We had upwind, wind holes and then some really nice downwind with the spinnaker up. When we were south of Tasmania we had a really big storm come through with 50+ knots of wind which was some of the biggest conditions that some of the crew have ever seen, so it was an incredible 24 hours. Then we had the obligatory near-Race Finish wind hole, and also an upwind beat to finish off.

"It was a really tight 36 hours with Bekezela and Zhuhai, with lots of different tactics involved. We were in third, then back in fifth and then unfortunately our tactics didn't pay off this time but next race we are confident we'll be coming in first."

With the fleet now having covered almost half of the circumnavigation, Dan reflects on how far his team has come: "The crew is developing really nicely and it's a pleasure to see. I think especially on this race the round the worlders and leggers really shone through in their skills and ability to coach the newer crew, which is amazing."

First Mate Laura Hampton added: "It was a good race for us. We didn't quite get the finish we wanted, we almost had a third place but Bekezela and Zhuhai did really well and sailed over us. Big ups to them but hopefully we'll get it next time.

"Around Tasmania was pretty gnarly, it lived up to all expectations. We had 60 knots of wind, and we were doing 20 knots surfing down waves, so it was quite exciting. We had some super nice wind and just sent it!"

UNICEF Crew member Sue Melly added: "It was fantastic! A great race at the end but we didn't catch them! It was great to be in sight of two other boats though. We just kept pushing and pushing until the end."

The next batch of boats are due to dock in Newcastle from Thursday morning (local time) onwards. Follow the action on our social channels and of course, on the Race Viewer.

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