There was a traditional Maori kapa haka farewell in Tauranga Bridge Marina and a blast of the horn from a passenger liner at Tauranga’s cruise terminal as the teams set out into the lively waters of New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty for the start of the sixth stage of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. They were accompanied during the parade of sail and at the start of the race by a huge flotilla of local boating enthusiasts who were thrilled to be part of the send-off.
Start of the Clipper Race 6 fromNew Zealand
In fairly murky conditions and a stiff north easterly breeze, the yachts crossed the start line off the Mount Main Beach when the gun fired at 1430hrs local time (0130 UTC). With no distinct advantage at either end of the line, the fleet was divided equally on port and starboard tack and Welcome to Yorkshire was first across, followed in short order by De Lage Landen, Visit Finland, New York and Gold Coast Australia. Geraldton Western Australia, was mid-fleet at the start but seized the advantage and was first to round the windward turning mark before heading back towards Mount Maunganui. Qingdao, Derry-Londonderry, Singapore and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital completed the order over the start line.

At the first turning mark, Derry-Londonderry, who’d moved up to fifth place, let their advantage slip away when they stalled, allowing five other boats to slide past them. As they race towards New Zealand’s North Cape with Geraldton Western Australia in the lead, the yachts’ positions are expected to change many times before they begin crossing the Tasman Sea. The 1,300-mile race to Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, is expected to take the 10 internationally backed teams 7-10 days to complete.

With five out of five wins under their belts already, Gold Coast Australia’s crew desperately want to win this next race. If they do they will be the first team in Clipper 11-12 to secure a coveted home port victory, and only the third in the history of the event to do so. Victory in this race would also equal the most consecutive wins in the Clipper Race, a record set by Alex Thomson in Clipper 98 and held for more than a decade.

Richard Hewson, skipper of Gold Coast Australia said, “If I want to win a race out of this whole series around the world, it’s this one. I don’t want to put myself or the crew under any more pressure than they’re already under. We’re just been sailing how we normally sail, sailing safe and obviously trying to keep it at the back of our minds but trying to sail hard.

“Normally we make our ground and get ahead through tactics and we don’t really have those options during this race. But there’s some interesting weather coming across the Tasman Sea and I’ve got some local knowledge as I’ve been across there a few times before, so hopefully that will help us out. It’s going to be interesting to see where people go with this big high pressure system that’s coming across in the next few days.”

Other teams have proven themselves just as fast as the Gold Coast Australia crew, with Visit Finland, Welcome to Yorkshire and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital all scoring bonus points in the Ocean Sprint time trials to date.

Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean, said, “I think that all the boats are similar in terms of boat speed. The difference with Gold Coast Australia over the rest of the fleet is how they route themselves but I think in this next leg there is less opportunity to have a routing strategy so I think it will be very close.”

Scotsman, Robin Oliver, a crew member on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital said, “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Tauranga, it’s just like being at home except with sunshine and lots of it! I felt very much at home even before I got off the boat, just looking at the countryside. It’s wonderful, everybody’s so friendly here. It has been brilliant.”

This is the first time the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has visited New Zealand since its inception in 1996. The fleet is expected to arrive in Southport Yacht Club between 11 and 13 December.

Advertisement