The sprint is on: Clipper Race fleet heads for Airlie Beach

A cannon blast on Fort Scratchley, Newcastle, marked the start of the sixth stage of the Clipper 2023-24 Race. With an OCS (on course side) from PSP Logistics, it was UNICEF that was clean across the line first, but less than a bow sprit split the team from Qingdao, Zhuhai and Our Isles and Oceans

Mark Light, Clipper Race Director, who was out on the water for the dramatic start reported: “It really was a fantastic start in Newcastle Harbour for Race 6. The start served up some beautiful conditions of an easterly breeze around 10 knots, making for close upwind racing on the start line, an exciting show for the crowds lining the foreshore, and spectating on the water.  

“Most of the teams opted for a full mainsail, Yankee 1 and staysail in readiness to cross the line and start racing as fast as possible. 

“First over the line was PSP Logistics however Skipper Mike Miller and the team were over the line early (on course side) meaning an instant two-hour time penalty issued by the Race Committee. The start line location made for lots of close quarter battles between the yachts as the fleet tacked out of the harbour and begun to make its way onwards to Airlie Beach.”

The crews were well rested after a stopover in Newcastle, NSW, a first in the 29 years of the event, leaving the amazing hospitality, stunning beaches and friendly Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club behind they turned their focus to the second race of Leg 4: The Australian Coast-To-Coast Leg.

Race 6 sees the teams race around 950 nautical miles up the Australian east coast to Airlie Beach in Queensland – the gateway to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. This is a unique race in the circumnavigation, not just in its short length (by Clipper Race standards) but there is no Scoring Gate, Ocean Sprint or ability for teams to use Stealth Mode. The standings will come down purely to the racing, and there is certainly no room for error. On this race, the fleet is expecting a mix of upwind sailing, that will quickly become downwind as the yachts head north.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race trains crew from all walks of life and from around the world to become ocean racers. The race is split into eight legs across the 40,000nm circumnavigation, and participants can compete in one or multiple legs, with the entire race around the globe lasting eleven months. Leg 4: The Australian Coast-To-Coast Leg features two races – the first from Fremantle to Newcastle, and then the second a much shorter and more tactical race from Newcastle to Airlie Beach. Among the 200+ crew racing on this leg are several crew from or living in Australia:

Justin Howard, Circumnavigator on PSP Logistics 

Richard Wonders, racing on Legs 3 and 4 on board Bekezela 

Brendan Wilde, Circumnavigator on Qingdao 

Daniel Kellie, Circumnavigator on Perseverance  

Ben Holt, racing on Legs 4 and 7 on Our Isles and Oceans (British but lives in Australia) 

William Ackerly, Circumnavigator on Qingdao, Australian and British 

Lawrence Markham, racing on Leg 4 on Dare To Lead 

Lisa Jude, racing on Leg 4 and 5 on Qingdao 

Wayne Sutcliffe, Racing on Leg 4 on UNICEF  

Clare Warburton, Racing on Leg 4 on Dare To Lead 

As the teams leave Newcastle their wakes, and head offshore,. Yacht Club Punta del Este, determined to climb back up the leaderboard after some disappointing results in the past two races, has established a leading position in the fleet along with Zhuhai and Dare To Lead [as of 0600 UTC].

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