Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - Race 4 to Geraldton WA underway

Parade of sail past Table Mountain - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12
The ten teams taking part in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race have set off on Race 4 of the 15-race series. In this next stage the non-professional sailors will round the Cape of Good Hope and face the might of the Southern Ocean before arriving in the City of Geraldton, Western Australia, at the end of their 4,800-mile journey.

Race 4 started under cloudless blue skies and a brisk south easterly breeze of 15 to 20 knots, typical of a Cape Town early afternoon. It made for a lively start for the stripped down 68-foot yachts as they crossed the start line and tacked upwind to the first mark in Table Bay.

Gold Coast Australia was first to cross the line, marked at one end by the South African Navy mine hunter, San Umzimkulu. The yachts were packed tightly together and Derry-Londonderry was just behind the overall race leader with Geraldton Western Australia and Welcome to Yorkshire also crossing on a starboard tack. Singapore approached the line from the eastern end and turned across in fifth place while over at the western end, De Lage Landen, Qingdao and New York were followed by Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Visit Finland.

As Gold Coast Australia rounded the Royal Cape Yacht Club’s Paarden Island turning mark, just 100 metres off the shore, the team hoisted their medium weight spinnaker, while Singapore, who’d tacked their way up the course into second place and also looked set for a hoist, veered off the line and lost some ground to Geraldton Western Australia and Welcome to Yorkshire.

The teams have opted to head away from the shore to avoid the wind shadow created by Table Mountain which frames the Cape Town skyline will allow them to keep some good breeze as they head for the Cape of Good Hope this evening and the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans collide. Half have opted to go north around the back of Robben Island while the other half have stayed to the south.

Tasmanian yachtsman Richard Hewson is in charge of the team which currently tops the Clipper 11-12 leader board having scored three wins in three races. Preparing to leave Cape Town the Gold Coast Australia skipper said, 'We’ve got the usual pre-race jitters I suppose; everyone’s a bit nervous about what’s to come but we’re all well rested. Luckily we didn’t need to do much maintenance to the boat after the race from Rio to here, so that allowed us to give the crew lots of time off.

Gold Coast Australia - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12

'It’s going to be quite a tough race and I’ve already briefed the crew on that. We’ll probably see wind and sea stronger than we have before, so it’s going to be tough, but everyone’s looking forward to it and getting to Australia.'

Clipper 11-12 is ‘raced by people like you’ and those taking part represent more than 40 nationalities and come from all walks of life. Their ages range from 18 to 72 and almost half of them had no sailing experience before signing up to the challenge of a lifetime and beginning their rigorous pre-race training for the gruelling race.

Sales assistant, Lisa Blair, from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, is one of the round the world crew on board Gold Coast Australia and said 'It’s going to be a fantastic sail into home soil and to hear the Aussie accent everywhere again and just be in familiar territory. I’ve loved Cape Town, there’s a really friendly feel here and it’s a very positive environment so it’s been a great experience.'

The Clipper Race was established 15 years ago by sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail around the globe solo and non-stop in 1968-9. Clipper 11-12 is the eighth edition of the biennial race which is contested by a fleet of ten identical stripped down 68-foot ocean racing yachts, each of which is sponsored by a global destination or organisation.

Sir Robin’s aim is not only to open up ocean racing to anyone but also to create a global platform for sponsors to profile their destinations and promote business, tourism and culture, acknowledging the traditional trade routes serviced over a century ago by the original clipper ships from which the race takes its name.

A number of sponsor delegations visited Cape Town during the stopover the event has created and a significant economic impact, the race organisers, crews and sponsors spending millions of Rand in the city, as well as introducing its destination and trade sponsors to Cape Town with longer term business building potential for local companies.

Sir Robin, who is chairman of the Clipper Race, said, 'Our sponsors raise their profile on the world stage with tangible benefits in developing trade, promoting tourism, sharing cultural experiences and involving their respective communities. It creates a powerful legacy.'

The fleet is expected to arrive in the City of Geraldton, Western Australia, between 29 and 31 October. It will be the second time the city has hosted the event following a hugely popular debut visit in Clipper 09-10.

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website