Visit Seattle, led by 24-year-old British sailor Nikki Henderson, the youngest ever Skipper to lead a team in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race’s eleven editions, has held off a strong challenge from three other teams to chalk up a thrilling maiden victory in Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race.
During one of the most challenging stages so far in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, Visit Seattle crossed the finish line off the coast of Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays, Australia, at 15:05:36 local time (05:05:36UTC), completing the 1,600-nautical mile sprint up the east coast of Australia from Hobart in eleven days.
Arriving into Abell Point Marina where the Clipper Race fleet will be berthed, Skipper Nikki said: “It’s such a good feeling. I’m finally a bit more relaxed than the last 48 hours. It’s been exhausting!
“This race has been really, really tough in so many ways. So many different types of conditions and sail changes. The tactics have been really hard but we pushed all the way through. The crew loved the Southerly Busters, it was exciting. We had experience of similar conditions in the past and we’re used to that kind of thing. The crew handled it really well.”
This is the team’s second podium result after finishing second in Race 4, from Fremantle, Western Australia, to Sydney, and it was made to work hard for this victory. This morning saw the team off the coast of Mackay, just 5 nautical miles ahead of the second placed PSP Logistics. Sanya Serenity Coast, skippered by Australian Wendy Tuck, was only another mile astern, with just 7 nautical miles separating Visit Seattle from the fourth placed Liverpool 2018.
In the end, just 25 minutes separated Visit Seattle from second placed PSP Logistics, which takes its third podium result of the Clipper 2017-18 Race.
Round the world crew member Marek Omilian, from Seattle, says: “It was a phenomenal race. Phenomenal. Quite long because of the heat but it was very good sailing and a well-deserved victory. We were quite prepared for the weather because we faced some similar conditions in Leg 1 to Punta del Este and we were also very well prepared with Nikki’s leadership.”
Praising his Skipper, Marek adds: “Nikki is a very charismatic young leader. She loves teaching and she’s trained us very well.”
Race 6 presented some of the most varied and dramatic conditions of any Clipper Race stage so far. A tough upwind slog from Tasmania and up the southeast coast of Australia, it included two Southerly Buster storms which bought spectacular lightning storms and gusts of up to 78 knots off the Queensland coast.
Liverpool 2018 claimed third place, its first podium result of the Clipper Race. The team was actually fourth across the line after leading for the most of the last four days but its overall position was boosted after Sanya Serenity Coast was given a six-hour time penalty by the Clipper Race Committee for breaching exclusion zone rules, as per Race 6 Course Instructions.
The eleven Clipper Race yachts, along with their crew and supporters, will be based at Abell Point Marina, the first global 5 Gold Anchor accredited Marina in the world, during its stay in the Whitsundays. The stopover will be one to remember, with the crew to be welcomed by the inaugural Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival – a two-weeklong celebration of events and activities showcasing the beauty of the Whitsundays.
Tourism Whitsundays Sales and Marketing Manager Tash Wheeler, who was down on the pontoons to greet the teams into Airlie Beach, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to see a female skipper win the inaugural Wondrous Whitsundays Race and for one so young to pull off this feat is incredible.”
“What better place to win your first race than the beautiful Whitsundays! We are very excited to be showcasing the region to the Clipper Race crews, their families and friends, and hope they can take in as much as possible while here, including world famous Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, and of course the Great Barrier Reef, including the iconic Heart Reef, visible only from the air and only in the Whitsundays.
“The Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival will show the world that not only are we a world-class sailing destination but also a world-class holiday destination.”
At the time of writing, five Clipper Race teams are now alongside in Airlie Beach, with the remaining teams due in by approximately lunch time tomorrow local time in Australia.
The Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, stopover marks the changeover port which completes the All-Australian Leg 4, and starts the Asia Pacific Leg 5. Distance wise, this stopover is also the approximate half way stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Race with 20,000nm of the 40,000nm, 13 stage course now completed.
Race 7, which will see the teams head approximately 4,200 nautical miles to Sanya, the first of two Chinese stopovers in this next leg, starts on 29 January. From there, teams will head to Qingdao, China; across the mighty Pacific Ocean to Seattle; Panama; and New York; before heading back across the Atlantic to Derry-Londonderry. The Clipper 2017-18 Race finishes on July 28, 2018.