The Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race bid a fond farewell to Australia today as the seventh race of its 14-stage global series, The Da Nang New Discovery of Asia Race,left Airlie Beach for Vietnam.
The 4,310 nautical mile race will officially get underway with a Le Mans start, estimated around midday local time tomorrow, Tuesday, January 19.
The start line is 100 nautical miles away from Airlie in the Coral Sea, where the 12-strong Clipper 70 fleet is currently headed.
Ahead of leaving her homeland for the final time in this race, Australian Skipper Wendy Tuck, who leads the seventh place Da Nang – Viet Nam team and used to live in Airlie Beach a few years ago, said it had been the greatest time back racing in Australia.
“And we enjoyed our best race results yet here, but the excitement continues as everyone has been looking forward to arriving in Da Nang since we left London four months ago,” she said.
Ms Tuck said the fleet had enjoyed incredible support all over Australia “and here was no different”.
“It felt as if the community of Airlie Beach really took us into their hearts and made us feel so welcome. Everywhere we went people were happy to see us and were interested in hearing about the race. It’s been a fabulous stopover,” she said.
At 40,000 miles in length, the Clipper Race takes eleven months to complete, making it the world’s longest ocean adventure.
It is the only event of its kind that trains amateur sailors to race around the world, with 40 per cent of Clipper Race crew having never sailed before they start their extensive training
Abell Point Marina Owner Paul Darrouzet said it had been “absolutely fantastic” to host the event.
“Airlie Beach is a small community so to attract such an international event that puts us on the global sailing map like this has been a great boost,” he said.
“The entire community here in Airlie Beach has got really behind the race and we’ll certainly be following the teams more closely as they continue to Da Nang and around the world.
“We wish all the crew and skippers the best and hope to welcome them back to Airlie Beach for another visit in the not so distant future, now that they’ve seen how beautiful the Whitsundays is.”
Ahead of starting the race, which will take three to four weeks to complete, the Da Nang – Viet Nam team led the fleet out as it performed a parade of sail out of Pioneer Bay, surrounded by dozens of local spectator boats who joined in on the water to wish them well in their next challenge.
After a tough beat north into prevailing winds, the Clipper Race fleet will then cross the Equator for the second time since leaving London.
This race will test the navigation skills of the teams as they try to work out the best route through the remote communities in Papua New Guinea.
On the approach to Vietnam, the fleet will take advantage of the northeast monsoon winds.
Spinnakers will be hoisted as the teams charge towards an impressive, highly anticipated welcome in Da Nang where a series of celebrations and festivals are planned for the crew.
The departure to Da Nang marks the end of the All-Australian Leg, which started in Albany in November and included the challenging Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Since leaving London in August, the Clipper Race fleet has completed 18,000 of its 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation.
The race to Da Nang is estimated to take around 31 days, with the arrival window into Da Nang set for February 17-21.