Cork, Ireland has safely arrived in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, after a challenging race from New York to Canada.
The crew is sailing a heavier and slightly shorter Challenge 67 which is approximately nine percent slower than the Clipper 68s, so the Clipper Race is now running under IRC Handicap rules. The Cork team is given a time compensation to ensure a level playing field across the fleet. Rather than apply this when a race is completed, it has been announced that the team will leave Canada two days prior to the rest of the fleet so that the handicap can be applied up front and it will be up to the chasing pack to overtake the Irish team.
Cork crew member, Michael Lewis, said, “It was a frustrating race really, particularly after starting so strongly. At the start, we had the kind of conditions we excel with and were right up there with the rest of the fleet. In the light airs we struggle though but we tried our best right up to the end.”
Hannah Jenner, the highly experienced and competitively proven skipper concurred, saying, “For the first 30 hours we were doing great and with the kite up in 30 knots of breeze, we were not only holding our own with the Clipper 68s but actually making up places. With the handicap in place, we must have been running in the top three and everyone was really on fire. But when the wind drops below five knots we really struggle and for the last four days, the winds have been in that sort of region. Up until 24 hours ago, we were still just about in touch with the eighth and ninth boats and even yesterday evening, we thought maybe we were still in with a shout but it was not to be.”
This pursuit format is one that is well used in international yacht racing and its introduction has been well received by the crew who will now depart Cape Breton Island on Thursday 17 June. The team will be given their own special send off and they will go through exactly the same start procedure as normal, with a ten minute gun beginning the countdown to race start. Then they will be giving their all to pull out the biggest possible gap before the rest of the fleet set off on Saturday 19 June and attempt to close them down during the race which is expected to last between 12 and 14 days.
Hannah is excited by the concept, saying, “We’re going to spend some time here resting and then ready ourselves for the next race and concentrate on hammering over the Atlantic in some decent breychologically, it will be nice to be at the front of the pack and the guys have learnt loads about the boat. We certainly sail it a lot better than we were doing between Panama and Jamaica. The crew are all revved up, excited and, with so many Irish people on board, they are super keen. Everybody will have their race heads on and the Atlantic gives us a really good chance. We want to arrive in Kinsale knowing that we have tried our hardest and given our all.”
And speaking on behalf of the crew, Michael added, “Everybody on board is still up for a big race to Cork and that’s always been our real focus. We really want to race her hard and hope we have had our share of light airs. If we can push her, with the crew we’ve got, we know we can drive harder than the other crews and we are really up for it.
“The pursuit race is the sensible way to go. Mentally it’s better and, as so many of us have friends and family awaiting our arrival, we’d like to get there as quickly as possible. Obviously in doing that, we miss out on some of the stop here but for us, Kinsale and then Cork is our priority.”
Looking ahead, Michael was enthusiastic about the welcome that awaits, adding, “For a lot of the crew, the key thing is that Ireland will be the last big party before the finish. It sounds like it’s really gearing up over there – my sister seems to be organising all sorts of things, which is a bit worrying!
“We took a look at the Cork Festival web site (www.corkclipperfestival.com) when we were in New York and it looks like it’s going to be epic”.
The original Cork hit a submerged reef in the Java Sea back in January and for the first time in 14 years and more than two million miles of racing, Clipper lost one of its fleet. To ensure that the crew could continue their adventure representing Cork, a replacement boat was chartered and the Challenge 67 was the most suitable in terms of size and proven ability – she has raced around the world on several occasions.
In a tense finale to Race 11 from New York Hull & Humber crossed the finish line ahead of the rest of the fleet to secure their first line honours of the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race. They beat Spirit of Australia by just 17 minutes and crossed the line 40 minutes ahead of Cape Breton Island who finished third.
This race from New York has been given an added dimension as it is named the Eagle Spirit Challenge to celebrate the unique scenery and wildlife of Cape Breton Island whose large population of bald eagles is celebrated in the design of Cape Breton Island’s hull. Hull & Humber will receive the winner’s trophy depicting a soaring eagle at Monday’s prize giving ceremony.
During the stopover a packed programme of entertainment has been planned including concert and two huge firework displays. On Tuesday 15 June the founder of the Clipper Race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, will be skippering Hull & Humber in the Cape Breton Clash of Legends. He will compete against two of Canada’s greatest yachtsmen, John Hughes, the first Canadian to complete a solo circumnavigation, who will skipper Qingdao, and Derek Hatfield, the nation’s most successful ocean racer who is about to begin his campaign to complete a second solo circumnavigation and who will take the helm of Cape Breton Island.
The Clipper Race is the only race in the world where the crews come from all walks of life, all ages and with all levels of experience. More than 35 nationalities are represented by those taking part and, prior to their training, some 40 percent of the crews had never stepped aboard a sailing yacht before.