FREMANTLE Sailing Club has recently hosted the 11-strong fleet of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
The 72ft yachts, each with approximately 20 crew members, come from all over the world.
This year’s voyage left St Katharine Docks in London on September 1 last year and will be a test of endurance as the fleet will take almost a year to complete the 40,000 nautical miles.
The race was created by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, a man honoured by knighthood in 1995 for his outstanding contribution to the sailing fraternity.
Sir Robin was the first person to sail solo around the world in 1968-69. He began his career in the merchant navy and established the clipper race in 1996.
Over 700 crew are participating in the 2019-2020 Clipper Race. Some skippers and crew will take on the globe, some may opt to participate in individual legs of the journey. The overall route is split into a series of 15 races for which points are awarded – the yacht with the highest cumulative points wins the Clipper Race Trophy.
The first three yachts arrived in Fremantle late at night on December 8 with relatively calm conditions, the Qingdao taking line honours.
Second was Ha Long Bay Viet Nam and third was Imagine your Korea.
By first light the three clippers were safely moored with flags and banners hoisted.
Once Border Force had conducted their formalities each clipper team experienced a fountain of much earned bubbles.
Finally, after four weeks of tackling the high seas from Cape Town the crew alighted, feet on dry land. They received an enthusiastic welcome from commodore Ron Greer, vice commodore Anita Wyntje, CEO Karen Baldwin and board members.
As more clippers arrived during that week, the atmosphere of celebration grew.
Sir Robin was in Fremantle for the occasion, giving a talk about his trials and achievements on roaring oceans, circumnavigating the globe with 312 days solo at sea out of Falmouth UK.
He said he created the clipper race to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, to have the opportunity to embrace the thrill of ocean racing around the globe.
About 40 per cent of participants have never sailed before.
Seattle skipper David Hartshorn also spoke of his commitment to engaging people in sustainable environmental projects that focus on ocean health. In addition, he will contribute to weather reporting during the course of the race by dropping drifter buoys (four between Fremantle and the next port of Airlie Beach Queensland). This information is shared with the weather bureau worldwide.
While in Fremantle the yachts prepared for the next leg, with food supplies boat onboard, repairs and orientation for crews that changed over during the stopover.
Getting to Airlie Beach means crossing the Tasman Strait. The huge ocean swells so popular with Australian surfers on the east coast will challenge kit, sails and crew stamina.
Deputy race director Dale Smyth warned skippers “the southerly busters on the east coast are brutal”.
Head over to clipperroundtheworld.com to track the voyage.
by MELANIE BETTS