Deputy race director Dale Smyth and race director Mark Light of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race are preparing for the arrival of the boats into the Whitsundays this week. Picture: Laura Thomas
Deputy race director Dale Smyth and race director Mark Light of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race are preparing for the arrival of the boats into the Whitsundays this week. Picture: Laura Thomas

Round the world race has Whitsundays in its sights

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet is just days away from its arrival in the Whitsundays and a jam-packed calendar of events has been planned to welcome the sailors.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race sees amateur crew members team up with experienced skippers to sail 40,000 nautical miles around the globe.

The Whitsundays is the fourth stop in the race.

Race director Mark Light said the yachts were well on their way to the region despite a few challenging conditions and unpredictable currents.

“It’s been a good race, it’s on target and the fleet had a really good crossing across the Southern Ocean,” he said.

“They traditionally battle the south-going current along the east of Australia, so the progress has slowed down a little bit but they’re pretty close together at the moment.

“We have 11 yachts in total, three of which departed Freemantle two days late because of previous delays, so we’ve actually got the fleet all racing on elapsed time.

“It’s actually pretty close at the moment as to whether the lead boats are going to win overall or whether the final three might have done pretty well.

“It’s still close – too hard to call at the moment.”

Crews have battled some tough conditions on their way to the Whitsundays. Image: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Crews have battled some tough conditions on their way to the Whitsundays. Image: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

The yachts are pegged to arrive on Friday morning, but Mr Light said this could change over the coming hours.

The yachts began the race in London in August last year, making their way to Punta del Este in South America, over to Cape Town in South Africa and then on to Fremantle before making their way to the Whitsundays.

Deputy race director Dale Smyth was aboard one of the yachts sailing into the Whitsundays two years ago and said that visiting the region was a highlight on his trip.

“It was amazing to sail in here, the navigation in the last 500 miles is really tricky coming into the reef with islands all over the place, so you have quite a heightened awareness of what’s going on around you, but I mean it’s beautiful,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful place – I had my family over here last time and we got out on to the reef and we went out to Whitehaven and it’s just beautiful, it’s just an amazing setting really. In the circumnavigation it’s a little bit of a midpoint and it’s a really great place to decompress and enjoy this amazing place.”

Mr Light also said the crews on-board the yachts were looking forward to exploring the area.

“I give a crew brief before every race starts, and we showed pictures of the Whitsundays and it’s one of those places you can’t not be in impressed with when you come here – it’s idyllic and it’s paradise,” he said.

“It’s still a tough trip crossing the Southern Ocean to get here but when they get to the last couple of days and they’re approaching the Whitsundays it’s pretty magical.”

The yachts are due to arrive in the Whitsundays on Friday as the carnival to celebrate their arrival kicks off on Saturday. Image: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
The yachts are due to arrive in the Whitsundays on Friday as the carnival to celebrate their arrival kicks off on Saturday. Image: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

A full calendar of events will kick off from January 11 to welcome the yachts and includes the chance to explore the boats, meet the crew and hear about their journey so far.

Whitsunday Sailing Club chairman Leo Rodriguez said the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was also a great opportunity to get more people involved in sailing.

“For Airlie Beach I think it really highlights that we are a sailing town, that we are a sailing region and the sailing assets that we have in our backyard like the Great Barrier Reef are best accessed by sailing and boating,” he said.

“It all starts somewhere with regards to sailing and these events tend to highlight that sailing is a great sport and is available to anybody who wants to try it and have a go.”

Alongside the events, Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler hoped the event would bring with it crowds from across the state and the world.

“The Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival is a key event in driving visitation to the region, we’re primed and ready to welcome our visiting guests,” she said.

“It puts the Whitsundays on a global stage as the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and the heart of sailing.”

What’s on during the Clipper festival

9-12 January: Arrival window for yachts into the Whitsundays at the Coral Sea Marina Resort, south marina

11 January: White on Whitehaven by Fish D’Vine, tickets available here.

12 January: Community welcome event at Airlie Beach Foreshore

14 and 16 January: Clipper Race yacht open days at Coral Sea Marina from 10am-3pm, free event

14 January: Sunset at Sorrento Restaurant & Bar 5pm-7pm bookings recommended by calling 4946 7454 or email bookings@sorrentowhitsunday.com

14 January: Dinner by Fish D’Vine

15 January: Clipper golf challenge at Proserpine Golf Club, bookings through 4945 1337

16 January: Lunch at Garden Bar Bistro, starts at 12pm, bookings recommended by calling 4946 4277

16 January: Little Ripper Clipper Cup, spectators can watch from the Sailing Club from 11:30

16 January: Australiana long lunch at Whitsunday Sailing Club, commences at 11:30, tickets available from Whitsunday Sailing Club at $95.00 per person.

18 January: Rodeo by the Reef at Bowen foreshore. Doors open at 4pm, tickets available here.

18 January: Parade of sails Coral Sea Marina Resort, free event at Coral Sea Marina Resort, South Marina from 11:30am to 2:30pm