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Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test - Newcastle arrivals - 4 January

by Clipper Round the World Race 4 Jan 13:24 GMT 4 January 2024

The next and final batch of arrivals into Newcastle saw warm welcomes all around for the crew as they completed Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test- a race that has been exactly that. There was a mixture of relief and elation on the teams faces, as they have battled upwind and windless conditions, and a tricky East Australian Current that added an extra bit of resistance on the final stretch into port.

After a hard overnight slog, at around 1400 Local Time on 3 January the wind shifted to a southerly direction, bringing an end to the seemingly endless upwind beat and providing some much-appreciated downwind conditions. This change in wind direction gave the fleet a welcomed extra boost to the Finish Line and ended the frustrating final few days of the race.

First to arrive in Newcastle on Day 3 of arrivals was sixth-placed Perseverance. The team crossed the Finish Line at 05:12:43 UTC. Perseverance had a strong start to Race 5, maintaining a good position in the frontrunning pack from the outset. The team narrowly missed out on a Scoring Gate win, but after some close racing with Qingdao the team crossed in second, picking up two extra bonus points for this race, a welcome addition to the six points gained for placing sixth.

Joss Creswell, First Mate on Perseverance said on arrival: "It's lovely to be here! We had a kite up over the Finish Line which was very nice and dramatic! I'm really proud of the team, and we've had a super fun time and although it was a bit of a slog at the end we had some great sailing, especially around Tasmania. It was really cool to fight back from tenth or ninth up to sixth place. The new joiners have improved so much!"

Pippa Jephcott, who joined in Fremantle for this leg, reflected on her first race on board Perseverance: "It was tougher than expected, this is my first leg, so it was a bit of a learning experience with some seasickness at the beginning. But we had lots of different conditions and a lot of fun, and it was great getting to know everybody on board. We fell down in the rankings a little bit in the middle of the race, but we brought it back so I was really happy! Two points in the Scoring Gate were great which gives us a better position, but in retrospect I think we wish we'd gone south and avoided it but happy to come through with a few extra points!"

Ineke Van Der Weijden, Skipper of Perseverance said: "The race was good, it had a lot of different things in it. We decided to go for the Scoring Gate early on which meant we were playing catch up with the rest of the fleet. There were a lot of mini battles. One with Qingdao for the Scoring Gate, then with Qingdao, PSP Logistics and Our Isles and Oceans around Tasmania, then we got a bit of a lead on all of them, and the last couple of days has been about defending the lead which we managed to do. I was thrilled to have Joss back for this race, we created this race and campaign together and we complement each other well."

Next in was Qingdao, crossing the Finish Line just outside of Newcastle Harbour at 08:04:44UTC and landing seventh place in the standings. The Chinese team entry managed a stint at the top of the leader board for the first section of the race, however the decision to aim for the Scoring Gate may have proved costly. Although it gained the team three extra points for crossing through first, the gamble of sticking further north than the fleet provided less favourable winds than the boats that headed south. Heading up the east coast of Australia, Qingdao raced closely with PSP Logistics, with the two teams tacking across each other in the hunt for the lead over the other. However, it was Qingdao that managed to clinch seventh, with Mike, Lottie and the team on PSP Logistics dropping to eighth.

Qingdao will scoop up five points on this race, plus three bonus points from the Scoring Gate, allowing the team to jump up a place on the overall race standings from 10th to 9th place on the table.

Arriving into port skipper Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez said: "This race is always a challenge. One day you are on top, the next day you are at the back. I remind the crew every day that we are here to push ourselves and enjoy it, and that's what we do, just keep pushing."

AQP Steve Westwood who will be stepping off for a new role within the Clipper Race, said on his final crossing: "It was tough. The seas were big, especially off the south of Tasmania. We took a gamble to go for the Scoring Gate which put us in a wind hole, but hopefully it paid off. I am sad to leave such a great team as we are a happy team."

It's not over until it's over, and it was PSP Logistics who crossed the Finish Line at 09:40:40 UTC and took eighth place on Race 5.

After spending most of the day with Our Isles and Oceans hot on its tails, PSP Logistics managed to keep hold of the court and arrived into Newcastle just 29 minutes ahead of its closest competitor.

A race of two halves for the team, PSP Logistics left Fremantle with the wind its tails and spent the first few race days edging towards a front running position. It then gathered momentum as it rounded Cape Leeuwin and spent a number of days in a leading place. maintaining a consistent fifth or sixth position until the tricky section along the east coast, where the team dropped back a few positions.

Not to have team spirit dampened, skipper Mike Miller said: "We've had the most amazing race. Bit of everything really, something to make them laugh, something to make them cry! It's been neck and neck fighting the whole way. Big storms and waves and the crew have been fantastic."

Newcastle native Dianne McGrath shared: "It's a very emotional homecoming tonight and seeing the lights of Newcastle. I was lucky enough to helm across the Finish Line. It means a lot to me. To helm across the line holding the wheel and to hear everyone on the boat cheer as we crossed was just fantastic. I wasn't expecting to be able to do that, so it was a real honour to do that!"

Finishing in 9th place in Race 5 was Our Isles and Oceans. Max, Tom and the team crossed the Finish Line at 10:09:50UTC, gaining three points on the overall scoreboard. The team raced closely with both Qingdao and PSP Logistics on the final stretch of the race up the east coast toward Newcastle, with just 29 minutes between them and PSP Logistics.

AQP Tom Newsom said: "We are doing well, I'm really glad to see my family. It's been a fun leg, we've had all sorts of weather. We've had the heart from the Australian land, good surfing around Tasmania, which was so much fun, I want to do that again, and the team have once more proved that they are ocean sailors."

The team put in a valiant effort, and skipper Max Rivers said: "It's been a long journey. Longer than we expected. A lot of variation, wind holes around the start, very heavy winds around Tasmania. We had fantastic downwind conditions getting everyone to helm, and then a real tactical battle up the coast. The crew smashed through everything. We had a really close battle with PSP Logistics, and it ended up being three miles difference in the end, especially when we started with a 20-mile gap at the beginning of the day. I am so proud of the team, even though we are at the back, they did so well."

Finishing in tenth place was Washington DC, with the team sailing over the Finish Line at 15:36:55 UTC. For the teams lower down in the fleet, it was a very tough race. After rounding Tasmania, the teams were plagued by wind holes, tricky headwinds and the added challenge of a strong current going against them.

AQP Cameron McCracken reported from the yacht during the final days of the race: "Ultimately, regardless of how hard this race can be sometimes, it's the reason we're here. There are a lot of times when we might feel like we just want to get into port, especially when other teams are already in (congratulations to Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam on another win and Dare To Lead on another podium) but this also isn't why we're here. As cliché as it sounds, the Clipper Race is about the journey you go on, literally, but also as individuals and as a team. It's not about the destination else it'd be called the Clipper Round the World Stopovers. We may be upwind, and the tacking angles terrible, but it's sunny, we're still racing and it's actually lovely sailing weather!"

On arrival into Newcastle, Skipper Hannah Brewis commented: "That was a really tough race. We had quick a big breakage at the start. We managed to fix it fine but it put us 60-70 miles behind the rest of the fleet. The last few days were really, really tough with upwind, light wind and currents, but we kept going. We had a really goodtime, it was a very good race and very rewarding to get in."

Lastly, it was the Yacht Club Punta del Este team that arrived in the marina ready to celebrate with the ten other teams at Friday night's Prizegiving. Sailing across the line at 19:43:65UTC, Nano, Angus and the crew docked in the NCYC, marking the end of the fifth race in the circumnavigation. Writing in his final blog of Race 5, Nano Antia said: "Difficult times teach us a lot. Even though now we are losing the third place in the overall standings, we are having fun sailing, everyone is helming, and trimming, you can hear laughs, and at the end of the day, that's why we are here, to have a good time. We are not even halfway around and there is so much time to catch up, keep believing in us, we will deliver."

Speaking from the pontoon, AQP Angus Whitehead said: "It was super-fast downwind sailing, blasting down waves for about 4% of the journey! It was a lot of upwind, it was quite tough. The team was fantastic. It was the Sta-Lok Endurance Test, and the whole team just kept going."

Round the world crew member Laura Amorim said: "It was a tough one again, but we're going to get better. Christmas and New Year was amazing, we had an amazing party and it was super fun."

Skipper Nano Antia said on arrival: "We always keep the morale high, and the lows teach you a lot. It's part of life, it's the rollercoaster of life. Now it's just about keeping ourselves together, thinking ahead, and we are looking forward to enjoying Newcastle. I have my best friend and girlfriend here so that will be great.

"It was very special to celebrate Christmas and New Year with this bunch of people. It was beautiful with the moon, dolphins, non-alcoholic champagne... something I will remember forever."

All eleven yachts are now docked in Newcastle, and it's time to celebrate in style at the Prizegiving ceremony at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club's waterfront. Drinks, dancing and prizes are on order for the intrepid teams, with the chance to come together with fellow crew and celebrate the amazing achievements of this race.

The fleet will be docked in NCYC until 10 January, with the weekend of 6-7 January providing the opportunity for the public to come down and visit the boats, meet the crew and see what life is like on board a Clipper 70 racing around the world.

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