And they're off
Today beneath glorious blue skies in 10-12 knots of westerly breeze, the eight international Clipper yachts set sail on the first leg of the eleven-month challenge, racing to the Cascais Stopover in Portugal. A fantastic 45,000-strong crowd gathered in the award-winning Albert Dock and lined the banks of the Mersey to witness the start.
A very close start saw the fleet all coming in on a port tack, with Liverpool Clipper leading in the approach to the line. The local yacht then luffed, not to cross the race start line early, and Hong Kong came just to windward at full speed to cross the line on the gun.
As the fleet tussled for positions, Hong Kong reached the first mark ahead of the fleet, but overshot enabling London Clipper, skippered by Chris Hazeldene, to take the lead.
At the Liverpool Yacht Club mark, London had extended her lead, whilst closely behind New York went wide of the line managing to take Hong Kong’s wind and moved into second.
Liverpool Clipper, under the helm of local skipper Adam Kyffin, chose then to take an inside route, making use of their local knowledge, and managed to make up a couple of places - much to the delight of the massive crowds lining the Mersey.
As the fleet then raced along the Mersey for the final time, embarking on the epic 35,000 mile marathon, London Clipper maintained a promising lead ahead of Richard Butler’s crew aboard Bristol followed in turn by New York, skippered by the first ever female Clipper skipper, Samantha Fuller.
Skippers and crews alike were glad to be under sail after yesterday’s severe weather caused the start of Clipper 2002 to be postponed for 24 hours and their enthusiasm was clearly evident when the teams proceeded through Canning Dock waving and chanting to their individual theme tunes.
The home team left the dock to an emotional rendition of "The Leaving of Liverpool" after what has been an exceptionally successful port hosting by the city of Liverpool.
Estimated fleet arrival in Cascais, Portugal, will be Monday, 4 November 2002