Hull & Humber take opening leg

As Clipper 07-08 fleet arrive in La Rochelle on leg one of their round the world race

Thursday September 20th 2007, Author: Heather Ewing, Location: Transoceanic
Hull & Humber stormed to victory in the first race of Clipper 07-08, crossing the line at La Rochelle more than 50 miles ahead of their closest rival, Liverpool 08. Hull & Humber’s win in their debut Clipper Race follows their first place finish in the North Sea Race for the Wilberforce Cup from Rotterdam to Hull during training.

After the start of the race in Liverpool where they crossed the start line second in winds gusting up to 44 knots, skipper Danny Watson and his crew had to use all their skill and judgement to keep the boat moving in very light airs as they approached the French coast. With 30 miles to go the yacht was doing little more than two knots until the sea breeze picked up and carried them, spinnaker flying, towards the finishing line.

As they crossed the finish line Danny said: “We’ve got a very happy crew on board.” Arriving back on the pontoon he sprayed the victor’s champagne and added: “It was nerve-wracking this morning when the wind died. You’re worried that any minute you’re going to see a white sail over the horizon and that they’ve got more wind than you to keep going. The crew were really fantastic and pulled together to get us here ahead way ahead of everyone else.”

Neil Jenkinson, Head of Culture and Major Events at Yorkshire Forward, sponsor of Hull & Humber, said, “It's fantastic that we're the first boat across the line in the first race to La Rochelle. We wondered whether we had used up all our luck winning the race for the Wilberforce Challenge Cup but that's not the case. We will now see whether we can build on this success as Hull & Humber continues to race around the world."

Due to the short length of the stopover and the lack of wind, the Race Committee has taken the decision to end the race for the rest of the fleet at 0000 UTC, allowing the remaining boats to motor towards La Rochelle.

Race Director Joff Bailey said: “It’s frustrating to have to call the first race prematurely for the rest of the fleet but in the current conditions the crews would not have the chance to rest, refuel and victual their boats before the departure on Sunday for Salvador. It is never an easy decision, but we took it in the best interest of the crews.”

Liverpool 08 looks likely to finish in second place with Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper pushing hard for a podium position.

Race 1 is a half-points race, with five points on offer for first place rather than the usual ten, down to half point for tenth place. After this short sprint, all the other races revert to full points with 10 points for first, nine for second and so on. Jamaica will receive half a point after retiring from Race 1, representing half of the normal one point awarded to boats that retire from a race.

The Race Committee has also decided to award the first penalties of Clipper 07-08 to yachts for infringing the race rules. During the start course in the River Mersey, Qingdao, New York and Jamaica left the Northern Mark (MV Gullmaren) to starboard rather than to port, infringing RRS rule 28.1. After considering various witness statements, video evidence taken from the helicopter and photographic evidence, the Race Committee has decided to apply a five-minute time penalty to New York and Qingdao reflecting that no advantage was gained. Jamaica will not be penalised due to her retirement.

Jamaica arrived in port shortly after Hull & Humber having retired from the race following an injury to a crew member on Monday. They have motored from the Cornish coast in order to meet the rest of the fleet in La Rochelle. Skipper Simon Bradley once again praised his crew for their calm professionalism. Messages of support from family and friends have been passed on by the Race Team and Simon says, “We will take some time to rest and recover here in La Rochelle but we’re itching to get going on the race across to Salvador.”

This is the sixth edition of the Clipper Race and the stopover in La Rochelle marks the first ever time the fleet has visited France. Crews are looking forward to visiting the largest international floating boat show, Le Grand Pavois, which is on at the same time as the fleet visit.

The ten 68-foot yachts will be berthed in the Bassin des Chalutiers in the centre of La Rochelle where, with their vibrant forestay banners and battle flags, they are expected to prove a colourful attraction for the 100,000 people set to visit the French town over the next five days.

Joff Bailey added, “I would like to thank the team of volunteers from the Société des Régates Rochelaise who helped us set the finish line and escort Hull & Humber into port. We are all looking forward to the crew barbecue at the yacht club on Saturday night.”

The rest of the fleet is due in La Rochelle on Thursday 20 September, the first yachts arriving during the morning and those bringing up the rear arriving in port on the evening tide.

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