Cork welcomed home
At times during the last nine months the crew of Cork might have thought this moment would never arrive but on Sunday evening at 1947 local time (1847 GMT) they crossed the Kinsale finish line - an emotional moment as they led the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race fleet into their home port at the end of the final transatlantic crossing of the 35,000-mile contest.
Cork’s original yacht ran aground on a submerged reef in the Java Sea in January - Clipper’s first loss of a boat in 14 years and more than 2,000,000 miles of racing. The crew of Cork were dispersed among the other nine teams to continue their challenge and came together again in Panama when they took delivery of their replacement yacht, a steel-hulled Challenge 67.
After three tough races getting to grips with their new steed, the Cork crew certainly found their groove in the north Atlantic and proved once again that they are a force to be reckoned with on the water. They completed the 2,000-mile course from Cape Breton Island in a little over eight days, their corrected time from the timing gate, eight days, 30 minutes and 50 seconds. The rest of the fleet must now finish before approximately 1000 GMT in order to beat them.
A flotilla of around 40 boats greeted Cork as she rounded the headland, medium weight spinnaker flying, while around 2,500 people lined banks of the harbour to watch the team arrive home.
Arriving at Kinsale Yacht Club, where the team received a standing ovation from the members, and which will host the crews until 7 June, skipper, Hannah Jenner, said, “We made a pact that we would make sure we arrived in Cork being able to honestly say that we couldn’t have done any more – and we couldn’t. We’re here!
“I don’t think anybody out of the skippers or crew in Cape Breton would have believed that we were going to have held them off. We weren’t achieving the same high speeds as they were but whereas we were reading in the daily reports that they were on two reefs and a poled out yankee 3, we were full main and poled out yankee 2 and staysail and were disappointed when we put a reef in for about six hours while it was blowing 40 knots! I can’t believe we’ve made it across the Atlantic having only had a reef in for six hours and having downwind sailing the whole way.”
Paying tribute to her team, Hannah said, “The crew work has been immense. This boat is not easy to sail and they did a really good job.”
As Michael Lewis steered Cork across the finish line, fellow round the world crew member, Kevin Austen perched at the end of the spinnaker pole. He said: “It was something else – I was up there for quite a while, but luckily Michael just managed to keep her down so there was no heeling over and tipping me off! To see that many people come out – and we weren’t even expected in today – was magic. I’ve played a lot of rugby and a bit of football and today is by far and away the best sporting day of my life. By a mile. I’m trying to stop myself crying, to be honest!”
There weren’t many dry eyes on board as the crew were moved by the warmth of the reception in Kinsale.
Michael Lewis was at the helm as the team crossed the finish line and said, “It was fantastic – it was one of the toughest races we’ve done, physically and mentally. We really pushed the boat the entire way but fantastic fun and it’s great to be in here and what a welcome!
“We saw a few boats coming out and I was concentrating on helming. When I looked up, turned around and they were everywhere, it was just fabulous.”
Jacqui Browne, who was aboard the original Cork when she ran aground and later helped prepare the replacement yacht and deliver her to the rest of the crew in Panama, was ecstatic at the welcome.
“I had told the crew they’d get a great homecoming but they’ve exceeded 110 percent my own expectations!" she said. “The race was awesome, just fantastic. Everyone really worked hard together. It didn’t matter whether you were on or off watch, people were just so willing and wanted to drive this boat. We really got what we could out of her and we’ve no sails torn, no spinnaker damage, so we’re thrilled! She’s a very physically demanding boat – there’s a lot of sore muscles and aches and pains. Someone said earlier today, the smell of Deep Heat coming out of this boat – it’s like a rugby locker room!”
The Cork Clipper project is funded by Fáilte Ireland, Cork City Council and Cork County Council with the principal objective of promoting Cork as a tourism and business destination around the world.
Cork is the first of the ten yachts competing in Clipper 09-10 to arrive in Kinsale for the Cork Clipper Festival, a packed programme of food, arts and music events. The yachts will remain in Kinsale until 7 July when they will sail to the centre of Cork city where they will be berthed on the new city marina at Custom House Quay. For more information on the full festival programme, visit www.corkclipperfestival.com.
Waiting on the pontoon to welcome the crew of Cork to Kinsale was the Mayor, Cllr Michael Frawley, who said, “I am delighted to welcome the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race to Kinsale. We have been working to prepare a fantastic free festival over the next ten days and we look forward to offering all the visitors to Kinsale a true cead mile failte.”
All of the Cork crew have friends and family among the thousands expected to descend on Kinsale and Cork over the next 12 days.
Round the world crew member, Orla Mellett, said, “If I believe everything I have been told, between the Lewis, Mellett, Osborne and Austen families (the four Irish round the world crew members) they seem to be taking over about half of Kinsale!”
Because of the differences between Cork and the lighter and longer Clipper 68s, the Clipper 09-10 fleet is racing under IRC ratings and Cork must wait until all ten teams cross the finish line to see whether their Herculean efforts have been rewarded with a podium place at the prize giving ceremony on Wednesday 7 July in Cork City.
The yachts will be open to the public between 3pm and 5pm on Sunday 4 July in Kinsale and in Cork City between 11am until 1pm on Thursday 8 July. There will also be two presentations for those interested in taking part in the next edition of the Clipper Race, which starts in August 2011. The presentations will take place at Kinsale Yacht Club at 6pm on Sunday 4 July and in the Pegasus Suite at the Clarion Hotel, Cork, on Thursday 8 July.
The yachts will leave the centre of Cork at 1300 local (1200 GMT) on Friday 9 July for the start of Race 13, the penultimate stage of the 14-race series, to Ijmuiden, Netherlands. Clipper 09-10 will finish in Hull, UK, on Saturday 17 July 2010.