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Non-professional sailors preparing for Christmas at sea as they race 2,500 from WA to Newcastle, NSW

Over 200 non-professional sailors are preparing to set sail from Fremantle, Western Australia to Newcastle, NSW as Leg 4 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race begins this Tuesday 19 December.

The Clipper Race is a global sailing event that trains adventurers from all walks of life to race across the world’s oceans, with no prior sailing experience needed before undertaking the intensive four stages of training required to compete in the event. The race is split into eight legs across the 40,000nm circumnavigation, and participants can compete in one or multiple legs, with the entire race around the globe lasting eleven months.

Leg 4: the Australian Coast-to-Coast Leg, is known to be tough. With relentless conditions keeping sailors on their toes, this is a mental and physical challenge that sees the fleet dip further south than at any other point of the circumnavigation as they round Tasmania, giving crew members another taste of the Roaring Forties before racing up to Newcastle, NSW, the second of a trio of Australian stopovers on the Clipper 2023-24 Race, and a brand new Host Port on the race route.

Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test is the first of two races in this fourth stage of the Clipper Race. The 2,500nm race is scheduled to take the fleet of eleven yachts around 14 days to complete and sees the teams sail past Cape Leeuwin – one of three great capes that few have the privilege to sail around, as well as rounding Tasmania, another bucket-list tick for sailors.

Deputy Race Director Dale Smyth reports on the conditions ahead for the teams on this race to Newcastle. He said: “It’s a really challenging but exciting race that the crew are going to have. Because of the weather conditions from the beginning of this race, it’s looking to be quite a tough start. Traditionally here there are a lot of southerlies that blow, so it’s quite a hard beat right down until the fleet gets past Cape Leeuwin, and even then, it’s still a challenge trying to break through an area of high pressure until they get far south enough to start getting some westerlies. Once the teams are down in the south, they should get some good running conditions.

“The fleet will be going to the most southerly point of the circumnavigation, as the teams round the bottom of Tasmania, and then across the infamous Tasman Sea, where they can expect the infamous ‘southerly busters.’ After this, there will be a very tactical sail up to Newcastle against the East Australia Current. It’s going to be an interesting and very, very tactical race.”

Taking on the challenge are thirteen Australian nationals who alongside their fellow crew, will spend Christmas Day sailing around their home nation and through some of the toughest stretches of the ocean.

Speaking on prep day before setting sail, Leg 4 Race Crew and Australian Tim Thomas, said: “I chose Leg 4 of the Clipper Race because I grew up in Sydney and grew up watching the Sydney-Hobart Race. This was an opportunity for me to do the same length of water up and down the east coast of Australia, so that was a big one for me. Sailing around the bottom of Tasmania will be a big tick on the bucket list.

“I’ve been to Newcastle a number of times, fun place, really nice beaches, it’s great!”

Australian circumnavigator Justin Howard, racing on board PSP Logistics, added: “It was excellent to sail into my home territory. Now we’re heading round to Newcastle, which is very close to home, and then to Airlie Beach where I’m super excited to get to as I’ve spent a lot of time up there and in the Whitsundays. And I get to see my four children! I haven’t seen them for five months, so it’s going to be really cool.”

In total, 72 new crew are joining the Clipper Race for this leg, and they will get to sail into two iconic Aussie ports: Newcastle, NSW and Airlie Beach in Queensland. As the 200+ Race Crew prepare to set sail to spend Christmas and the holiday season at sea, each of the teams is planning to celebrate this unique experience in its own unique way.

Ineke Van der Weijden, Skipper of Perseverance, said “Some crew members are really into it, I think we have around 50m of tinsel on board! We also have Christmas dinner and Secret Santa planned, so we will definitely celebrate.”

Mike Miller, Skipper of PSP Logistics added: “Making life cheerful and uplifting for everyone on board is a super important part of maintaining crew morale and enjoying life together. So, the fact that we are able to spend some big celebrations together at sea is great. We’ve got some big plans for food and parties to try and make it as special as we can for each other. It’s really uplifting and a great way to show our appreciation.”

This edition features over 700 people, aged 18 to 71, representing 55 nationalities and many diverse backgrounds including electricians, orthopaedic surgeons, police sergeants and teachers. Each of the eleven teams are led by a professional Skipper and First Mate, and crew can sign up to one leg, multiple legs or the entire 40,000nm circumnavigation.

The Clipper Race got underway from Portsmouth, UK in September, and so far on this edition, its fleet has sailed over 17,000 nautical miles, having already visited Puerto Sherry, Spain, Punta del Este, Uruguay and Cape Town, South Africa before arriving at Fremantle in early December. Once the teams race around Australia to both Newcastle and Airlie Beach, they will head to Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, Qingdao and Zhuhai – China, then cross the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle and around the USA to Washington, DC, before returning to Portsmouth at the end of July 2024, via Oban, Scotland.

Friends, family and locals can watch the fleet departure and official start from the Fremantle Sailing Club on Tuesday 19 December from 1200 (Local Time), and various vantage points nearby, such as South Mole or Victoria Quay.

Follow the Clipper Race Fleet on its journey to Newcastle: