SPORT — Boxing Kangaroo delivers knockout punch to Qingdao’s dragon

SPORT - Boxing Kangaroo delivers knockout punch to Qingdao's dragon

November 13: It could hardly have been closer... after 3300nm miles of ocean racing Spirit of Australia pipped Qingdao to the post to take sixth place in Race 3 of Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race. The Boxing Kangaroo landed its knockout punch at 2236 local time (2036 GMT), while Qingdao had just over a mile to go to the finish.

In the cruellest of twists, that last mile took the Chinese team 47 minutes to complete as the wind died away to nothing, leaving the yacht ghosting with the tide towards the finish line, finally drifting across at 2323 local time (2123 GMT).

The two teams have been match racing across the South Atlantic with the advantage passing from one to the other time and again. At times the paths of the boats have crossed, at others they have taken divergent courses, Qingdao diving south while Spirit of Australia stayed to the north. And, as the end game played out, Qingdao opted for a slightly more northerly position than Spirit of Australia, which positioned at a better angle to the wind, enabling them to race ahead of the Chinese entry and overtake them with just 18nm to go to the finish. In the end it was the Boxing Kangaroo that doused the Dragon’s fire.

Brisbane-based Spirit of Australia skipper, Brendan Hall, said: “We managed to claw our way back to near Qingdao right towards the end, but we had such a rough time in the middle there. We had three days where absolutely nothing went our way and we had disaster after disaster after disaster.

“Just to be not last is an achievement and to be sixth is just something we’re absolutely ecstatic about. We knew we’d got it when we were converging… we gybed and we were just in front of them… we could see their bow lights and knew from there it was ours to lose,” he said.

Chris Stanmore-Major, the Hong Kong-based skipper of Qingdao said they ran through the gamut of emotions during the final hour of the race. “I think approaching the coast and seeing Spirit of Australia there, seeing their lights as it went to dusk and trying to work out the angles and who’d got the advantage, that was our first feeling that we could do it; then increasingly becoming aware that this was going to be very close then, oh oh, they’re going ahead and then, when the last bit of news came in from Port Control that they were one mile ahead and the light and the wind were both fading was pretty hard work, but we’ll bounce back, we always do,” said Stanmore-Major.

Hall knows exactly how they’re feeling. “I have every sympathy for them having to drift across the line — we had the same experience in La Rochelle when Hull & Humber just pipped us so we know how they’re feeling right now. But they’re great competition, they’re very, very good sportsmen and it’s a pleasure to race against them,” he said.

With just three of the 14 races in the series conducted, there are still a lot of points up for grabs and Stanmore-Major is confident his team has what it takes to learn from these early ones and move up the leader board.

“This race has had a very different character to the first one, which was very relaxed in lots of ways, lots of days sitting out on the water with nothing to do and nowhere to go, just waiting for the wind; but on this one, every day was full of action, every day was hard, and we’ve learned a lot about the boat, about ourselves and our abilities and it’s been a great education,” Stanmore-Major said.

“We’ve brought the boat through everything; we’ve no damage to anybody or anything, so we’re happy. If we can keep the boat in one piece we’ll get there in the end,” he said.

Race 3 was won by Cork, Ireland, who finished at 1438 local time (1238 GMT) on November 12. Team Finland emerged victorious from their battle for second place with Uniquely Singapore who finished third.

Seven of the 10 68-foot yachts are now berthed in Royal Cape Yacht Club, Hull & Humber and Jamaica Lightning Bolt having arrived this afternoon. The remaining three yachts, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital,
Cape Breton Island and California are due over the weekend and are all expected to be alongside in the marina by Sunday afternoon.

The whole fleet will move to the V&A Waterfront on Friday, November 20 where the yachts will be available for public viewing. The race will restart on Sunday, November 22, the yachts departing the V&A at 11am for start of the race from Cape Town to Geraldton-Greenough, Western Australia, at 2pm.

The Clipper 09-10 Race started from the Humber on the northeast coast of England on September 13 and returns there on July 17, 2010. It is the only event in the world where people from all walks of life can take on the challenge of a lifetime and race around the globe on stripped-down 68-foot ocean racing yachts. Calling at 14 ports on six continents, the race takes 10 months to complete. The fleet is due to arrive in Geraldton between December 14 and 18, and in Qingdao between February 19 and 22.