AIRLINE SAYS BON VOYAGE
THEY came, they saw and they sailed out of Airlie Beach.
On Monday afternoon, the Clipper Round the World Race crews slipped the lines on their 12, identical 70ft yachts, ahead of their departure from Australian shores on the next leg of their global adventure.
Race 7: The Da Nang New Discovery of Asia Race, didn’t officially get underway until 3pm on Tuesday, 100 nautical miles offshore, to avoid racing through the reef.
Meanwhile the fleet was given a Whitsundays-style escort out of Pioneer Bay, with the Volunteer Marine Rescue team and at least a dozen local boats braving the wind and rain squalls to see the crews off.
Back on dry land it was initially something of an anticlimax at the Abell Point Marina, which has literally been abuzz with activity for the past week.
Co-owner of the marina’s Bohemian Raw cafe Kat Harrison said hosting the event had been an “amazing” experience.
“It’s put so much life into the marina – we’ve loved it,” she said.
“We’ve had such a great week, I think we’re a little disappointed it’s over.”
Ms Harrison noted the economic boost the event had triggered saying her cafe’s takings had doubled through- out the week.
David Paddon from the neighbouring Barcelona tapas bar, said likewise, his numbers had exceeded any event in town to date.
“So from the financial side it’s been well worth the investment but it’s about more than just the money,” he said.
“It’s been great to see the locals participating – this really was the coming together of a yachting community.
“And what this has also done is shown people what life in a marina can be like – and at Barcelona this is something we want to keep on providing.”
Abell Point Marina manager Luke McCaul said from his point of view the event had been not just a monetary and morale boost to the town but a realisation of marina owner Paul Darrouzet’s long-term vision as well.
“Paul’s vision from the start was always to be a world-class destination marina and this event has probably been the epitome of that,” he said.
“From all reports, the crew and officials have said this was the best port they’ve been to and it’s very likely they’ll be back in 2018.”
Clipper Race communications manager Julia Wall-Clarke said Airlie Beach had certainly been her favourite destination to date.
“And all the crew – pretty much everybody has said the same,” she said.
“It’s been very obvious that we’ve been valued here and that total show of support has really helped make it a success.”
UNDERWAY: Da Nang Vietnam leads the Clipper Round the World fleet out of Airlie Beach on Monday.
SPECIAL EVENT: The Fish D'Vine Fireworks light up the Clipper fleet.
Photo: Sharon Smallwood
ESCORT: Local boats joined the Clipper fleet in a farewell Parade of Sail.