Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

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.”

Photo: Sharon Small­wood

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.

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