2 February 2010
Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore
The 68-foot ocean racing yachts competing in the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race set sail from Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore, this morning to a rousing send off featuring live music, a mass of flags and huge confetti cannons. The loudest cheer was reserved for the home team, Uniquely Singapore.
Skipper of Uniquely Singapore, Jim Dobie, who was born in the Republic, said, « We’ve had a great time here. We’ve had some time to explore Singapore, which has been great. We’ve had our fill of the excellent cuisine and that’s been wonderful! »
After ten activity-filled days in Singapore, the crews were eager, if a little nervous, to get back to sea for what is widely regarded as one of the most gruelling legs of Clipper 09-10.
Uniquely Singapore is sixth overall after the first five races and has already claimed one podium finish. Jim said, « We do well in quite heavy conditions but we don’t want to break the boat or the gear so it’s about being competitive and keeping the boat in one piece as well. We’re looking for lots of points from this race and I think we’ll be able to do it. »
Race 6 got underway at 1400 local time (0600 GMT) and Uniquely Singapore was third across the start line in five knots of easterly breeze, just behind Hull & Humber and California. Team Finland, Cape Breton Island, Jamaica Lightning Bolt and Qingdao followed, with Spirit of Australia and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital completing the order over the line.
The 2,600-mile race will take them through extremes of weather with light winds and searing heat to begin, followed by strong headwinds and counter currents producing an extremely choppy sea state and bone-numbingly freezing weather as they beat their way north towards the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao.
A number of high ranking diplomats were at the departure ceremony, including Ambassadors from Finland, Vietnam and France, Canada’s High Commissioner to Singapore and the acting British High Commissioner to Singapore.
Serenading the teams ahead of their departure was local quintet, the Teng Ensemble, a group of musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. ‘Teng’ in Chinese means ‘indescribable sound’.
Lunar New Year, perhaps the most celebrated of Chinese festivals, will take place while the fleet is at sea. As a symbol of good luck and happiness, each of the crews was handed a box of oranges before they left the quayside.
Ten of the crew members of Cork, whose yacht grounded on a submerged reef during the race to Singapore, have been welcomed into the other teams in Clipper 09-10. They will race with them until their new yacht arrives in Panama for the start of Race 9 and their key priority is to race into Kinsale, Co Cork, when they and the rest of the Clipper 09-10 fleet arrive for an eight-day stopover in Ireland in July.
Round the world crew member, Marco Giana, from Dublin said, « I’m sailing on Team Finland, which I am really happy about. I know a lot of the guys on here which helps and it shouldn’t be too hard to fit straight in and get racing again. Of course I’m looking forward to getting on to the replacement boat and representing Cork when we sail in there on board a Cork yacht. I shall be wearing my Cork kit and will do so with great pride. »
Signalling the start of the boats’ departure, chairman of Keppel Corporation, Uniquely Singapore‘s Team Sponsor and owner of Marina at Keppel Bay, Dr Lee Boon Yang, struck a huge gong and confetti cannons exploded with millions of pieces of orange and red confetti, the festive colours of Chinese New Year.
Mr Choo Chiau Beng, CEO of Keppel Corporation, said, « With the slew of activities and events over this 10-day Singapore stopover, it has been a time of building networks and fostering camaraderie as well as meaningful exchanges of experiences and culture.
« It is this goodwill and friendship as well as the global outlook and team spirit provided by the Clipper Race platform that Keppel continues to leverage, to share our values and build in our people. »
As each of the boat songs was played in turn, the yachts slipped their moorings and turned towards the crowds cheering and waving flags to bid farewell before heading towards the Singapore Straits and the Race 6 start line.
William Ward, Chief Executive of Clipper Ventures, said, « The crew will be departing from here today with a host of happy memories. We have all been warmly welcomed and I add my thanks to those of the crews.
« I am pleased to say that we have also had a number of our international yacht sponsors in town who have used the Clipper Race stopover as a backdrop to generate business opportunities. These include our Canadian sponsors, Cape Breton Island, English sponsors, Welcome to Yorkshire, a Scottish delegation from Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Ireland’s Cork and Finnish sponsors, Team Finland.
« All in all, it has been an exciting week. In fact, we have also received a good number of enquiries from Singaporeans interested in getting on board Uniquely Singapore for the next race and to train at Keppel’s Sailing Academy, KBSA – the only sailing centre outside of the UK which offers Clipper Training. In fact, the Academy will be training a number of these individuals taking part in Clipper 11-12 as of tomorrow. »