After a marvellous stay in Hong Kong, the Clipper fleet once more heads over the start line, this time bound for Singapore. Abigail Sollars reports from the start line
The Mid-day gun today, 1 April, signalled the departure of The Clipper Fleet from the Typhoon Shelter at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. The Yachts then motored out to the East of Hong Kong harbour, amid the ferries, container ships, junks and fishing boats which make this such a busy harbour.
They were headed for the start off the Nine Pin Islands, scheduled for 1400 local time where Sir Robin had planned them a course with a windward mark two miles from the start line. It was an exiting build up to the start, with the flow of commercial traffic continuing to stream out of Hong Kong Harbour, and a tug towing a container barge approaching the line just as the 5 minute gun was fired!
There was around 10 to 12 knots of breeze for the start and there was some difference of opinion among the boats as to which sail combination to opt for with Mermerus and Thermopylae opting for Staysail and No 1, the remainder flying Genoas.
As the time approached for the starting gun, the boats were beginning to converge on the line. However, fittingly, as I fired the gun Mermerus flew past right in fromt of me to take line honours. She was closely followed by Antiope and Ariel. The remaining start order was Serica, Thermopylae, Chrysolite and Taeping.
As the boats began their beat up to the Windward mark we set off to watch them round it. With the boats some distance from us it was difficult to tell who was coming out best from the tacking duels, but as they drew closer it became evident that Serica was going to be first round the mark, some 4 minutes ahead of the next placed boat Ariel. Apparently while out at the start of the San Fernando Race yesterday Serica had performed 3 clockwise circles in front of the Tin Hau Temple, a temple to the God of Seafarers and this practice is supposed to bring good luck; it had obviously paid off! Antiope was next round the mark, some 47 minutes after the start, with Chrysolite close behind. Meanwhile Taeping had made up 2 places since the start and rounded in 5th place. After Mermerus’s flying start she had dropped to 6th place (anything to do with the number 4 being considered unlucky in this part of the world?), with Thermopylae hot on her heels. Interesting to note that the two boats who had made a different sail choice had now dropped to the back of the fleet.
Once round the mark the boats headed off behind the Islands on a more downwind course. They were rapidly disappearing from sight, but as we headed back towards Hong Kong the first spinnaker was seen emerging from behind the Nine Pin Islands. Singapore here they come!