In a thrilling end to a gripping race from Tauranga, New Zealand, in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, Visit Finland - skippered by Chichester’s Olly Osborne - has denied the home favourite, Gold Coast Australia, their sixth consecutive victory and a coveted home port win.
The Finns crossed the Race 6 finish line just after sunrise at 04.44 local time today (Tuesday) with the sun glinting off the distinctive high-rise skyline. They were just six minutes ahead of Gold Coast Australia at the end of the 1,300-mile race.
Osborne, from Itchenor, said: “This is our first podium top spot and we’ve been on the heels of Gold Coast Australia for a long time. It feels fantastic, it really does; we’ve been wanting to get there for so long. Bit of a shame it had to be her home port – I feel a bit mean about that, but that’s the brief and you’ve got to do your best, haven’t you!”
The people who take part in the Clipper Race come from all walks of life and between them represent more than 40 different nationalities. They have one aim in common – to take on the challenge of a lifetime, a 40,000-mile (64,000-kilometre) circumnavigation under sail.
Olly continued: “The team is pretty ecstatic – the guys are over the moon. They really gave a hearty cheer when we crossed the line because they didn’t know either until the last half hour how it was going to pan out.”
For Tasmanian skipper, Richard Hewson and the crew of Gold Coast Australia, the arrival in their home port is bitter sweet. The warmth of the welcome, as Southport Yacht Club members, family and friends applauded them up the pontoon to the club house where breakfast awaited them, countered by the disappointment of such a narrow defeat to Visit Finland.
“Everyone did their best and the crew worked really hard. They sailed to the best of their ability, pushed themselves beyond the point they would normally push themselves in everyday life and that’s all I can ask for. I had a really good time, racing among all the other yachts.”
The record of six consecutive victories in a single edition of the race, which is now in its 15th year, has stood since Clipper 98.
“We didn’t get Alex Thomson’s record this time which I was really gunning for, but hey, there’s still another nine races to go so maybe we’ll get nine in a row, who knows!” said Richard.
The victory is extra special for one of Visit Finland’s crew members: Tea Tuominen is celebrating her birthday today.
“She came to me just after we finished and said, ‘It’s the best birthday present ever,’ and gave me a big hug!” said Olly, whose wife Lucy was on the quayside to greet him.