How the Clipper Race came to the Whitsundays
THE 24-year history of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has allowed amateur sailors to explore every corner of the globe.
But the inclusion of our slice of paradise was a more modern conception, brought about by owner of Coral Sea Marina Resort Paul Darrouzet.
The race previously stopped in the Gold Coast for the east Australian leg, but after Mr Darrouzet recognised the potential of the heart of the reef, he travelled to London to persuade the co-founder and CEO of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race William Ward to include Coral Sea Marina into the itinerary.
Mr Darrouzet said it was the beauty of the Whitsundays and the tight-knit community that acted as a drawcard in bringing the race here.
"After I bought the marina in 2013, we were all looking around for events that would attract boating and boating enthusiasts to our region," he said
"I read about the Clipper and it has been going on since 1996, so I flew to London and met with a guy called William Ward.
"I was encouraging him to make Airlie Beach one of the principal stopover ports in Australia because they'd never ever been here before, and we've got arguably the best cruising ground on the planet.
"After a lot of negotiation, we eventually agreed that the 2015/16 Clipper race would come to Airlie Beach and it did. I think the thing that appealed to the Clipper people is that Airlie is a small sailing community so getting the Clippers here is a big deal.
"If you're in Sydney or San Francisco or Rio de Janeiro you're just 11 boats in a massive cosmopolitan city, so the appeal is not quite as big for the local yachting community as it is here."
The bi-annual race sees 11 boats competing in a round-the-world sail that covers more than 40,000 nautical miles.
Airlie Beach would be the fourth stop for the yachts who will sail on to China and across to the United States before they complete the race in London in August.
Mr Darrouzet said the Whitsundays was the ideal stop-over for the middle point of the race where crews were reunited with their family and can have a longer break from sea.
"Because of the length of time they spend here there's a lot of friends and family that travel from London or Europe to see their husbands, sons, daughters and wives," he said.
"And because it's the longest stopover they ever have it's very good for us because they're doing all these events, they're going on tours, they're going out to the islands and doing all the sorts of things that tourists do."
While the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race's 2020 arrival would be the third that featured the Whitsundays in its itinerary, Mr Darrouzet hoped the area would remain on the map for many years to come.
"We got them here in 2016 and it was a very, very good event and their people became very enthusiastic about this and the region," he said.
"The last event we had in 2018 was also fabulous because there were other things tacked onto it and it became a lot bigger.
"This year is the culmination of the experience and the learnings from 2016 and 2018 and I'm really happy they're all coming here."
"It's a privilege to have them here, we like it and they like it so it's a win-win."