Sailing the Clipper Race Day event on Pioneer Bay.
Sailing the Clipper Race Day event on Pioneer Bay. Peter Carruthers

Sailing the Whitsundays on a Clipper 70

FOUR Clipper 70s took time off from their global circumnavigation to do some short course sailing on the waters of Pioneer Bay on Friday.

Crewed by mostly novice sailors taking part in one of the many events of the Whitsunday Clipper Carnival, the event offered a crash-course on Clipper yacht sailing before giving sailors a hands-on ocean yacht racing experience.

A brisk 20-25 knot breeze from the south-west powered Great Britain, Liverpool 2018, Garman and PSP Logistics as crews practised gybing, tacking and changing sails ahead of the race proper.

On board PSP Logistics skippered by Matt Mitchell were marine content producers from across the Australian eastern seaboard including the editor of Cruising Helmsman, Phillip Ross, Liliana Engelhardt from Club Marine and John Zammit from Shipmate Directory who were on a three-day Clipper famil sponsored by Abell Point Marina.

Buoys dropped in the water at Woodwark, Pioneer Rocks and a mark at the northern end of the bay formed the course and the race countdown began.

Mitchell considered the race to be an extension of the Wondrous Whitsunday Race in which PSP Logistics finished second to Visit Seattle.

An exceptional start by the three-time Clipper Round the World Veteran got PSP Logistics off to an unassailable lead which was never threatened.

Beginning his Clipper skipper career with Mission Performance in the 2013-14 race, Mitchell then took charge of Telemed for the 2015-16 race before signing on with PSP Logistics in 2017-18.

Growing up sailing yachts Mitchell spent a season crewing for racing yachts in the Caribbean Sea.

"I started getting paid a decent wage and thought 'this is quite nice, I will carry on doing it'," he said.

Getting his "wings" racing in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas sailing in the Middle Sea race from Malta, Antigua Sailing Week, the St Maarten Heineken Cup Regatta and the Caribbean 600.

"My main aim was to sail around the world with Clipper and when I felt I had accrued enough experience I applied with Clipper."

Mitchell was quick to respond to the question: "What was the biggest challenge facing a Clipper Round the World Race skipper?"

"We often joke that sailing the boat is the easy part, its definitely the people management that can be very tough," he said.

"You have got a lot of expectations to meet and manage and keeping everyone safe as well, some of the guys are not very experienced sailors, especially if there is a big storm and you have people who are not very agile.

"We have had a few people die on the race, so it can get pretty serious.

PSP Logistics is currently in fifth position on the Clipper leader-board at the halfway point in their global ocean odyssey.

After having three podium finishes out of six races and being one of the top three finisher when the fleet returns to London was flagged by the Mitchell and his crew as an achievable goal.

While in the Whitsundays the PSP Logistics skipper has plans to rent a car and "make the most of this beautiful part of the world".

Life onboard a Clipper 70

Watch leader onboard PSP Logistics, David Kemp, said his crew had gelled well as an efficient sailing unit but he didn't expect it to be that way.

"I thought one of the hardest things would be living in close proximity to a bunch of people I didn't know and trying to get on with each other," he said.

"But we have not had those problems, and I think we have all gelled pretty well as a crew.

"The challenge we have is that every leg the crew revolves as you get new people coming on board.


Below decks including view of the galley on board PSP Logistics.
Below decks including view of the galley on board PSP Logistics. Peter Carruthers

There are eight core crew members - of a full compliment of 22 sailors - that have signed up for the complete circumnavigation onboard PSP Logistics.

"You have to retrain and reintegrate, that is the hardest bit.

Aside from the skipper there are also two professional coxswains who run the boat for two 12-hour watches.

Following the chain of command comes the watch leader and then an informal hierarchy is established based on an individual's skill set.


The navigation room onboard PSP Logistics.
The navigation room onboard PSP Logistics. Peter Carruthers

On the issue of fatality at sea, Kemp said for him it wasn't something that entered his mind.

"It's not an issue for me, I always feel very at home on a boat and very safe on a boat," he said.

"As long as you clip-on and follow fairly standard safety procedure, it should be alright.

"I have never felt during this race that we were ever in trouble," he said.

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