Westernaustralia.com, the Australian entry in the Clipper 05-06 Round the World Yacht Race surged over the start line this afternoon after a spectacular in-shore match race that signalled the start of the race north to Singapore.
Thousands of people lined Fremantle Harbour to witness the ten Clipper yachts race around a series of buoys that gave the crowds incredible views of the fleet as they sped past at around 10 knots. John LONGLEY, CEO of Fremantle Chamber of Commerce and of Australia II Americas Cup fame provided dramatic commentary for the people lining the harbour, who were basking in a festival atmosphere in the mid-summer sun.
At 13.00hrs local time, 18-year-old Sam GALLAGHER, leaving the team here in Fremantle but the youngest crew member to be taking part in this race fired the start cannon aboard Zingara, the same cannon that started the America's Cup here in 1983.
An aerobatic display of Tigermoths and Chipmunks executed daredevil stunts to wow the crowd before westernaustralia.com got the perfect start and looked unstoppable as she thundered through the harbour, under the careful helming of local-boy Jamie WEEDEN.
As she crossed the start line and hoisted her medium weight spinnaker to begin her charge northwards past Cottesloe and Scarborough beaches to Singapore, the crowds were still dancing to the sounds of 'Land Down Under' with Australian flags, entertainers on stilts and face-painters providing a carnival atmosphere at Fremantle Harbour.
Fremantle has come alive this weekend with Clipper Fever after Saturday's samba band crew parade through the streets of the old town, followed by a sensational firework display over Fishing Boat Harbour. Today's incredible scenes provided the perfect start to 2006 and will stay long in the memory of those who witnessed the event.
By the time the teams had reached Scarborough beach, westernaustralia.com, under a medium-weight spinnaker, had opened up a half-mile lead as the home team and race leaders look to build on an incredible run of form. Crowds were thronging the beaches with the surrounding roads jammed with traffic that backed up for several miles in all directions.
The next leg of the 2005-2006 Race sees the Clippers race north to Qingdao in China via Singapore where they will spend two weeks enjoying the delights of the island before continuing north to China and Japan.