Coetzer goes from Juan to two

Juan Coetzer
Juan Coetzer
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Portsmouth skipper Juan Coetzer was celebrating this week after his ever-improving Geraldton Western Australia took line honours on the latest leg of the Clipper Race.

The victorious crew were dropped to second on the leg leaderboard after Dutch entry De Lage Landen, who crossed the Qingdao finish line 23 minutes behind, were given redress by the race committee after standing by Gold Coast Australia who had two crew taken off earlier in the race from Singapore.

‘Hard work and patience have paid off for us,’ said a delighted Coetzer soon after docking in the Chinese port.

‘De Lage Landen was hot on our heels all the way, but we managed to beat them for line honours.’

Coming after a third place on the preceding leg, their second podium finish in succession has moved Geraldton up to mid-table after some early, lacklustre performances.

Overall race leader Gold Coast Australia managed a remarkable third place after diverting to Taiwan to evacuate two injured crew members – Australian Tim Burgess with a leg broken in two places and Briton Nick Woodward as a precaution after he was hurled so hard against a locker that his head cracked the plywood.

Their injuries were indicative of the tough upwind conditions faced by the amateur crews of the 10 Clipper yachts.

Southsea yachtsman Ian Geraghty, crew member and navigator aboard Geraldton, gave some sense of the experience in a report as the fleet headed north into the teeth of freezing winter gales in the South China Sea.

‘As the wind has been mostly Force seven or eight, the waves have been interesting to say the least,’ said Geraghty.

‘Helming the boat takes huge concentration because we want to avoid launching our 38-ton boat off the waves and slamming as it lands.

‘Unfortunately, sometimes it is unavoidable.

‘You know you have got it wrong when you feel the front of the boat go airborne, then you wait to feel how big a crash it is.’

The Volvo organisers postponed the start of the leg last weekend by several hours in the face of forecast storms, leading to criticism from some current and former Volvo racers that they were devaluing the race.

In any event, some bragging rights have clearly been passed to the pay-as-you-go Clipper crews.