Clipper '98 Adventure of Lifetime for Some

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (01/23/99)
By Ray Pendleton

What was this, a Transpac greeting in January? A 60-foot sailboat had tied up to Hawaii Yacht Club's "Aloha Dock" Tuesday morning, Hawaiian music was playing, alohas for the crew were being shouted and traditional leis and mai tais were ready for all.

Actually, it was the first boat - the sloop Ariel - of a fleet of seven to be making a stop-over in Hawai`i from an around-the-world race called Clipper '98.

You may remember a similar situation two years ago when the Clipper '96 fleet of eight boats visited us on their circumnavigation. It was the first time a 'round-the-world race had ever made a stop in Hawai`i.

Most such races round the world west to east, ignore the Panama Canal and cross the Pacific Ocean in the icy southern hemisphere between Australia/New Zealand and South America's Cape Horn.

Clipper '98's race course , on the other hand, except for the rounding of South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, is basically considered a warm water route.

A creation of the famed British solo circumnavigator Sir Robin Knox-Johnston , the race matches identical 60-foot sloops, named after famous English tea clipper ships that raced the world's ocean trade routes more than a century ago.

Although one boat shy of the '96 race, Clipper '98 is still following the same general format of that earlier contest.

The race began off Plymouth, England last October, with some 200 sailors divided among the seven boats. Each boat has a professional skipper, but the crew are just sailing enthusiasts - male and female - who have paid for the experience of sailing one or more legs of the circumnavigation.

For those who make the complete voyage, they will cover over 34,000 miles in 10 months, and visit 16 ports in such exotic locales as Madeira, San Salvador, the Bahamas, Cuba, Panama, the Galapagos, Japan, China, the Seychelles, South Africa, Brazil, the Azores, and of course, Hawai`i.

Clipper '98 race organizers have called Hawaii Yacht Club "Our most hospitable of hosts," and there seems to be no question that it will continue to be so.

Along with the traditional Transpac-style aloha greetings , well known by the best sailors in the world, the club members have planned several special activities.

Tomorrow afternoon the club will host a barbecue, which will include outrigger canoe races for the Clipper '98 crews. Two years ago the racers quickly learned the meaning of the Hawaiian word "huli" and I am sure this year's crews will learn it just as fast.

On Monday evening, HYC will introduce all of the racing crews at a no-host mixer and potluck pupu party. The party may present the best opportunity to learn why these mostly British sailors would choose to spend considerable amounts of time and money in such a challenging circumnavigation, but I'm sure the answers are as diverse as the individuals making the voyage.

For some it may be a rite of passage between youth and adulthood and for others it may be adding an exciting episode to a long life. Or, perhaps, some consider it the least expensive way to fill a dream, given what such a voyage would cost in one's own boat.

Whatever the answer, you can bet it will be an adventure they will speak of for a lifetime.

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