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On May 15th the significance of the day was not lost on those taking part in Clipper 09-10 as ten yachts lined up on the start line for the short sprint to Jamaica, the crew of Cork, Ireland racing together again as a single unit for the first time since their original boat ran aground in Race 5.

As the Irish team prepared to leave the marina on Saturday Noreen Osborne, one of Cork’s round the world crew, said, “I haven’t slept a wink. I think it’s going to be exciting to get Cork out on the water. It was a very proud moment when we came into the marina yesterday and saw her dead ahead of us in her Cork colours.

“We’ve got a full fleet leaving Shelter Bay, which is going to be pretty awesome. It’s been four months since everybody’s been together in this way and I think Cork’s going to get a great reception out on the water. I think everybody’ll be a bit emotional on board and the other crews as well; I think they’re excited for us at the same time.

“It’s a very different boat, it’s going to take us a bit of time to get used to the lay of the land and the way it works but we’ll do our very best to get out there and sail hard and sail fast. Hannah (Jenner, the skipper) is really motivated and determined and says a lot of people start to tire and slacken off at this stage but she wants to keep full throttle on so everybody, just man up and do whatever needs to be done. So it’s going to be interesting!”

Making final preparations before leaving the marina, Skipper Hannah Jenner said, “It’ll be nice to get out and get settled into it. A few people have been here for a long time and have got cabin fever. Last to join the boat due to a longer than average transit through the Panama Canal on Cape Breton Island, Orla Mellett arrived in Shelter Bay Marina late on Friday night and her first priority was to go to see her new boat.

“She’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s great to have our own boat back again and she looks great in the water. I can’t wait to see her with the other nine boats and to be ten again. When I saw her last night I was pretty stuck for words and that’s unusual for me. To finally see her… she looks amazing.”

In addition, for the first race on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal there was a palpable feeling that the 35,000-mile race is on the home strait. There are still six races, including this one, to be contested and competition among the fleet for the coveted podium positions and the valuable points that come with them is stronger than ever.

The teams left the marina in drenching tropical rain and zero wind and the race start line was set 50 miles from the coast of Panama. At 1831 local time (2331 GMT) Race 9 got underway with a Le Mans start in 15 knots of breeze from the north east.
All ten boats lined up for the rolling Le Mans start where the crews race to hoist their headsails in the fastest possible time.

Most of the fleet opted for their Yankee 1 with Hull & Humber, Team Finland and Uniquely Singapore making cracking starts but it wasn’t long before overall race leaders Spirit of Australia pushed their way through to rival Hull & Humber at the front of the pack.

The 520-mile upwind sprint to Port Antonio on Jamaica’s north coast is likely to be one of the closest of the Clipper 09-10 campaign. The race to Port Antonio, once home to Hollywood legend, Errol Flynn, is expected to take three to four days and, after the short but busy pit stop in Panama and a sprint even Jamaican hero Usain Bolt would be proud of, the teams will be able to relax and enjoy all Jamaica’s vibrant north coast has to offer.

Overall leader board after Race 8

1.    Spirit of Australia                        83 points
2.    Jamaica Lightning Bolt               68 points
3.    Team Finland                               67.3 points
4.    Cape Breton Island                      59 points
5.    Hull & Humber                           47 points
6.    Qingdao                                      45 points
7.    Uniquely Singapore                    42 points
8.    Cork                                            36.8 points
9.    Edinburgh Inspiring Capital       28 points
10.  California                                    23 points

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