Professional sailor Conall Morrison, from Derry-Londonderry, was given a standing ovation at the official Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (RSHYR) Prize Giving in Australia yesterday evening after not only skippering his HotelPlanner.com team to its first race victory, in the Clipper 70 Class, but also for taking home the Most Meritorious Performance award for the famous event. As Afloat.ie previously reported the Lough Swilly skipper made a textbook retrieval of a man overboard from another boat, a feat that has already earned him an Afloat.ie sailor of the month award here.
The 35-year old Skipper said: “It’s an awesome feeling, like a little kid’s dream come true. The whole team worked so hard during the race and all our time put into safety has paid off. I couldn’t be prouder and it’s a credit not only to the crew on board but for the entire HotelPlanner.com team.”
The RSHYR, which is one of the most famous bluewater classic yacht races in the sailing calendar, doubled as the fifth stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race and the eleven-strong Clipper Race fleet was among 102 boats competing in the iconic bluewater classic from Sydney to Hobart, which set off on Boxing Day. The win marked Conall and his team’s first Clipper Race podium result.
It was an eventful race and at approximately 1700 local time (0600 UTC) on 26 December, HotelPlanner.com went to the assistance of another boat after being informed of a man overboard. The HotelPlanner.com crew successfully retrieved the man in the water within 15 minutes, and after the on board medical assistant determined he hadn’t suffered any injury, the crew member was returned to his vessel and both boats resumed racing.
It was an action that resulted in the team being awarded the Rani Trophy, judged by the RSHYR Committee for the Most Meritorious Performance, by the Governor of Tasmania, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AM, and the Skipper’s actions were commended by the Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, John Markos.
Despite the time lost, HotelPlanner.com managed to catch up with the Clipper Race fleet and was the tenth of eleven Clipper 70s to cross the line in Hobart after racing for 3 days, 4 hours, 31 minutes and 7 seconds, however the team emerged as the victor after redress was taken into account.
An international jury hearing arranged by the RSHYR Organising Committee awarded HotelPlanner.com with 120 minutes of redress and, as all eleven Clipper 70s had finished within 90 minutes of each other after racing 630 nautical miles, this was enough for Conall Morrison to claim victory over Wendy Tuck’s Sanya Serenity Coast, which had been the first Clipper 70 team to cross the line.
Upon receiving the plaque for coming first out of the Clipper 70s, Conall said: “I definitely feel sorry for Wendy and Sanya Serenity Coast who has had to give up their first place, but I think it is very deserved for everyone in my team. We sailed a good race, kept our eyes on the wind and changes, did loads of sail changes - especially near the end - and really pushed.”
The Clipper Race teams, which have already completed over 17,000 nautical miles of their global circumnavigation, are stopping over in Hobart for a few more days before departing for the sixth stage on Friday 5 January – this will take them up the east coast of Australia to the Whitsundays to finish off this All-Australian Leg.
After Australia, the Clipper Race fleet will race to Sanya and then Qingdao in China, before crossing the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, down the west coast of America to Panama, up to New York and then a final Atlantic Ocean crossing to Derry-Londonderry where the teams will arrive between 10 – 14 July 2018.
HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison can be sure of a warm welcome to his hometown, which will host the Foyle Maritime Festival between 14 – 22 July 2018, before the Clipper Race fleet departs on its final race to Liverpool, UK, where its circumnavigation will be completed on 28 July 2018.