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#ClipperRace - HotelPlanner.com made its debut in the Clipper 2017-18 Race and it didn’t take long to see that skipper Conall Morrison and his team of 57 crew, which included 15 different nationalities and people aged between 22 and 76, were going to fully embrace the company’s slogan of ‘bringing people together’.

From naming bunks after famous hotels to ‘Safety Sundays’, yoga on deck, and their catchy ‘Irish Rover’ team song, the HotelPlanner.com team quickly made its mark as one of the friendliest teams on the race.

However, the team was tested during Race 3, when it was forced to divert to Port Elizabeth for a medevac just days after leaving Cape Town. The unscheduled stopover did have a silver lining, though: six members of the Greenings team joined in Port Elizabeth and were warmly embraced by all on board.

“LiverpoolLiverpool celebrates the return of HotelPlanner.com after 11 months around the world | Photo: Clipper Ventures

HotelPlanner.com became the toast of the town in Hobart, Tasmania after winning the Clipper 70 Class of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, which doubled as Race 5. The team sealed the RSHYR win after being granted a 120-minute redress for going to the assistance of a fellow competitor shortly after race start on Boxing Day.

Adrian Hemmes, a round-the-world crew member on HotelPlanner.com, was the rescue swimmer and said at the time: “The training kicked in and everything went fast. Halyards were attached to myself and the helicopter strap and I was ready to go into the water.

“I swung myself over the railing and got hold of that orange line. Moments later, I was pulling our new, temporary crew member in, attached him to the helicopter strap and we both were hoisted out of the water. We were so prepared that we even had a blanket, some tea, and a warm sleeping bag ready for him.

“He was in a good mood and got the full HotelPlanner.com treatment – tea and cake included. Sadly, we couldn't keep our new crew member, even though he was already fitted with an orange fleece. Eventually he was put in a rubber dinghy and trailed behind, to be picked up by his former crew.”

The act didn’t go unnoticed. Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, John Markos, made special mention of HotelPlanner.com during the RSHYR prize-giving, commending the team for retrieving the man out of the water in 15 minutes.

The skipper was given a standing ovation, too, when he was given the Rani Trophy for Most Meritorious Performance, which was judged by the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Committee, and awarded by Governor of Tasmania Kate Warner.

The team was also a big hit in Qingdao after it emerged crew member Tom Parker, who completed Legs 5 and 8, had taught the team to number off in Mandarin and translated a speech from Morrison during the welcome ceremony at the Wanda Yacht Club.

The race across the North Pacific tested the entire fleet but saw HotelPlanner.com achieve one its best results.

Despite spending 28 days racing some 5,600 nautical miles across the world’s largest and most inhospitable ocean, there was just four minutes between the fourth-placed HotelPlanner.com and PSP Logistics in fifth.

Race 9 was also a chance for more fun, as Morrison explained in his Day 7 skipper blog: “I must tell you about the VHF quiz organised by our old romantic, super-bosun Nic Schellenberg. He took it upon himself to make an all-fleet call on the radio to run a gameshow over the VHF and had contestants lined up from HotelPlanner.com, Nasdaq, PSP Logistics and Visit Seattle.

“During the broadcast we were all huddled around the nav station with the on-watch all huddled around the helm VHF and hand-held set to listen to our willing bachelor Dr G’s Dulcet tones as he asked a series of questions to the four lovely ladies from each boat.”

One of the real highlights for HotelPlanner.com was the Derry-Londonderry stopover. With Morrison and round-the-world crew member Roseann McGlinchey returning home, the team was always going to make a splash, but the friendly Northern Irish city embraced and adopted the entire team. Family, friends and well-wishers cheered them in from the mouth of the River Foyle all the way into the city.

Of the welcome, round-the-world crew member Mary Frawley, from Tipperary, said: “I was really excited to arrive but this morning during our early morning watch when we saw the first glimpse of Ireland it was quite emotional.”

When the adventure finally came to an end after 11 months and 40,000 nautical miles, the bonds between the team were clear to see, with round-the-world crew member Graham Hill summing it up in his last crew blog: “I do feel this has been an amazing adventure. I could not have achieved it by myself and have been blessed to have been on a boat that has had an amazing crew.

“We always pulled together when the chips were down, to achieve the goal of getting safety from destination to destination around the world.

“We have had a lot of laughs on the way and have had to support each other through some very challenging times. We have been, to all intents and purposes, an extended family.”

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - HotelPlanner.com completed the Clipper Race arrivals for Race 3: The Dell Latitude Rugged Race to Fremantle, Australia on Sunday (26 November).

Skipper Conall Morrison, from Derry/Londonderry, says: “This race was full of good times and bad times, but plenty of fun times too.

Having the Greenings crew on board has added a bit of freshness and just added to the fun. You know, there was no pressure for the race really because we were behind from so early on, but even that just made it more fun.”

As well as points for finishing ninth, HotelPlanner.com will also add three bonus points to their overall tally after winning the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Jeremy Hill, one of the Greenings crew said: “For six of us to be able to continue the race is such a privilege. HotelPlanner.com absolutely took us in with open arms and were willing to let us contribute.

“We took on the way they ran their boat but we were also able to combine forces and do something a little different. Maybe a touch of HotelGreenings.com!”

Unicef maintained their pole position to take the Race 3 victory and their maiden podium in the Clipper Race on Saturday (25 November), followed an hour-and-a-half later by the tragedy-struck GREAT Britain team.

With all teams in, Clipper Race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “This has undoubtedly been the toughest leg in Clipper Race history.

“Ocean racing is an extreme sport and the training our crew go through is intense for this purpose, designed to prepare crew for the many eventualities that occur, even in the professional races.

“Whilst these are situations we aim never to encounter, it is always impressive to witness how strong the human spirit is when faced with adversity.”

Prizegiving for Race 3: The Dell Latitude Rugged Race took place yesterday (Monday 27 November) at the Fremantle Sailing Club. The teams won’t have long to rest, however, as Race 4 to Sydney sets sail this coming Saturday 2 December.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - In the past 24 hours, HotelPlanner.com was the final boat to cross the finish line of the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and, after all boat times were calculated, was declared the winner taking three points after racing the course in the quickest time of 26 hours and 44 minutes.

Despite being in 11th position at the back of the fleet, HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison and team have picked up three crucial bonus points already in Race 3: the Dell Latitude Rugged Race, the third leg of the 2017-18 Clipper Race.

“We are all very pleased with our result in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and need to thank our Greenings joiners who brought something extra to the table for us, re-stirring the desire and drive within the whole team,” said the Derry-Londonderry sailor.

Visit Seattle had the second quickest time, claiming two points with 27 hours and 4 minutes, and PSP Logistics picked up the final point with the third quickest time of 29 hours and 39 minutes.

Wendy Tuck, skipper of current race leader Sanya Serenity Coast, was quick to congratulate her rival Sskippers: “Well done Conall, Nikki and Matt on your Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint points. There’s not much sprinting going on right now - we have found the world famous Indian Ocean ‘keep you away from the cold wine’ Doldrums.

“We are here enjoying the sunshine and flat water. The ocean is an incredible blue but just one important ingredient missing, WIND!”

Yesterday’s race leader, PSP Logistics, is currently in Stealth Mode, with skipper Matt Mitchell explaining: “I opted to go for secret squirrel so that the guys behind won’t be able to gauge our progress, be it good or bad, meaning that they can’t sail around us or follow our route through if it’s successful.

“We had a good run yesterday although I am getting a bit concerned by Nikki and her team on Visit Seattle as they have been creeping up on us for the last day or two.”

PSP Logistics will re-emerge from its invisibility cloak at 6pm UTC this evening. Meanwhile, Visit Seattle is the latest team to go in to Stealth Mode and will be hidden from race reports till 6am UTC tomorrow.

Qingdao, which has played its Joker Card for this race, is therefore currently in second place on the Race Viewer standings, with Dare To Lead in third. But both are concerned about the impact of the wind hole that has caught the race leader.

Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth reports: “A night under our windseeker and a dying wind means we are getting sucked more and more towards the gaping hole of wind that is waiting to swallow the fleet. It will be interesting to see how it will affect the standings as it becomes a bit of a lottery.”

Skipper of fourth-placed Unicef, Bob Beggs, remains more optimistic having taken a more easterly route: “Code 2 (medium-weight spinnaker) is aloft, boat speed 10 knots plus, the sun is out and the sea is flat. It even looks as though we might just skirt around the wind hole without too much delay, fingers crossed…”

GREAT Britain is currently in fifth position, while further north, a close contest is taking place between Liverpool 2018 and Garmin in sixth and seventh position respectively.

All teams are keen to get to Fremantle as quickly as possible, with Garmin skipper Gaëtan Thomas praising his crew — nicknamed ‘the pirates’ — for their efforts so far, particularly after the successful medevac of Erik Hellstrom.

“I think we all want to arrive now, we experienced quite a few things on this leg, crew is tired, boat is tired … I am really honoured to sail here with my pirates.”

Teams toward the back of the fleet have been using the opportunity provided by lighter airs to get ahead of the jobs list before arriving in to Fremantle.

Skipper Rob Graham of 10-placed Nasdaq reported earlier: “After a very chilly clear night with magnificent stars and a new moon, the sun is out today, the sea is almost flat and it finally feels as if we are getting closer to Australia. This has brought the ‘arts and crafts’ activity back on deck - splicing this morning, trying to tick a few items off the jobs list before we arrive.”

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell has good news for the teams once they get through the latest wind hole, reporting that the satellite image shows clouds streaming downwind from Cape Leeuwin — so there is wind going the right way once the teams get through it.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - HotelPlanner.com has departed Port Elizabeth in South Africa this morning (Sunday 5 November) after the successful medevac of crew member Greg Adams, who suffered a suspected broken arm.

The 59-year-old took a fall below deck on Friday (3 November) which prompted a precautionary but necessary diversion for medical treatment from the third leg of the Clipper Race.

Northern Irish skipper Conall Morrison and the onboard medic crew maintained constant contact with ClipperTelemed+ by PRAXES Medical, the races’s remote support physicians, for advice as they rerouted.

The team was met early this morning in Port Elizabeth by Clipper Race officials including deputy race director Tom Way and race office Manager Sarah Hoare, and Adams has now been transferred to hospital for X-rays.

Meanwhile, six new crew members from the grounded Greenings team joined HotelPlanner.com in Port Elizabeth before they set sail to the point at which they ceased racing early this morning to then resume their race to the port of Fremantle, near Perth in western Australia.

Elsewhere, the Clipper Race fleet enjoyed a more settled 24 hours yesterday (Saturday 4 November) after a testing Friday in the Southern Ocean.

The leaderboard was anything but settled, however, as the previously split fleet began to converge south of the rhumb line.

Sanya Serenity Coast is still leading the fleet, more than doubling its advantage over its competitors, and is nearly 120 nautical miles ahead of Liverpool 2018, which has just pipped two miles past PSP Logistics into second place – a remarkable improvement from their sixth position on Friday.

Overnight, Qingdao lost fourth place to Dare To Lead, which has been “slipping along on a flattish sea” according to skipper Dale Smyth.

Visit Seattle holds sixth place, with Garmin 9nm behind in seventh and GREAT Britain hot on their heels by just half a mile as of this morning. Unicef are another 22 miles behind, with Nasdaq trailing some 211 miles from the leaders.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - Four days after departing from Liverpool’s Albert Dock, the Clipper Race’s sole Irish-skippered yacht is jockeying for position at the back of the pack as the fleet crosses the Bay of Biscay – a body of water with a notorious reputation.

The latest race standings put HotelPlanner.com, skippered by Derry-Londonderry man Conall Morrison, in 10th among the 12-yacht fleet — and is “currently yo-yoing” with 11th-placed Liverpool 2018, according to the latter’s skipper Lance Shepherd.

That competitive spirit mirrors the action at the top of the fleet, where the four leaders broke away from the pack with the strong flowing tides in the Irish Sea.

And the difference between them is getting tighter, with less than 11 nautical miles separating leaders Unicef from fourth-placed Dare to Lead, with Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle between them in second and third respectively.

Wendy Tuck, skipper of Sanya Serenity Coast, commented on their crossing the Bay of Biscay yesterday morning (Wednesday 23 August): “At the moment, it is being kind to us, but it does have a bit of a reputation of not being very nice.”

Ahead of the fleet, the weather is changing somewhat, with a new low moving southeast across the track that should reach the Portuguese coast by the weekend.

While it does not look particularly strong, it will provide several tactical options for the 12 teams as the Atlantic Trade Winds leg reaches the latter stages of its first week — and with many nautical miles still to sail before the fleet reaches Punta del Este in Uruguay.

Published in Clipper Race

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