Emotions were high when Clipper Round the World Yacht Race entry Geraldton Western Australia set off from New York today – starting its final leg of the epic 40,000 mile yacht race, which ends in Southampton.

For the crew, consisting of non-professional sailors from all walks of life, today’s departure from New York marks the beginning of the final leg home after nearly ten months at sea. Despite having already raced more than 35,000 miles there is still everything to play for, with four very different races still to go – starting with Race 12, a 600-mile sprint to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Speaking ahead of the race start, Geraldton Western Australia’s skipper Juan Coetzer, said, “We are feeling rather competitive on this final leg. We have had a third place and second place and we need a first place pennant. We have been in the top of the rankings in all races and we know that we can do it.

“Up to Halifax, Nova Scotia we will push hard and drive the boat hard. The crew is really motivated and they have great enthusiasm, so we will keep pushing as this final stretch begins.”

The Clipper Race fleet treated New Yorkers to a parade of sail past the Statue of Liberty this morning (local time) before heading out of the Hudson to the site of the Ambrose Lighthouse, where Race 12 to Halifax, Nova Scotia is set to get underway at 1930 local time today (2330 GMT). The fleet will have a ‘Le Mans’ start, where all of the 68-foot yachts line up, wait for a signal, and hoist their sails as quickly as possible to steal a march on their competitors.

Round the world crew member on Geraldton Western Australia, Ian Geraghty is now definitely home bound, living only a few miles away from the Clipper Race’s final stop in Southampton in England. Ahead of departure, the 52-year-old business owner from Southsea said, “The whole adventure will have been an epic achievement, but nearly twelve months at sea is a really long time, so I’m glad to start this home bound stretch now. When we get to Southampton it will be a massive tick in the box that not many people get to do and I’ll be very proud.

“But we still have some thousand miles of sailing to do and we have been climbing steady up the overall leader board. Everyone is still pretty fired up to ensure we get a decent place at the end. There are still many points up for grabs, so we are ready to go and keep our good streak of form going until the end.”

The fleet is expected to arrive in Nova Scotia between 11-12 June and will leave on 15 June to take on is final Atlantic Ocean crossing. The Clipper 11-12 Race left Southampton, UK on 31 July 2011 and will return on 22 July 2012 after 51 weeks of ocean racing, visiting 15 ports of call on six continents, to complete the world’s longest ocean race.