British sailing legends are lining up to offer their congratulations to yachting legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and his team at the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race who are celebrating 20 years this weekend since the first race set sail and opened up the challenge of ocean racing to every-day people seeking a global adventure.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 77, the first man to sail, solo, non-stop around the world in 1968-69, established the Clipper Race, along with CEO William Ward, to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing.
Sir Robin said: “I have always believed strongly that we only have one life and should live it as fully and as adventurously as possible. Twenty years ago we took a chance and started this idea of training amateur sailors to achieve the incredibly life-affirming challenge of circumnavigation, and I’ve been incredibly proud to see the race grow in popularity in each edition.”
The biennial Clipper Race has just completed its tenth edition and is regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges. Over the past two decades more than 4,000 amateur sailors have competed in the marathon race and the fleet has amassed a cumulative distance in excess of 3.8 million nautical miles.
The third generation fleet of twelve identical 70-foot yachts combined with 700 crew over the 40,000 nautical mile course makes it the biggest ocean race on the planet. It takes almost a year to complete a series of 14 races between six continents.
Dee Caffari MBE, a former Clipper Race training skipper and the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world westward, against the prevailing winds and currents, said: “The Clipper Race has given so many people the opportunity to endure the harsh remoteness of the oceans, experience nature in its true environment and excel in the pure, thrilling exhilaration of our sport.
“We will forever be united by our voyage of discovery, our experience of extremes and we will always have each other’s backs, because we have become a very special family. Thank you to Sir Robin and a pat on the back to all those who have now, thanks to the Clipper Race, achieved your dream.”
Alex Thomson, the only British entrant in the upcoming 2016 Vendee Ocean Race, remains the youngest Skipper to win the Clipper Race, following his team’s victory in the 1998 edition when he was 25.
He said: “The Clipper Race is a test unlike any other in sailing and I congratulate Sir Robin and William Ward, along with all crew and Skippers who have taken on its challenge. Not only was the Clipper Race a momentous accomplishment for me as a young Skipper, it undoubtedly helped me progress my career as a professional racer and I will always be grateful for the opportunities it has given me.”
More than 600 guests from the world of sailing, former crew, staff and supporters will mark the landmark date in London at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane on Saturday at a celebration gala ball which aims to take this last year’s fundraising total for official Clipper Race charity Unicef to over £300,000.
186 crew departed Plymouth in the first Clipper Race on 16 October 1996, on board eight 60-foot yachts. Since then the demand for the race has grown steadily with larger yacht designs and an expanded fleet enabling participation to grow by over 350 per cent.
“The Clipper Race is not your average sailing competition,” Sir Robin added: “This is the only event where everyday people, such as students, teachers, doctors, housewives, CEOs and so many more, join together to take on Mother Nature’s toughest challenge. It provides an incredible opportunity to exceed ordinary human limits and discover places on this planet few people ever get to experience.”
Each of the ten Clipper Race editions have started and finished in UK cities, including Plymouth, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Hull, Southampton, and, most recently, London. The teams pit themselves against some of Mother Nature’s toughest conditions, which have included hurricane force storms and knockdowns, blistering heat and being becalmed in the frustrating Doldrums.
The Clipper 2017-18 Race, the eleventh race edition, starts next summer and is already 70 per cent full, with UK and international crew already out training each week on the Solent in Hampshire.
Crew can choose to sign up to either the full circumnavigation, or one or more of its eight race legs.