With one week to go until the gun fires to signal the start of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, the first global event to set off from the Solent since 2004, organisers are thrilled to welcome the Royal Navy's helicopter carrier, HMS Illustrious, which will attend the weekend's festivities in Southampton, culminating in the race start on Sunday 31 July.
Ireland is represented by the City of Derry entry. The race will stop there in its course around the world.
At 40,000 miles Clipper 11-12 is the world's longest yacht race and almost 500 people from all walks of life and representing more than 40 nations will take part, putting their everyday lives on hold to take on the challenge of a lifetime. More than 40 per cent of them had no sailing experience before beginning their rigorous pre-race training.
Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious, Captain Jerry Kydd, said, "HMS Illustrious is delighted to be in Southampton to support the start of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The Clipper Race stands for much of what the Royal Navy and Royal Marines hold dear: personal determination and fortitude, in dangerous and demanding conditions, where teamwork, resilience and a winning spirit overcome any challenge the crews may face on their adventure. On behalf of the officers and crew of HMS Illustrious, I wish all yachts and their crews the very best of luck for a safe and fast circumnavigation and a cracking race!"
Founder and Chairman of the Clipper Race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the world, said, "The Clipper Race has always had a very strong relationship with the Royal Navy and I am very pleased to welcome HMS Illustrious for the start of Clipper 11-12. She is part of the large maritime community of the south coast and I am very keen that as many members of that community as possible are able to enjoy this event which promises to be a quite spectacular sight."
Many boat owners and sailing enthusiasts will be joining the flotilla of spectator boats to watch the parade of sail in Southampton Water from 2.30pm – where the ten ocean racing yachts will sail in formation ahead of HMS Illustrious – before the race begins at 4.30pm from the historic Royal Yacht Squadron line.
HMS Illustrious will arrive in Southampton on Saturday 30 July and will be berthed at the QE2 Terminal. A raft of free, family friendly entertainment is taking place over the weekend in Ocean Village where the ten 68-foot yachts contesting Clipper 11-12 will be based. Live music will include sets by Southampton groups, Delays and Parade, as well as Toploader, who will headline on Friday night. As well as the live music on stage other entertainment in the Race Village will feature African dancers, acrobats, drummers and fire eaters plus a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday night.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit the race village between Thursday 28 July when the yachts arrive and Sunday 31 July when the teams will say an emotional farewell before setting off on their 12-month circumnavigation. The course will take them to 15 ports on six continents and across the largest and most ferocious expanses of water on the planet. Each of the colourful yachts bears the name of the city, region, country or company it represents.
Southampton City Council and MDL Marinas, owner of Ocean Village Marina where the yachts will be berthed, are working in partnership to host the Clipper 11-12 race start, the eighth edition of the event established by Sir Robin to give people from all walks of life the opportunity to take part in the life-changing experience of ocean racing.
As the official host port for the race start Southampton can expect a significant economic return from the tens of thousands of visitors expected to visit the city over the four days the fleet will be in Southampton, delivering millions of pounds worth of revenue for local businesses.