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Four hundred crew members pose on the steps of Portsmouth Guildhall, with sailing legend and Clipper Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, after discovering their Skippers and which teams they will be sailing around the world with. The Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race Crew are the most global ever, made up of 44 nationalities, with ages ranging from 18-76 with professions such as hairdresser, roofer, chiropractor and CEO.

Almost 700 adventurers will be taking part in the British run Clipper 2019-20 Race which will set off on the 1 September 2019. And it has been announced today that the event’s Race Start will be from London’s St. Katharine Docks. This will only be the third time in twelve editions the race has launched in the capital city.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Clipper Race Chairman and Founder, who last month celebrated his 50th anniversary of being the first person to sail around the world, non-stop, said to crew at the Portsmouth event “I want you to be able to say this is the best thing that you have done with your life - so far. Then I will know we have broadened your horizons. Don’t paint your life in pastel colours. You only have one life, make it bright.”

In a string of race updates, it has also been announced that Punta del Este, Uruguay, is set to return for the second consecutive edition on the 40,00nm race route. After a hugely successful stopover during the 2017-18 edition of the global race, the Yacht Club Punta del Este will again host the eleven-strong fleet as the final port of call in the first Leg. Punta del Este will also be entering its debut team, which will be led by the Clipper Race’s first ever Spanish Skipper Jeronimo Santos-Gonzalez.

The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, SA, will return as a Host Port for the tenth time. The fleet will have raced approximately 10,000nm from London, UK, when it reaches Cape Town. Another 10,00nm later, after a stop in Fremantle, AUS, the fleet will arrive into Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, which was revealed as the final port for Leg 4.

After claiming an impressive second place in the last race, Seattle, USA, has confirmed that it will be returning with a team entry in the 2019-20 Race. The team will be led by British Clipper Race Skipper Ben Keitch.

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Clipper Race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has described as “unfortunate” the lack of a female skipper in the upcoming 2019-20 edition of the round-the-world yacht race.

But he also expressed his hope that the gender imbalance will be corrected in future editions of the race as more and more women secure the necessary qualifications to lead a team.

In a letter to EuroSail News, Sir Robin spoke highly of the performance of Wendy Tuck and Nikki Henderson in the most recent race.

Australian skipper Tuck made history last July as the first woman to ever win a round-the-world yacht race, while Henderson recently scooped the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award for being the youngest ever skipper in the race.

“We have had five female skippers over the years and all have been excellent without exception,” he said. “I would happily take on more provided they had the experience and ability but we did not receive any applications from suitable candidates this time around.”

Noting that 30% of Clipper Race crews — a mixture of experienced and novice sailors — are now women, Sir Robin expressed his hope that the balance will be “corrected in time”.

He also specifically referred to “courses at the Hamble School of Yachting and our new Mate position within the Clipper Race [through which] we hope to be able to encourage more women to take their sailing career to the next level”.

The 11 skippers, all men, who will lead teams out of the UK for the near year-long voyage of the Clipper 2019-20 Race were announced last week, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

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#ClipperRace - Organisers of the Clipper Race have announced the 11 skippers who will lead teams in the 2019-20 edition of the round-the-world race from this August.

“Not many people are capable of racing and leading a team in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race,” said race co-founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

“As well as being excellent sailors who are proven in taking on the planet’s most hostile environments, Clipper Race skippers must also be outstanding instructors, exceptional motivators, and strong role models.

“They will need to be calm and patient under pressure, and understand all types of personalities.”

All 11 skippers begin this week with an extensive training schedule ahead with less than five months till their boats set off on the first leg from the UK to South America.

They include Ben Keitch from Sussex, whose three decades of sailing experience include leading novice crews on ocean crossings; Mark Burkes from Worcester, a veteran of the Clipper, Fastnet and the Sydney Hobart races; and former Unicef crew Seumas Kellock from Edinburgh.

Representing Cape Town in South Africa are Nick Leggatt, a sailor with more than 280,000 nautical miles and three circumnavigations in his log book, and David ‘Wavy’ Immelman, a Yachtmaster instructor.

Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez from Galicia will be the Clipper Race’s first ever Spanish skipper, and brings a wealth of national and European championship sailing experience.

Ian Wiggin from Plymouth, Chris Brooks from Essex, Josh Stickland from Southampton, Mike Surridge from West Sussex and Guy Waites from Yorkshire round out the field.

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Clipper 2017-18 Race Skipper Nikki Henderson has been awarded the prestigious Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) Yachtsman of the Year Award after making history when, at 24, she became the youngest ever skipper to compete in the biggest round the world yacht race.

The award, which was presented jointly to the 25-year-old, and Tracy Edwards MBE for her work with Maiden, during a ceremony in London.

Cliff Webb, YJA Charman, said: "The YJA is delighted to recognise Nikki's achievement in becoming the youngest skipper ever in the Clipper Race, and to have guided her crew to a second-placed finish overall, missing outright victory by the narrowest of margins, is really remarkable.

"She showed extraordinary skill, seamanship, and race tactics through eleven tough months of competition, where she shouldered the responsibility of keeping her crew safe, while teaching people more than twice her age. It was an outstanding performance, showing tremendous leadership and team building qualities."

The accolade also marked Nikki’s performance achievements during the 2017-18 edition where she led her Visit Seattle team to second place, just four points behind Australian Wendy Tuck’s Sanya Serenity Coast team, securing an all-female one-two on the podium.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Nikki said: "It is all well and good being ambitious and brave as a young person, but it also takes people to have faith in you and give you the breaks. To everyone in my life who has given me those opportunities; thank you, and I hope I have done you proud!"

The Clipper Race is unique in that it trains everyday people to become ocean racers – with 40 per cent of crew having never sailed before. Nikki skippered her Visit Seattle team 40,000 nautical miles around the world battling phenomenal sea states with 14 metre high waves, hurricane force winds, boat speeds up to 35 knots (equivalent to 40 mph), extreme heat and freezing conditions. Anyone over the age of 18 can participate as a crew member in the Clipper Race and the oldest crew member of Nikki’s Visit Seattle team was 71 years old – almost three times her age.

The YJA award ceremony also celebrated the achievements of Clipper Race Co-Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who will reach two significant milestones over the next month; his 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his Sunday Times Golden Globe Race achievement. Speaking about Nikki during the last edition of the race, he said: “One of her strengths is her leadership. She built a happy and cohesive team and made these 50 people, men and women of all ages and from different nations from around the world, buy into her team ethos “sailing with style’. It takes a special kind of person to be a Clipper Race Skipper – part teacher, counsellor and sports coach and so to lead her team to second place (and it was a nail-biting finish) is an amazing achievement.”

Over the 11 months of the race, Nikki led her team to three outright race victories and two second-place finishes in 13 races. She was able to guide her novice crew safety around the world with little damage to the yacht despite surviving the roughest weather of the fleet through mountainous seas in the North Pacific crossing.

Previous YJA Yachtsman of the Year award winners includes Clipper Race crew member Gavin Reid, a profoundly deaf sailor who was instrumental in the rescue of a non-Clipper Race crew off the coast of Australia during the 2015-16 edition and Co-Founder and Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who has won it four times.

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The Clipper Race remembers British sailor Simon Speirs, who died one year ago today during Leg 3’s Southern Ocean crossing.

The GREAT Britain crew member was washed overboard while assisting with a headsail change during rough seas and high winds.

Despite being recovered by his fellow crew amid the difficult conditions, he never regained consciousness, and he was given a sea burial on 19 November 2017.

The Clipper Race tweeted this morning: “Our thoughts are with his loved ones and fellow crew. You are gone but not forgotten Simon, rest in peace.”

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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.”

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#ClipperRace - Derry-Londonderry-born Clipper Race skipper Conall Morrison and round-the-world crew member Roseann McGlinchey have arrived in Liverpool, completing their epic 11-month, 40,000-nautical-mile circumnavigation of the globe.

A week after starting the 13th and final race, the Clipper Race fleet arrived in Liverpool, thrilling the thousands of people that lined the River Mersey with a spectacular sprint finish on Saturday 28 July.

Fireworks and confetti cannons turned the grey sky into a riot of colour when Morrison and McGlinchey guided their HotelPlanner.com boat into the Royal Albert Dock to bring their adventure to an end.

“It feels just like yesterday we were here in Liverpool. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet how far we have come and what we have achieved,” said Morrison.

“It’s been an adventure and one that I will remember and cherish always.”

“HotelPlanner.comHotelPlanner.com supporters at the race finish in Liverpool

McGlinchey added: “We’ve gone round the world! Who does this stuff?

“The crowd waving us in was just amazing. The support right the way round has been incredible but it was something special coming back to where it all started.

“Time has flown. With each leg this team has felt more and more like family. The bond we have is incredible. I’ve definitely changed, I think for the better.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Sanya Serenity Coast claimed the overall victory in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, making skipper Wendy Tuck the first woman in history to win a round-the-world yacht race.

Twenty-five-year-old British sailor Nikki Henderson, the youngest skipper in the 22-year history of the Clipper Race, placed second overall with her team Visit Seattle to complete a one-two female finish.

The sprint finish into Liverpool wrapped up a race which began in Liverpool in August of last year. After crossing six oceans with 13 stopovers on five different continents, and seeing mother nature at her most raw — including hurricane-force winds and 14-metre waves in the North Pacific — the 11 teams are now home, full of stories to last a lifetime.

Over the past 22 years, more than 5,000 people have become ocean racers through the Clipper Race, though still more people have climbed Mount Everest than have gone around the world under sail.

Perhaps you could help beat that number and be a part of the next edition, the Clipper 2019-20 Race, which due to begin next summer.

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#ClipperRace - History has been made as Australian sailor Wendy Tuck becomes the first woman to ever win a round-the-world yacht race after clinching the overall victory in the 2017-18 edition of the Clipper Race yesterday (Friday 27 July).

And in an additional win for women’s sport, second place went to 25-year-old British sailor Nikki Henderson, skipper of Visit Seattle.

Wendy and her Sanya Serenity Coast team went into the 13th and final stage of the Clipper Race on top of the overall standings, and had done enough to put the result out of reach for the other 10 teams ahead of the sprint finish up the Mersey to Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool this morning, which was win by Garmin, with PSP Logistics and home team Liverpool 2018 claiming the remaining points.

Wendy, 53, from Sydney, said of yesterday’s result: “I can’t believe it. It hasn’t really sunk in really but I am just so happy. It is so, so special.

“I don’t think it’s about being a woman. It’s just do what I do. But I am very proud and even prouder of my team. They are the ones that did all the work and considering many had never sailed before, what they have accomplished is incredible.”

It was a battle to see who would seal the win – Wendy or Nikki, the youngest ever Clipper Race skipper. Despite Visit Seattle playing its Joker Card (a device which doubles the race points earned), Nikki fell just short of the overall win, but her four podiums over the last year meant she and her team will take second place overall despite the results of today’s sprint.

“Congratulations to Wendy and her team – you were just too quick for us!” Nikki said.

“We didn’t get the win but I am so proud of how my team dug deep and kept fighting right until the end. No matter how hard it got, they turned up on deck ready to work and deserve every bit of this success in coming second.

“It will take a bit for it all to sink in. We still have once last sprint to go on Saturday and we will be sailing with style right until the very end.”

Delighted with the female one-two finish, Clipper Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world, said: “There’s never been a race, a round the world race, where you’ve had the two leading skippers both be women. This is a first. And when you look at what they are racing against, the experience of the other Clipper Race skippers, you realise that this is really very special.

“The impact of the success of both Wendy and Nikki cannot be underestimated. If this gets even one more girl start sailing and dreaming big, then I’ll consider everything we have done over the last eleven months a huge success.”

The other Chinese Clipper Race entry, Qingdao, won Race 13, the final stage of the Clipper Race from Derry-Londonderry to Liverpool, crossing the line 28 minutes ahead of second-placed Liverpool 2018, whilst Garmin was third.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch said: “It has been a fantastic race and I am extremely happy and proud of the effort my team has put in.

“To be able to not only secure the Race 13 victory but also guarantee our Race Team Partner Qingdao its first ever overall podium is extremely satisfying. The entire team has been working towards this goal for the past year and it is amazing to realise that we have done it.”

This was the fourth podium of the 2017-18 series for Qingdao and the second win after the team previously claimed victory in Race 9 across the mighty North Pacific from Qingdao to Seattle.

Qingdao has also been the champion of the Scoring Gate, with the team collecting a fleet-high 19 bonus points.

The Clipper Race is unique in that it trains non-professionals to be ocean faring sailors. Established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 40 per cent of Clipper Race crew have no previous sailing experience before signing up and undergoing the compulsory four weeks of training.

In total, 712 people representing 41 different nationalities and from all walks of life have taken part in the 40,000-nautical-mile Clipper 2017-18 Race, the event’s 11 edition — including a number of Irish sailor’s on board Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com.

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#ClipperRace - Qingdao claimed victory in Race 13 of the 2017-18 Clipper Race when they crossed the line at Liverpool this morning (Friday 27 July) at 10:04:04 UTC (11.04am local time).

The Chinese team’s second win of the current circumnavigation sees 12 points added to their overall total.

Close behind was home team Liverpool 2018 at 10:32 UTC — a big improvement on their last-place finish in Derry-Londonderry — while Garmin completed the podium just minutes later at 10:38 UTC.

Fourth place was taken by Unicef, when skipper Bob Beggs and crew crossed the line an hour behind the leading trio at 11:41 UTC.

At time of writing, Visit Seattle was the next boat poised to finish with just half a nautical mile left to cover.

However, with the race order unchanged for days, Nikki Henderson and team likely haven’t done enough to take the Clipper Race trophy from Sanya Serenity Coast.

Sanya, meanwhile, is in a battle for sixth with PSP Logistics less than five miles from the finish, while Dare to Lead has 15 miles to go — and Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com maintains a slim lead over GREAT Britain in ninth as they round Anglesey for the home stretch.

Nasdaq will be the last boat to arrive before the trilling sprint finish up the River Mersey to the Royal Albert Dock. Crucial last-minute points are available to the first three teams over the line tomorrow, Saturday 28 July.

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#ClipperRace - The 13th and final stage of the 2017-18 Clipper Race remains anyone’s, with the fleet still tightly packed as the upwind beat down the western Irish coast continues.

And with now less than 36 hours left until the teams reach Liverpool, the battle for the overall win and illustrious Clipper Race Trophy between Visit Seattle and Sanya Serenity Coast is starting to heat up, with the two boats still virtually neck-and-neck on Day 3 of Race 13 (Wednesday 25 July).

After dropping in the standings yesterday, Visit Seattle worked hard overnight to move back in touch with the main chasing pack. Skipper Nikki Henderson explained this morning: “Life feels brighter today. We have been thinking and trimming and driving this boat like we have never done before and bit by bit yesterday we managed to make up some ground back to the fleet.

“We are now joined by Sanya Serenity Coast, Dare To Lead, and PSP Logistics in the middle pack - so it’s a fight to stay in fifth at the moment.”

While the four leading teams – Liverpool 2018, Qingdao, Unicef and Garmin – are all still in AIS range, Henderson was concerned time is running out to make a move.

“The four up ahead will be hard to catch once we turn the corner of Virtual Mark Fastnet. They will crack off their sails and zoom along at probably 10-12 knots whilst the rest of us slog it out at 7-8 in the wrong direction. So still thinking, trimming, and driving to see if we can make it there first! In the words of Dory: ‘Just keep sailing, just keep sailing, sailing, sailing.’”

Sanya Serenity Coast is also having to put in the hard yards to keep the competition in check. Skipper Wendy Tuck commented: “Again it’s been an up and down day and night. Sometimes we do OK, then sometimes we don’t do so OK. But all is well on the mighty Sanya Serenity Coast.

“Overnight the breeze picked up a little more so it’s back to living on the north edge, good thing the green monster has left the boat.”

Despite veering away from the main pack yesterday after being hit by a wind-shift whilst tacking, Liverpool 2018 is right back in the thick of things leading the pack. But with just 17 nautical miles between the first four boats, skipper Lance Shepherd isn’t getting carried away.

“It is so tight I think the positions will be contently changing right up until the finish line,” he said.

The currently third-placed Unicef is eyeing up a podium position, with skipper Bob Beggs reporting: “We are now about a third of our way between Virtual Mark Siraut and Virtual Mark Fastnet and we are engaged in a great battle out here heading for Liverpool in this, our final race. The fleet is very tight and really any boat may have a chance of winning.

“The weather has been kind in this latter part of the race and after tonight's blow passes through, the weather forecast is promising some great light wind spinnaker action via St Georges Channel and the Irish Sea.”

As the finish line draws closer, realisation is dawning about just what the teams have accomplished over the last eleven months. Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth said: “Sailing against the 10 other skippers has been such a pleasure and challenge. Each skipper individually has become a close colleague and friend as we have travelled around the world racing each other.

“Individually, each of us has our own style and personality and although we sail our hearts out against each other, we have really had each other to rely on for the last year. It is comforting to know that any one of the eleven would stop racing instantly to come to your assistance if need be.

“Skippering in a Clipper Race is a lonely role in some respects, carrying the responsibility of these 70-foot machines full of people and their hopes and dreams, in a hugely hostile environment. We have truly had a group of Skippers that have supported and been there for each other and I would like to express my deepest thanks to all of you individually for your friendship, support, and competition this year.”

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