On Sunday 30 August 2015 hundreds of amateur sailors from Canada and 43 different nationalities passed under Tower Bridge today at the start of a 40,000 nautical mile global race, between six continents, which will take almost a year to complete in the longest and toughest ocean endurance challenge on the planet.
Tens of thousands of well-wishers filled the international Race Village at St Katharine Docks, central London’s only marina, and lined the banks of the Thames to wave off the courageous crews and their professional skippers in the tenth edition of the famous biennial Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
Toronto based skipper Diane Reid is one of just twelve professionals who are each leading a team around the world. She is the first female Canadian skipper in the nineteen-year history of the race.
Before departing London today, Diane, who is leading the ClipperTelemed+ team, said: “I am hugely excited to be representing Canada. Although ClipperTelemed+ is the Canadian boat and team, we have a real mixture of nationalities on board and we have embraced all the different cultures and really come together.
“All the team has done a phenomenal job preparing the boat for the last month and we are ready to race to Rio de Janeiro. Since I found out I got appointed as a Race Skipper in March, waiting for this day to come round has been hard. Now it’s finally here, it feels incredible. The start of something very big.”
Tony Truong, a Montreal biochemist first heard about the race while reading a newspaper article about Vancouver skipper Eric Holden who won the 2013-14 race edition. He is doing the entire circumnavigation on board Diane’s ClipperTelemed+ team. “I am just an ordinary person wanting to do something extraordinary,” says Tony.
“At first, my family thought I was crazy to even think about it. I had no sailing experience so I guess they were correct. As they have learnt more and heard about the level of training we’ve had to go through, I think they have got more used to the idea though. It’s an incredible challenge and an opportunity of a lifetime and it is very exciting to be finally getting going.”
Clipper Race founder and legendary yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (76), who became the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-9, established the Clipper Race so that novice sailors could experience ocean racing and, for some, a full circumnavigation. He said: “Our crew are everyday people who are taking on one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges.”
Nearly half of the 700 crew, representing 44 nationalities, from all walks of life, had never sailed before undergoing their extensive pre-race training. The youngest is 18 and the oldest is 74. 35 per-cent are women.
The Clipper Race is a life-changing experience for the crew who are following in the footsteps of more than 3,300 people who have taken on some of the world’s toughest oceans in this unique global challenge since its inaugural race in 1996.
Sir Robin added: “Irrespective of their amateur status Mother Nature pulls no punches. They’re going to go through some of the roughest waters in the world; in fact the roughest waters in the world. I wish them a safe and an extraordinary journey – the experiences ahead will stay with them for life.”
The event comprises twelve teams of amateur crew aboard identical 70-foot ocean racing yachts which are each led by a professional skipper.
Teams are sponsored by global destinations, business and consumer brands, which include debuts for cities such as Da Nang – Viet Nam and Visit Seattle. GREAT Britain is making its second appearance after finishing second in the previous edition and Northern Irish entry Derry~Londonderry~Doire is making its third outing. The longest successive competitor is the Chinese city of Qingdao, host of the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which has used the race as a major part of its legacy programme; this is its sixth campaign.
Many of the crew fundraise for various charities and to mark the tenth edition of the Clipper Race, Unicef has been made its first official global charity partner. The charity has also been gifted a branded yacht entry by the organisers to help it raise its global profile and highlight its international projects at ports of call to help children in danger.
The opening leg of the race takes the teams over 5,500 nautical miles from the British capital, across the Atlantic Ocean, including the challenging Doldrums, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Race 1 began on Monday 31 August. Following the first stopover in Brazil, the fleet will continue on via Cape Town, Albany – Western Australia, Sydney (including the world famous Sydney-Hobart Race), the Whitsundays, Da Nang – Vietnam, Qingdao – China, Seattle, Panama, New York, Derry-Londonderry and Den Helder – the Netherlands, before returning to London’s St Katharine Docks for Race Finish on 30 July 2016.