Published: Tuesday, 01 September 2015

Hundreds of amateur sailors passed under Tower Bridge in London at the start of the 40,000 nautical mile Clipper Round The World Race.

Clipper Round The World Race Underway

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 race.

The fleet of twelve identical 70-foot ocean racing yachts, along with RNLI support vessels and spectator boats, participated in a spectacular parade with London’s iconic Tower Bridge lifting to salute the crew twice ahead of their ocean odyssey.

“Our crew are everyday people who are taking on one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges,” stated 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.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnson established the Clipper Race so that novice sailors could experience ocean racing and, for some, a full circumnavigation.

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Nearly half of the 700 crew, representing 44 nationalities had never sailed before undergoing their extensive pre-race training. The youngest is 18 and the oldest is 74, with women making up 35 percent.

“Irrespective of their amateur status Mother Nature pulls no punches,” says Knox-Johnson. “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 that are each led by a professional skipper.

Teams are sponsored by global destination, 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.

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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.

To mark the tenth edition of the 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 international projects at ports of call to help children in danger.

The opening leg of the race is taking place over 5,500nm from the British capital, across the Atlantic Ocean, including the challenging Doldrums, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

LMAX Exchange, skippered by Frenchman Olivier Cardin, was first over the line, followed by GREAT Britain, skippered by Peter Thornton close behind in second place, and Da Nang Viet Nam - led by Australian Wendy Tuck - third over the start line.

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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 July 30 2016.