Published: Monday, 01 August 2016

LMAX Exchange, skippered by Frenchman Olivier Cardin, was confirmed as the winner of the 10th edition of the world’s longest ocean race, the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race. 

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(Photos: Clipper Race - LMAX Exchange)

The team’s victory comes despite finishing the final race of the 14-stage series behind long standing rival for the title Derry~Londonderry~Doire, which was the first to cross the Race 14 finish line, but not by a large enough margin to knock LMAX Exchange off the top of the overall leaderboard.

LMAX Exchange was six points ahead of Derry~Londonderry~Doire going into Race 14, the 198nm sprint finale from The Netherlands, meaning everything was left to play for with 12 points up for grabs. 

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(LMAX Exchange Skipper Olivier Cardin)

Despite Derry~Londonderry~Doire taking line honours at 20:14:39 UTC July 29 off Southend Pier, UK, its fourth race win of the series, the team only clawed back two of the six points needed as LMAX Exchange finished just behind in third. 

The Northern Irish entry beat Visit Seattle by 29 seconds as it finished in second at 20:15:08 UTC, while LMAX Exchange crossed the line at 20:38:30 UTC.

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"Going into Race 14, we had a six point advantage over Derry~Londonderry~Doire and a short 24 hour-long race to complete. The last stage of the Clipper Race 2015-16 Race was rather risky. On board, the tension was felt during the first few hours of racing. Smiles appeared over time and our happiness exploded as we crossed the line two places behind Derry~Londonderry~Doire,” says Cardin. "We completed the series with six overall race wins and 10 podiums. The result is fantastic, a fruit of labour from a very hungry team. We are all proud to have accomplished this great challenge. The next challenge will be getting used to life back on dry land again.” 

Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Dan Smith, from West Kilbride, Scotland, whose team claimed the podiums in seven races, was clearly disappointed not to have been able to overturn his rival despite giving everything to achieve a winning performance in the final stage.

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“We set out to win this race to London, as we have done the whole way round the world, so it is great to go out on a high,” says Smith. “We knew our fate wasn't in our own hands so all we could do was give it our best shot and the team has proved how strong we are. Today is a very special day, it's hard to believe that we have finished the race, but our aim was to be competitive, get everyone round safely and to have fun doing it. I couldn't be more proud of the crew,” Smith adds. 

British FinTech firm CEO and Team Sponsor LMAX Exchange David Mercer, who joined the team for Race 6 – the Sydney Hobart Race, congratulated his team. 

“We are thrilled to be crowned the overall winners of the Clipper 2015-16 Race. I’d like to thank all [58] crew who contributed to this herculean effort with special mention to our [8] round the worlders – the glue that kept our team bond strong throughout. We were very fortunate to have a mercurial Skipper in Olivier Cardin and I thank him wholeheartedly for his sailing brilliance,” says Mercer. “Well done to all the teams and crew for completing the circumnavigation. Each and every one of you is an inspiration to us all.”

GREAT Britain takes the third place on the overall race standings. Despite finishing in 10th place in Race 14, the team’s result was enough to keep Garmin (fourth overall and fourth in Race 14) behind on overall points.

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(GREAT Britain)

Second to finish in the final race of the series last night, the only one of its kind which exists for amateur sailors, was Visit Seattle

“We had a great last race of the series. As always it had a bit of everything and at times we could see the whole fleet in front of us,” says Skipper Huw Fernie. “The team worked incredibly hard and kept pushing Visit Seattle all the way, it's incredible to think of the journey we are finishing today, and how far we have all come to be here. We're all immensely proud of this race result especially as we were so close to Derry~Londonderry~Doire at the end. A huge thank you to all our supporters throughout this adventure who have helped us keep spirits high through the tough times, see you all in St Kats very soon.”

Fifth placed Qingdao enjoyed two podium finishes during the 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation, which included an unforgettable visit to the team’s home port in March.

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Known as 'China’s Sailing City', Qingdao is the Clipper Race’s longest standing Team Sponsor and Host Port, with the 10th edition of the biennial challenge marking the sixth partnership between the two parties. The global race which stops in 14 ports around the world celebrates Qingdao’s rich sailing tradition which includes hosting the Beijing Olympic sailing events in 2008.

Throughout the circumnavigation which began in London, UK last August, at least two amateur sailors from Qingdao have joined the race for each of the eight legs having been awarded a bursary by the Qingdao Committee. 

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“As a member of the Qingdao Committee, it is a real privilege for me to finally join the Qingdao crew because I have worked on the Clipper Race partnership with the city for over 10 years now. It has been a very exciting experience and it has made me want to do more legs on the Clipper Race or even sail around the world,” says Qingdao crew member Wei Liu, 52. “I think the Qingdao crew is a good team. Everyone has worked very hard. I tried my best to contribute and every morning on board, I made Chinese styled breakfast for the crew which they really enjoyed. It has been a very good experience to share our culture with crew members from all over the world and also for me to learn about where they come from too.”

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“This year long odyssey has come to an end, as a crew we have battled against mother nature and circumnavigated the world and the members of the Qingdao team should be proud of their achievement,” says Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs. “We have worked tirelessly in every race and the crew’s hard work and determination has paid off with a solid overall placing in the top half of the fleet. We would like to thank the Qingdao Committee for its support over the past 11 months and for a wonderful stopover. It has been a fantastic city to represent.” 

The second Qingdao ambassador on board for this stage of the race is 35-year-old Kejiang Xin.

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“It has been an excellent experience to be part of the Qingdao crew and I feel very lucky to be part of this team. The partnership with the Clipper Race has given many people from Qingdao the chance to learn to sail and then cross the world’s oceans,” he says. “During the stopover in Qingdao, I met a lot of the Qingdao crew who come from many different countries around the world including Australia, Russia and the UK, as well as China, of course. I was very proud to show off our city and it also meant that I had many friends already before I joined the team for the race to London. I am very happy to have had this opportunity.”

All 12 teams paraded up the River Thames July 30, with Tower Bridge lifting twice for the teams to pass through. 

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A prize giving ceremony took place in St Katharine Docks in front of thousands of spectators and raced fans to mark the conclusion of the ocean odyssey. Each of the 12 teams then took to the stage and were presented with a framed photo of their boat.

The Henri Lloyd Seamanship award was presented to Mission Performance crew member Gavin Reid for his rescue of a stricken yacht off the Australian coast in January which had a crew member stuck up the mast.

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(Gavin Reid)

Reid swam to the yacht and assisted with the rescue on a non-Clipper Race yacht whose crewman had been caught at the top for seven hours. Reid, who was born deaf and wears hearing aids, helped free the crew member in rough conditions.

“Reid’s actions show the willingness of the crew to put others before themselves and it is an honour to celebrate the spirit of ocean racing by awarding Mission Performance with this award,” says Henri Lloyd joint CEO Paul Strzelecki.

“It’s never something I would have expected to win after the event. At the time it was just something I felt I had to do and am honoured to have been recognised for it,” says Reid.

Over 40,000 nautical miles long the Clipper Race, which started and finished in St Katharine Docks, is the longest, toughest ocean race and the only event of its kind which trains amateur crew to become ocean racers. Forty per cent of crew had no previous sailing experience before signing up, and only the Skipper on board is professional. 

Throughout their almost year-long journey, which fewer people have completed than have climbed Mount Everest, the teams encountered the varying extremes of mother nature. From tropical storms and hurricane force winds, to searing heat and chilly conditions, the crew have sailed under clear starry nights, and witnessed the most incredible sunsets and sighted wildlife in some of the planet’s most remote locations.   

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The Clipper Race was founded by sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop round the world in 1968-69, to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience the chance to experience the thrill of ocean racing. 

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“This is the second outing of our third generation Clipper 70 fleet of ocean racers which were made in Qingdao and they have proved themselves as sturdy and reliable in extreme conditions. In addition, the teams on this edition of the race have sailed particularly hard which has resulted in some very fast times and tight finishes. It’s gone down to the final sprint in this 14-race series to determine the podium and overall positions,” says Knox-Johnston. “This has been extremely tough. The conditions encountered in the Pacific Ocean after the teams left Qingdao were the worst we’ve seen in 20 years of running the race. I am proud of all of the crew; they have taken on all the world’s most challenging oceans and have been very resilient. They should be justly proud of themselves – whether crossing a single ocean or circumnavigating the entire planet. It is a remarkable achievement. The novices who set out 11 months ago have returned as seasoned sailors."

A total of 680 crew members from 45 different countries took part in the Clipper 2015-16 Race, all of whom come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from nurses to firefighters, students to retirees, farmers, housewives, CEOs and surgeons. Aged 19 to 75 with no upper age limit enforced, crew can choose to compete either in the whole circumnavigation or one or more of its eight legs.

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The Clipper 2015-16 Race departed London Aug 30 2015 and visited 14 different ports in nine different countries during the race series. The route took teams from London to Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Albany (Western Australia), Sydney, Airlie Beach (the Whitsundays), Da Nang (Vietnam), Qingdao (China), Seattle, Panama, New York, Derry-Londonderry, and Den Helder (the Netherlands), and back to London. 

Held biennially, the next edition of the Clipper Race will start in summer 2017.

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Final Race Standings for the 2015-16 edition Clipper Race:

1          LMAX Exchange (152)
2          Derry~Londonderry~Doire (148)
3          GREAT Britain (126)    
4          Garmin (125)          
5          Qingdao (79)                  
6          Mission Performance (78)              
7          Da Nang – Viet Nam (77)      
8          Visit Seattle (76)                                
9          ClipperTelemed+ (74)                        
10        Unicef (65)                                        
11        IchorCoal (54)            
12        PSP Logistics (48)