Published: Monday, 17 October 2016

British sailing legends lined up to offer their congratulations to yachting legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and his team at the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, who celebrated 20 years Oct 16-17 since the first race set sail and opened up the challenge of ocean racing to everyday people seeking a global adventure.

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(Photos: Clipper Race)

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 77, the first man to sail, solo, non-stop around the world in 1968-69, established the Clipper Race, along with CEO William Ward, to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing.

“I have always believed strongly that we only have one life and should live it as fully and as adventurously as possible,” says Knox-Johnston. “Twenty years ago, we took a chance and started this idea of training amateur sailors to achieve the incredibly life-affirming challenge of circumnavigation, and I’ve been incredibly proud to see the race grow in popularity in each edition.”

The biennial Clipper Race has just completed its 10th edition and is regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges. Over the past two decades, more than 4,000 amateur sailors have competed in the marathon race and the fleet has amassed a cumulative distance in excess of 3.8 million nautical miles.

Clipper Race Celebrates 38 Million Nautical Miles

The third generation fleet of 12 identical 70-foot yachts combined with 700 crew over the 40,000 nautical mile course makes it the biggest ocean race on the planet. It takes almost a year to complete a series of 14 races between six continents.

Former Clipper Race Training Skipper Dee Caffari MBE is the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world westward, against the prevailing winds and currents.

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“The Clipper Race has given so many people the opportunity to endure the harsh remoteness of the oceans, experience nature in its true environment and excel in the pure, thrilling exhilaration of our sport,” says Caffari. “We will forever be united by our voyage of discovery, our experience of extremes and we will always have each other’s backs because we have become a very special family. Thank you to Sir Robin and a pat on the back to all those who have now, thanks to the Clipper Race, achieved your dream.”

Alex Thomson, the only British entrant in the upcoming 2016 Vendee Ocean Race, remains the youngest Skipper to win the Clipper Race, following his team’s victory in the 1998 edition when he was 25.

“The Clipper Race is a test unlike any other in sailing and I congratulate Sir Robin and William Ward, along with all crew and Skippers who have taken on its challenge,” says Thomson. “Not only was the Clipper Race a momentous accomplishment for me as a young Skipper, it undoubtedly helped me progress my career as a professional racer and I will always be grateful for the opportunities it has given me.”

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More than 600 guests from the world of sailing, former crew, staff and supporters marked the landmark date in London at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane at a celebration gala ball which aimed to take this last year’s fundraising total for official Clipper Race charity Unicef to over £300,000.  

186 crew departed Plymouth in the first Clipper Race Oct 16 1996, on board eight 60-foot yachts. Since then the demand for the race has grown steadily with larger yacht designs and an expanded fleet enabling participation to grow by over 350 per cent.

“The Clipper Race is not your average sailing competition,” Knox-Johnston adds. “This is the only event where everyday people, such as students, teachers, doctors, housewives, CEOs and so many more, join together to take on Mother Nature’s toughest challenge. It provides an incredible opportunity to exceed ordinary human limits and discover places on this planet few people ever get to experience.”

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Each of the 10 Clipper Race editions has started and finished in UK cities, including Plymouth, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Hull, Southampton, and, most recently, London. The teams pit themselves against some of Mother Nature’s toughest conditions, which have included hurricane force storms and knockdowns, blistering heat and being becalmed in the frustrating Doldrums.

The Clipper 2017-18 Race, the 11th race edition, starts next summer and is already 70 per cent full, with UK and international crew already out training each week on the Solent in Hampshire.

Crews can choose to sign up to either the full circumnavigation, or one or more of its eight-race legs.