Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - A spectacular send off

Spectacular start - Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race is the eighth edition of the biennial event. The race started today, Sunday 31 July, from the historic maritime city of Southampton on the south coast of England.

The Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier, HMS Illustrious, and a fleet of hundreds of spectator boats gave a spectacular send off to the amateur crews on board the ten yachts competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.

The event, ‘raced by people like you’, is the world’s longest ocean race at 40,000 miles. It is the first time since 2004 that a round the world yacht race has started from the iconic sailing grounds of the Solent and the large community of sailing and boating enthusiasts turned out in force to witness the spectacle under blue skies and eight to ten knots of breeze.

The south-south-easterly direction of the wind prompted Race Director, Joff Bailey, to opt for the course that took the yachts from west to east across the start line when the cannon fired at the Royal Yacht Squadron. First to charge across, and clearly intent on keeping the Clipper Trophy Down Under, was race debutant, Gold Coast Australia, closely followed by compatriots Geraldton Western Australia. Keppel Corporation-sponsored Singapore also made a strong start to in third place across the start line, with New York, De Lage Landen and the bright pink Welcome to Yorkshire in hot pursuit. Visit Finland was next with the dragon of Qingdao breathing down their neck. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Derry - Londonderry completed the order on the start line as the fleet chased across the Solent towards the first mark at Stokes Bay in Gosport, where the race is headquartered and where hundreds more spectators were watching from the beach.

By the first mark Gold Coast Australia had extended their lead to a quarter of a mile while Singapore had moved up to second, with Geraldton Western Australia nipping at their heels. Visit Finland had gained two places to round it fourth. Positions will be updated every three hours on the race viewer on the official website.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in Ocean Village Marina to wave the teams farewell before the ten-strong fleet headed out into Southampton Water where crowds of spectators lined the banks to watch as they were joined by HMS Illustrious for a breath taking formation parade ahead of the race start from the historic Royal Yacht Squadron start line at Cowes. Thousands more well-wishers were waiting on shore on the Isle of Wight while pictures were beamed back to a packed race village.

On stage in the race village the Leader of Southampton City Council, Cllr Royston Smith, said, 'I’m really proud to be here today to wish the crews good luck. This is a fantastic success. We know this sort of event brings great benefits to the city… If you looked at the restaurants and bars last night they were crammed with people enjoying themselves and all the hotel rooms were full up; that’s got to be good for the city of Southampton.

'On behalf of the citizens of Southampton I would like to wish the crews good luck. I am envious that you are doing this challenge – I admire you for doing this challenge and I wish you Godspeed and all the luck in the world. I hope we have more Clipper Round the World Yacht Races leaving from Southampton in the future.'

The Clipper Race is the only race in the world where the crews come from all walks of life, all ages and with all levels of experience. Prior to their training, some 40 per cent of the crews had never stepped aboard a sailing yacht before. Race start day was an emotional experience for the crew and their families and friends who had come to support them on their challenge of a lifetime.

David Hall is a teacher in everyday life but for the next 12 months he will be racing around the world on Qingdao, the yacht representing the sailing capital of China and Southampton’s twin city. The 37-year-old said, 'This is the right time of my life to be able to finally fulfil this dream of mine. It will be hard being 12 months without my family but my wife is very supportive and will be coming to meet me in Australia and following me to each of the stops. She is almost as excited as me which means I am very lucky.'

Ahead of David and the rest of the 500 crew who have signed up to the challenge of a lifetime lies a 12-month-long, 40,000-mile course that will take the race to Madeira before crossing to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and then on to Cape Town, Western Australia, New Zealand, the Gold Coast in Australia, Singapore, Qingdao in China, California, Panama, New York, Nova Scotia, Derry-Londonderry and Den Helder in the Netherlands. The race will make its triumphant return to the Solent on 22 July 2012.

The Clipper Race is the brainchild of legendary yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the world. He wanted to open the sport of long distance sailing to all and allow others to experience the challenges of ocean racing.

'I just want to say a big thank you to Southampton because coming up with the idea of starting the race from here, bringing back ocean racing to the city, bringing events into the city, creating a buzz, and you’ve just got to take a look around to realise what a fabulous buzz… this supports the Southampton economy but it puts Southampton on the map again, makes people realise what a great city this is. I want to thank you for coming down to give our crews a fabulous send off – something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. These crews are not professional sailors – these are people from all walks of life going out and doing something extraordinary with their lives.'

Almost 500 crews have signed up for Clipper 11-12. Some will complete a full circumnavigation while others will race one or a combination of the eight legs available. Such is the demand for the experience offered by the race, berths for Clipper 13-14 and beyond are already being snapped up.

Each Clipper yacht is entered by a city, region, country or company and sponsors use the event to showcase themselves to the world. On the last running of the Clipper Race, more than half a billion people worldwide followed the adventure through television, print media, radio and online.

Spectacular start - Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race

Clipper Round the World website