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Seattle on the Start Line

by Kurt Hoehne

In mid-April a fleet of a dozen 70′ race boats are going to make their way into Puget Sound, finishing a leg from Qingdao, China. Among them will be the boat Visit Seattle, dressed all up with the distinctive Seattle skyline emblazoned on her topsides. The race started today in England.

Unlike most sailboat racing, the crews in this race have, for the most part, paid to participate. Many are new to sailing and tackling it as the adventure of a lifetime. And the city/boat naming? That’s also a financial equation with the Seattle Sports Commission sponsoring the Visit Seattle boat for undisclosed considerations.

Visit Seattle at the start. Photo by OnEdition

Visit Seattle at the start. Photo by OnEdition

Regardless of the pay-to-play aspect of this race, there are sure to be remarkable stories to come from it and an interesting fleet to see moored in Seattle’s Bell Street Marina next April. A lot of people will have the adventure of a lifetime and there are charitable tie-ins as well.

Will Puget Sound dish up some of her maddening magic and shuffle the fleet after a 5,000+ mile leg? We’ll wait and see. In the meantime, we can root for the Seattle boat. A total of three people from the Northwest or living here who will be on the boat for a leg or two.

And, hey, it’s Visit Seattle.

Here’s the press release and the basic rundown of the race:


Visit Seattleyacht and its courageous amateur crew in spectacular London send-off in world’s longest and toughest ocean endurance challenge

LONDON, UK, Sunday 30 August 2015: Visit Seattle Skipper Skipper Huw Fernie led his team of international amateur sailors 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 and lined the banks of the River Thames to wave off the 12 couragous crews and their professional skippers in the tenth edition of the famous biennial Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Huw Fernie, 32, from Cornwall, UK, will lead first-time Team Sponsor Visit Seattle round the world.

The fleet of twelve identical 70-foot ocean racing yachts, along with a flotilla of 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.
Huw said ahead of race start: “I have a fantastic mix of emotion at the moment. Lots of nerves and excitement to finally be setting off after all our hard work and prep.

“Tactically, the important thing is to stay with the group, hopefully near the front, and not split early on the race to Brazil. We will settle in as early as possible as it’s a really long race down to Rio, then we will make a strong move.
“We are ready to race. The question is, who can stop us winning?” Huw added.

The international teams will sail into Host Port Seattle at the end of the Mighty Pacific leg from China in April 2016. Seattle aims to promote itself as an international business and tourism destination through its Team Sponsor and Host Port status using the race’s global marketing platform.
“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 established the Clipper Race so that novice sailors could experience ocean racing and, for some, a full circumnavigation. 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.

Anna Dower Duprey, a 22-year-old from the UK, is racing on the Visit Seattle yacht after recovering following two serious accidents. “I am really lucky to be racing, and my long recovery has really made me value life,” she said.

“The race will be my biggest challenge yet, and I want to show people you can recover from serious injury and go on to change your life.”

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 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 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. 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 5,000 nautical miles from the British capital, across the Atlantic Ocean, including the challenging Doldrums, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Race 1 started today (Monday 31 August) at 12.30 BST (11:30 UTC). 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.



The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is the world’s longest ocean adventure and is also regarded as one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet. At 40,000 nautical miles long and taking almost a year to complete, it consists of twelve teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts.

The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors. Around 40 per cent of crew are novices and have never sailed before starting a comprehensive training programme ahead of their adventure.

This unique challenge brings together everyone from chief executives to taxi drivers, nurses and firefighters, farmers, airline pilots and students, from age 18 upwards, to take on Mother Nature’s toughest conditions. There is no upper age limit, the oldest competitor to date is 74.

Whether they choose to take on  the whole circumnavigation or compete in one or more of eight individual legs, all our crew achieve something remarkable as they conquer some of the world’s most challenging oceans.

The overall route is split into a series of global races and a maximum 12 points going to first place ascending to 1 point for twelfth place. The team with the highest cumulative points at the end of the final race wins the series, and the Clipper Race trophy.

The Clipper 2015-16 Race starts from St Katharine Docks, London on 30 August 2015 and will be the event’s tenth edition. Over 690 people from more than 40 different countries will take part, and over 3,000 novice sailors have been transformed into ocean racers throughout Clipper Race history so far. For more information, go to www.clipperroundtheworld.com.
Clipper 2015-16 Race Teams and Skippers

ClipperTelemed+                            Diane Reid (Toronto, Canada)   
Da Nang-Viet Nam                          Wendy Tuck (Sydney, Australia)
Derry~Londonderry~Doire          Daniel Smith (Scotland)
Garmin                                                 Ashley Skett (Cornwall, UK)
GREAT Britain                                    Peter Thornton (Cornwall, UK)
IchorCoal                                             Darren Ladd (Cornwall, UK)
LMAX Exchange                                Olivier Cardin (Normandy, France)
Mission Performance                    Greg Miller (Gosport, UK)
PSP Logistics                                      Max Stunell (Portsmouth, UK)
Qingdao                                               Igor Gotlibovych (Ukraine, Germany)
Unicef                                                  Jim Prendergast (Gosport, UK)
Visit Seattle                                       Huw Fernie (Cornwall, UK)

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