Happy Birthday to the Panama Canal - 100 years old today.

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One hundred years ago today, on 15 August 1914, the Panama Canal opened after 23 years of construction work. A century later it is still considered one of the largest and most successful engineering feats ever built.

One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the 51 mile Panama Canal has remained one of the busiest waters in the world. A direct shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the canal plays a vital link in world trade and transport by allowing ships and boats,, including the Clipper 70 fleet, to avoid the hazardous 8,000 mile route round Cape Horn, the most southern tip of South America.

All nine Clipper Race editions have utilised the Panama Canal during their circumnavigations – the most recent transit taking place just three months ago at the end of Race 11: The PSP Logistics Panama 100 Cup, from San Francisco.

Skipper of Jamaica Get All Right, Pete Stirling, said the transit was one of the highlights of Leg 7 and an experience all the crew will remember.

“It was my fourth transit of the canal but it never ceases to be an awe inspiring experience, especially in this year, the 100th anniversary of the opening of the canal. It currently employs 9,500 people and carries more than 14,000 vessels a year between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 

“The six Clipper 70s were dwarfed in the locks which are each 1,000 feet long and 150 feet wide,” he added. 

Commenting on her Panama Canal experience, Claire Wilkinson on board GREAT Britain noted: “An amazing feat of engineering, (even more so than the Shropshire Union!) and too weird to think that we passed through a country by boat instead of sailing around it!

“We joined up (literally) with Mission Performance and Invest Africa to go through as one boat. Hilarious moments such as having a phone call from the UK whilst being watched by the live web cam in the Miraflores lock put a big smile on my face! There is NOWHERE to hide in this world! This was followed by the surrealism of passing through the stunning man-made Gatan Lake, surrounded by lush rainforest watching massive tankers and container ships doing exactly the same.”

Invest Africa’s Craig Forsyth said: “Being from Yorkshire where we are not short of the odd canal and certainly not short of locks, the Panama Canal still held a special moment for me. Travelling through what is probably the most recognised shipping canal in the world was yet another special moment to savour from this race. Such a treat to be able to partake.”

The famous lock is currently undergoing a US $5.25 billion expansion project set to double its capacity by 2015 by creating a new lane of traffic and allowing more and larger ships to transit. For more information on the project, CLICK HERE.

To watch a time lapse of the Clipper 2013-14 Race transiting the Canal CLICK HERE

Team Sponsor PSP Logistics encouraged the 2013-14 teams to submit their best images of the Panama Canal transit for a competition. You can view the image gallery HERE.