What does it take to be a Clipper Race skipper?

Back to archive

The world’s longest ocean race is seeking 12 extraordinary skippers to lead its novice crews around the globe in the tenth edition of the unique sailing challenge - the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race. Are you good enough to take it on? 

Founded by legendary sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race gives skippers the opportunity to tick off the ultimate sailing bucket list – circumnavigation. 

Clipper Race skippers are extremely special individuals, able to withstand huge physical and mental challenges to successfully lead their team through Mother Nature’s toughest environments. 

To apply you’ll need to hold a Yachtmaster Ocean certificate [commercial endorsed] and have at least 30,000 miles offshore experience on big boats, but the skills needed go well beyond the professional requisites or normal job requirements. 

As well as outstanding sailing skills, successful skippers will need excellent people management and leadership skills. They will also need to be prepared to fulfil a busy schedule of sponsor and media requirements during stopovers. 

Clipper Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston warns skippers must be prepared to be  truly exhausted, physically bruised and battered, mentally fatigued and sleep deprived during the 11 month voyage:

“Your aptitude and attitude to excel in this type of sailing environment and this style of team is key. We are looking for the best, and at the end of the race, our skippers have proven that they are the best,” added Knox-Johnston. 

The Clipper 2013-14 Race has so far taken teams to Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Australia, including entry in the classic Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Singapore, Qingdao, China, San Francisco, Panama and Jamaica. The Clipper 2015-16 Race will visit 16 global ports across six continents, crossing four oceans. 

Those who make it through the tough selection process will be rewarded with a job like no other as they sail into the world’s most famous ports, having built a team in challenging and hostile environments.

They will get to sail by iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Sydney Harbour Bridge and start races by locations such as Table Mountain in Cape Town and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. 

Successful skippers will be offered an 18 month contract and a competitive tax free salary. 

Clipper Race skippers can also enjoy exceptional career progression, as Alex Thomson, the youngest ever winning skipper in the Clipper Race in the 1998-99 edition has displayed.

Clipper 2013-14 Race skipper, Olly Cotterell currently leads third-placed OneDLL. He explained the professionalism, excellence and complete commitment needed to succeed:

“Tactically you need to keep the yacht on the edge of its ability all the time, a bit like a Formula 1 car turning a corner at 100 mph. However if you push too hard you could face disaster. In bad conditions, everyday life is a challenge but scars are souvenirs you never lose.” 

Clipper 2015-16 skipper interviews for are taking place right now. Read below for the full list of qualifcations and skills and how to apply.


  • UK MCA Recognised Yachtmaster Ocean with commercial endorsement or IYT (International Yacht Training) Master of Yachts
  • ENG1 Seafarer's medical certificate
  • STCW Proficiency for Persons in Charge of Medical Care Aboard Ships
  • GMDSS GOC/ROC certificate with sat-com endorsement
  • RYA Yachtmaster Instructor or Cruising Instructor

Note: Qualifications in progress may be accepted under certain circumstances.


  • Fluent English (spoken and written)
  • Excellent interpersonal, man management and leadership skills [please give examples in your covering letter]
  • Ability to build, inspire and motivate teams 
  • Strong communications skills
  • Significant offshore/ocean experience (c. 30,000nm), with a significant proportion in command
  • Significant time in command of crewed yachts greater than 50-foot
  • Strong background in sail training
  • Commercial and media awareness and a professional image
  • Offshore yacht racing experience and competitive nature
  • High level of seamanship, practical yacht husbandry and maintenance skills
  • UK Work Visa.


To apply for the role please send your CV and a covering letter stating why you would make a great race skipper/ leader, to [email protected].

If you’d like to find out more about the role please contact Deputy Race Director Mark Light [email protected]