Celebrating 25 Years of the Clipper Race
16 October 2021
Today, 16 October, marks 25 years since eight 60 foot yachts and 182 Race Crew left Plymouth to embark on the very first Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
With 12 editions, three fleets and over 5,000 crew trained, the Clipper Race may have grown immensely but the core purpose remains the same; to enable people from all walks of life to have the opportunity to experience the sheer exhilaration of ocean racing.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “The idea for the Clipper Race first came to me on a mountain in Greenland when I was climbing with Sir Chris Bonington. One night, at our camp on a glacier, we discussed the cost and challenge of climbing Mount Everest. If Mount Everest is the ultimate in mountaineering, what was its equivalent in sailing and how many people would be willing to pursue the challenge?”
The Clipper Race was born and 25 years later, people from around the world continue to pursue this adventure. With places on the future 2023-24 and 2025-26 editions being filled with applicants aiming to join the ranks of those who can say they have crossed an ocean or circumnavigated the world.
For one crew member the draw of the Clipper Race saw him complete one leg in the first edition and then return in 2019 for the full circumnavigation. Richard Burchill, a Chiropodist, from Surrey, racing on board Imagine your Korea, said: “I did one leg of Clipper ‘96; I went to Hawaii, Japan and Hong Kong and had such a fantastic time, I promised myself when the time was right I would return to go around the world.
“I remember an awful lot about the people I sailed with and that is what drew me back. Barely a month goes by when I don’t think about someone I shared the experience with on Clipper ‘96.”
The British company has become more international with each edition, with 2019-20 being the first race where over half (51%) of the Race Crew hailed from countries outside of the UK, over 40 nationalities were represented; it is the most diverse edition yet.
Developments in the fleet and growth in relationships with destinations around the world has meant the Clipper Race route has seen many iterations. In 1996 the inaugural fleet headed westwards around the globe visiting 14 destinations and set the tone for the following three editions. The Clipper 2005-06 Race saw big changes, not only with a new fleet of ten 68 foot yachts, but it was also the first race to run west to east introducing the Indian and North Pacific Oceans into the route.
This change of direction and route also meant a marked increase in rhumb route miles, with this fourth edition, seeing the fleet race 35,000nm, about a 10,000 mile increase. And even with the introduction of the Clipper 70 fleet, and increased mileage to over 40,000nm, this is still the base of the route the event uses today.
Dividing the circumnavigation into multiple legs and stages not only means more people get to experience ocean racing but they get to visit some incredible and iconic destinations. There have been 61 worldwide to date including Seattle, Punta del Este, Derry~Londonderry, New York, Cape Town, The Whitsundays, Qingdao and Sanya. New destinations continue to be added with the likes of Bermuda and Zhuhai in the current edition and Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam added to the Clipper 2023-24 Race route. Through partnerships with these destinations, the stopovers have created memories that will last a lifetime for our Race Crew and their supporters.
With the unique storytelling possibilities from the perspective of Race Crew and global race route, the Clipper Race has also developed as a platform for business, trade and tourism. As the company has grown and adapted so has the business model which has attracted partners to develop impactful international campaigns, host spectacular stopovers, and collaborate to generate added value for many leading brands.
Founders Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and William Ward OBE, remain at the helm as Chairman and CEO after 25 years. William Ward said: “I thank all those who have dared to live a life less ordinary, our intrepid Race Crew and their supporters, business partners who share our unique ambitions, and my team who work tirelessly round the clock and round the world to provide this unique experience and help us to keep the race evolving on its journey. Long may the adventure continue.”Join The Race