Clipper Race 20th Anniversary Ball: Sailing Stars line up to offer congratulations

14 October 2016

This week we are celebrating 20 years since the first Clipper Race set sail and opened up the challenge of ocean racing to everyday people seeking a global adventure.

On Saturday 15 October, the eve of when the first fleet set off two decades previous, the occasion was marked with a 20th anniversary ball in London. Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said: “I have always believed strongly that we only have one life and should live it as fully and as adventurously as possible. Twenty years ago we took a chance and started this idea of training amateur sailors to achieve the incredibly life-affirming challenge of circumnavigation, and I’ve been incredibly proud to see the race grow in popularity in each edition.”

186 crew departed Plymouth in the first Clipper Race on board eight 60-foot yachts. Since then the demand for the race has grown steadily with larger yacht designs and an expanded fleet enabling participation to its latest level of nearly 700 crew, a growth of over 350 per cent over the two decades.

The biennially held Clipper Race is regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges. Over the past two decades more than 4,000 amateur sailors have competed in the marathon race and the fleet has amassed a cumulative distance in excess of 3.8 million nautical miles.

The landmark date was marked in London at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane on Saturday at a celebration gala ball which took this year’s fundraising total for official Clipper Race charity Unicef to over £330,000 thanks to the impressive array of prizes donated for the auction and raffle.

As well as over 600 guests, including crew and skippers from all race editions plus staff, supporters and famous faces from the world of sport and adventure, legendary sailing friends have been lining up to offer their support to Sir Robin, CEO William Ward and the race organising team.

Dee Caffari MBE, a former Clipper Race training skipper and the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world westward, against the prevailing winds and currents, said: “The Clipper Race has given so many people the opportunity to endure the harsh remoteness of the oceans, experience nature in its true environment and excel in the pure, thrilling exhilaration of our sport.

“We will forever be united by our voyage of discovery, our experience of extremes and we will always have each other’s backs, because we have become a very special family. Thank you to Sir Robin and a pat on the back to all those who have now, thanks to the Clipper Race, achieved your dream.”

Alex Thomson, the only British entrant in the upcoming 2016 Vendee Ocean Race, remains the youngest Skipper to win the Clipper Race following his team’s victory in the 1998 edition when he was 25.

He says: “The Clipper Race is a test unlike any other in sailing and I congratulate Sir Robin and William Ward, along with all crew and Skippers who have taken on its challenge. Not only was the Clipper Race a momentous accomplishment for me as a young Skipper, it undoubtedly helped me progress my career as a professional racer and I will always be grateful for the opportunities it has given me.”

Ian Walker, Olympic Silver Medallist (1996, 2000), winning Skipper of Volvo Ocean Race on Abu Dhabi, and 2016 Yachtsman of The Year says: “Congratulations to everyone who has taken part in the Clipper Race. A circumnavigation remains one of the great sporting challenges and I have thoroughly enjoyed following your adventures. Well done to all the skippers and crew who took on the challenge!”

Dame Ellen MacArthur, who broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005, says: “Congratulations to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on twenty years of facilitating extraordinary achievements for Clipper Race crew around the world. The race has provided young people from the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust life-changing experiences, helping them to imagine a future after treatment for cancer. Thank you for letting the Trust be part of the Clipper Race family.”

Cast your eye over the last twenty years of the Clipper Race in our 20th anniversary gallery.

The Clipper 2017-18 Race, the eleventh race edition, starts next summer and is already 70 per cent full, with UK and international crew already out training each week on the Solent in Hampshire.

Crew can choose to sign up to either the full circumnavigation, or one or more of its eight race legs. Click here to find out more about joining the adventure.

Join The Race