A momentous occasion in any sailors’ career, the Clipper Race fleet has officially crossed the equator, for the second and final time of the circumnavigation, crossing from the Southern Hemisphere back into the Northern Hemisphere.

The equator is a 24,901-mile invisible line that is equidistant from the North and South Poles, with over half of it spanning across the world’s oceans. The eleven Clipper 70s cross the equator twice during their circumnavigation, providing Race Crew the opportunity experience the infamous line crossing ceremony. 

A time-honoured tradition, as sailors cross the imaginary line from 00 00.000'S to 00 00.000'N,the Pollywogs (those who have never crossed the equator) emerge as Trusted Shellbacks (those that have).

Traditional sailing folklore states, that the ceremony should include a mandatory meeting of all Pollywogs in King Neptune’s court, where they confess the sins they have committed whilst on board, and request safe passage, fair winds, and following seas throughout Neptune’s domain. The ceremony ends with Pollywogs being made to eat, wear (or sometimes both)an interesting concoction that has been prepared in the galley, as they pay homage to the keeper of the seas. 

Hannah Brewis, Washington, DC Skipper said: “As always, what must follow an equator crossing is a famous tradition of turning pollywogs into shellbacks by confessing their sins and making an offering to the great King Neptune.  

“Each boat has a slightly different way of doing things, but most involve someone questionably dressed as the god of the sea and leftover food. On Washington, DC, after our normal midday meeting, King Neptune arose from behind the helm. Donning a magnificent robe (a bed sheet), a spectacular crown (sail repair tape) and holding a powerful trident (boat hook with a pool noodle attached) King Neptune, with his great beard (that one was actually real) gathered the Pollywogs and explained what they must do.  

“One by one, they went to Neptune kneeled before him and confessed to sin, the present Shellbacks decided if they were guilty or not guilty, (weirdly they were all guilty), and as punishment a ladle full of slops was poured over their head. Once completed, they rose as Shellbacks and as proof, tattooed on their arm (a dodgy drawing of a turtle in Sharpie). Well done to Toesie, Harry, Florian, Dave, Neil, Alan, Chelsea, Bartek, and Ronan for the Shellback promotion. And thank you Bob who might have enjoyed being Neptune a little too much”.

Cameron McCracken, AQP on board Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam said: “With an equator crossing, we’ve initiated half of our crew from Pollywogs (those who have never crossed the equator) into being mighty Shellbacks (those that have), sons and daughters of King Neptune himself. During the ceremony, right after crossing this morning, the Pollywogs were asked to confess their sins to King Neptune (Josh) and had charges brought against them by the court which they all rather cleverly plead guilty to”.

Image: Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam newly initiated Shellbacks

David Hartshorn, Bekezela Skipper said: “The second celebration was crossing the equator and marking Bekezela’s return to the Northern Hemisphere. 

“We were visited by Neptune’s representative and his two assistants Scampi and Calamari. The six Pollywogs on board were presented, they made their offerings, made a confession, and renounced their status as Pollywogs. They then had to spin on the spot three times (not sure why). It was interesting as most realised they had crossed the line and rotated clockwise, while a couple still thought they were south of the line and turned anti-clockwise. 

“Then Calamari, who sounded very much like Regina, instructed them to drink some bilge water. Then they were slapped on the face with a tortilla wrap, with the word TRUTH written on it (interesting) by Neptune's representative. Then finally they had some black tar like substance dolloped on their heads by Scampi, who looked very similar to #1, but wearing a white beard and a pink cape, similar fabric to a towel, and waving a trident around a lot. Then having been suitably humbled, or do I mean humiliated? They crawled under the traveller to signify the crossing of the equator and then stood proudly up as they had become an honourable Shellback. 

“Neptune’s representative then wished us fair winds and following seas, (not sure if they had their fingers crossed at that moment) and disappeared”.

Max Rivers, Our Isles and Oceans Skipper said: “Our equator crossing was smooth sailing, with legger Ann cruising across the famous line eating chocolate mini eggs and listening to Country Roads and marking another great moment in this race and milestone for the crew. The current joke for the round the world’ers is "Crossing the equator is a twice in a lifetime opportunity". 

Image: King Neptune and the new Shellbacks of Our Isles and Oceans

The fleet is making its way to Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam to complete the first race (Race 7) of Leg 5. You can keep track of the fleet on the Clipper Race Viewer or through our social media channels.