Meet the Clipper 2015-16 Skippers

18 March 2015

With less than six months to go until the start of the Clipper 2015-16 Race, we can now reveal our most diverse ever line up of professional skippers.

For the first time in our nineteen year history, the group of twelve professionals includes two women skippers, who hail from Canada and Australia, and the first ever skippers to represent France and Ukraine/Germany. The UK is also strongly represented with skippers from Scotland, Somerset, Cornwall and Hampshire.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “I feel very proud to welcome our most diverse and international group of race skippers yet.

“This is the first time we’ve had two women skippers in one race and I very much hope they will inspire future female participation. I’m also delighted to see we are broadening our professional appeal as we welcome our first French and first Ukrainian/German skippers.”

He added: “Our crew come from all over the world so I’m pleased to reflect this in our leadership. I look forward to working with all our skippers over the coming months as they prepare for another thrilling race.”

Hoping to follow the success of compatriot Eric Holden, Clipper 2013-14 Race winner, Canadian skipper Diane Reid, 42, from Toronto said: “This race combines all my passions and goals. I want to race round the world stupidly fast and I love teaching sailing. I am a passionate sailor who loves competition and winning, but also loves seeing individuals excel and triumph over hurdles.”

Wendy Tuck, 50, from Sydney also makes history by being the first Australian woman to skipper a crew in the race, and marking first appearances for their countries are Frenchman Olivier Cardin, 45, from Saint Aubin sur Mer in Normandy and Igor Gotlibovych, who was born in Ukraine and later moved to Germany.

Igor, the youngest skipper in the Clipper 2015-16 Race is determined age is not a barrier: “I am very competitive, and I continuously strive to improve at whatever I do. To me, being competitive means being willing to learn, and learning requires dedication and hard work. Following this principle has served me well in the past, and I will build on it throughout the Clipper Race campaign.”

The 2015-16 Race departs from the UK on August 30, 2015 and will return almost a year later.

Here are our Clipper 2015-16 Race skippers: (Pictured L-R)

Huw Fernie, 31, from Falmouth, is very familiar with the Clipper Race, having worked as a training mate here since 2012. Huw’s love of sailing developed from childhood holidays with his grandparents. After getting his degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Glasgow University, he decided it was time to focus completely on sailing. When Huw’s crew line up in the celebrated event in December 26, 2015, it will be his third time competing in the Sydney-Hobart Race.

Peter Thornton 36, from Gorran Haven, has seen his career progress from being a Gorran and Mevagissey Sea Scout, to being awarded an MBE at the age of twenty-five for a period of service as the Flag Lieutenant to the First Sea Lord and Admiralty Board at the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. After fifteen years of service, Peter moved into sailing chartered yachts and has competed in the Isle of Wight Round the Island Race, Taittinger Cup, and the Rolex Sydney-Hobart.

Daniel Smith, 31, from West Kilbride, North Ayrshire, is a Senior Yachting and Watersports Instructor who has been sailing since he was a little boy on family holidays in the Scottish Islands. The Scotsman, who graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in Computer Science, is a former Scottish Schools National Champion sailor who is also a qualified wind surfing and power boat instructor.

Olivier Cardin, 45, from Saint Aubin sur Mer, Normandy is the first French skipper in our nineteen year history. Olivier has a rich racing history, including two seasons Match racing with French Olympic sailor and two-time Finn Gold Cup champion, Philippe Presti. The former IT Project Manager shares his passion for sailing with his family and took his wife - a novice sailor - and three young children under the age of five, sailing round the world in 2011.

Wendy Tuck, 50, from Sydney is Australia’s first female skipper in the Clipper Race. Wendy got into sailing in her twenties and has spent the last decade as an RYA sailing instructor and charter skipper. So far, she has competed in eight Rolex Sydney-Hobart Races, which means she is only two races away from achieving her lifetime goal of ten, and making it on to the CYCA honours list.

Greg Miller, 39, from Gosport spent 24 years serving in the British Army and has vast experience of sailing different vessels in varying conditions. Greg teaches and assesses crew at the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre and other Solent based sailing schools, including Clipper Race crew ahead of the last two races. He also has his private pilot’s aeroplane licence.

Max Stunell, 34, from Portsmouth, is another member of the Clipper Race training team. Max started sailing during his schooldays in Portsmouth and now has several Atlantic Ocean crossings under his belt. He spent a few years working in advertising in London before returning to sailing full-time on the south coast. Max also spent a ski season working in Austria.

Ashley Skett, 31, from Newquay is a former firefighter who grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon and learned to sail dinghies off the Cornish coast as a child. Ashley, who studied at Plymouth University, marks being accepted into the Royal Marines as one of his greatest achievements. He has spent the last couple of years training Clipper Race crew, as well as working as a training skipper for Irish Offshore Sailing out of Dublin.

Darren Ladd, 49, from Somerset, got into sailing thanks to his grandfather who would take him out on his converted lifeboat in Weymouth, as a child. Darren has had careers in the oil and gas industry and in IT but says he always felt restless because sailing was in his psyche. Darren started working for the Clipper Race as a training mate in 2011. He enjoys many adventurous activities, but says his favourite land based equivalent to sailing is probably ski-touring.

Igor Gotlibovych, 27, was born in Kharkov, Ukraine before moving to Germany at a young age. His dual nationality means he is both our first Ukrainian and first German Race Skipper in one. Igor, who has a PhD in Experimental Atomic Physics from Cambridge University, is the youngest of the 2015-16 skippers but he has already garnered years of sailing experience as an instructor and a racer.

Diane Reid, 42, is the first Canadian woman to be appointed as a Clipper Race Skipper. Diane has combined her career as a racer, competing in races such as the Mini Transat (from Northern Europe to Guadeloupe), with her desire to share her love of sailing with others, by coaching when she is at home in Canada.

Jim Prendergast, 40, was born in Sheffield but is now based in Gosport, where he is a Clipper Race training skipper and used to work as Direct Entry Watch Keeper for HM Coast Guard. Jim studied Economics, History and Politics and had a career in sales and marketing before becoming a full-time sailor. He has skippered crew across the Atlantic Ocean and has also raced in the Fastnet.

Click here to watch a video of the skippers first day on the water together.

Starting this Monday, we’ll be highlighting each of our new skippers in their own daily profile so stay tuned for more information...

Join The Race