The build up to the Clipper 2023-24 Race is well underway with the first of five Level 4 courses ticked off. This past week saw over 100 Race Crew sail for the first time with their Skipper, First Mate and fellow teammates on board a Clipper 70 yacht.

Image: Level 4 Training

Race Crew from all over the world arrived in Gosport, UK in anticipation to start sailing with the team they will be crossing oceans with. Level 4 is the final level of training that all Race Crew are required to complete, and follows three previous rigorous stages of sail training. After learning key skills, manoeuvres, safety and seamanship on Levels 1-3, Level 4 is all about safety drills, race tactics and above all, building a strong team ethos.

A key moment of the Level 4 Training is participants receiving their Crew Kit Package, which includes technical Musto kit for wearing on board, including a set of HPX Gore-Tex Pro-Ocean gold foulies. This range was launched by Musto earlier this year and is the result of years of testing and development to withstand the toughest ocean conditions. Chris Nash, Marketing Co-ordinator at Musto, was on site to soak in the atmosphere. He said: “Seeing Race Crew get their brand new HPX is amazing- to see it all finally branded, and the crew trying it on after years of development- it’s brilliant.”

Image: Crew wearing new Musto HPX foul weather gear on board during their training

Thomas Udesen, Race Crew on board Team Dan added: “The golden colour fits very nicely with our ambition!”

Speaking from the dock at the start of the training course, AQP Joss Creswell, sailing on Team Ineke said: “The week will involve practising all of our emergency procedures, some manoeuvres and drills to get everyone into the rhythm and finish off the week with a race in the English Channel. What’s really exciting is that it’s the crew training with Skippers and Mates for the first time, so this is where the team element and camaraderie really builds.”

Dale Smyth, Deputy Race Director explains the detail and importance of Level 4 Training: “Level 4 Training really is the start of the crew’s great adventure. It’s the reality of what they are about to embark on. It’s the final stage of training for the race, and it’s when the Skippers and AQPs get to work on their strategies together to become that race team that they need to be for the race. We also send the teams off on a cross-channel race- a longer race to France and a shorter sprint back to the Solent. By the end of the training, crew are race ready, and will continue their development on the race.”

Once safety briefs concluded, the boats were rigged and ready to sail. The yachts then slipped lines and headed out to commence the final stage of training before the real adventure begins in a couple of months.

Once out into the Solent, teams drilled their key evolutions and safety procedures, as well as practising towing, boat-to-boat transfers and using storm sails. The yachts do not return to port each night, but anchor or sail through the night. After three days of honing skills together as a team, it was time for the crew to get into race mode for the first time, and put these skills into practice in a real offshore racing environment. The yachts lined up to practise a Le Mans start and line starts under the watchful eye of the Clipper Race Office, before commencing a two day offshore race in the English Channel, where the teams could really consolidate their racing tactics and teamwork.

Image: Level 4 Training

Mark Light, Race Director was out on the water co-ordinating the practice Race Start for the first race. He reported: “It was a really nice clean start for the fleet, and all of the yachts are looking good out there. They’ll be sailing through the night heading over to Portland and then down toward the coast of France to finish Race 1. Then they’ll start a Le Mans start for Race 2 where they sail back to the Solent. It’s great to see them out racing.”

Image: Helming at sunset

After an intense week of drills and closely-fought racing in plenty of sunshine and strong breeze the teams returned to Gosport HQ. Hear from the Skippers, AQPs and Race Crew on their return from their week on the water:

Hannah Brewis, Race Skipper: “We were out on the water for six days, without coming back into port. We spent the first few days training, and then we had a two-day race at the end. We really put the crew through their paces and drilled the evolutions so that their skills are as high as we can get them and then threw all of those skills into a race- where we got third, which is a great start!”

“You know that these people are the ones you’ll be crossing oceans with and having this big adventure together. It’s so good to see crew who were maybe a bit nervous at first, at the end are having lots of fun whilst doing big evolutions and manoeuvres.”

Charlie Warhurst, AQP on Team Ryan: “Level 4 Training is all about doing more skills that crew might not have done before such as towing, boat-to-boat transfers, emergency tiller use and using the storm sails, as well as getting used to what life is like full time on board. We then went onto a bit more of a racing aspect.”

Nano Antia, Race Skipper: “On the final two days we had a race. We started off the Isle of Wight, rounding some upwind marks and then bearing away to hoist our spinnaker, making the second mark in second place. It was a pretty intense race and it was great to see the crew getting into this racing mode and switching on.”

Image: Nano Antia and Angus Whitehead at the helm on their team yacht

Jessica Fletcher, 33, from California, sailing on board Zhuhai: “It was awesome! We had so much fun. We did a tonne of drills and learnt a bunch of new skills, and it really solidified the learning over the past three levels of training. It was so great to finally be with my team and Skipper and First Mate and I’m really pumped for the race ahead. Seeing James and Mike in action has really given me a sense of confidence of what’s to come”

Laura Amorim, 37, from Rio de Janeiro, Circumnavigator on board Team Nano: “Nano and Angus are great leaders, and have such high energy. The vibe on board was amazing- everyone is so excited and attentive and taking care of each other.”

Mike Ferguson, 48, from Scotland, Circumnavigator on Team Nano: “It’s been an epic week. It’s the first time sailing with members of the actual team, so it’s been really good to get on board, start team bonding and get the jokes and chat flowing! The training content has really been a consolidation of Levels 1-3, and focussing very much on strategy, tactics and bringing the racing mindset in. The weather has been amazing with good breeze through to wind holes so lots of sail changes and lot’s of action. We rounded off the week with a practice race, which really made it real.”

Liz Dicesare, 28 from Boston, USA, Circumnavigator on Team Hannah: “All of the training has been really wonderful, particularly this one training with our team and Skipper and First Mate. It’s a little different, there’s a bit more connection and camaraderie and having the racing element is amazing too- you get the feeling of what it will be like to be out there and racing around the world. It’s been nice to see the development, I think the training is set up really well to learn the basics and build on your skills course by course.

Retief Jordaan, 38 from South Africa, Circumnavigator on Team Ryan: “Level 4 with Ryan and Charlie- what an experience. To think where I came from, firmly land based, watching lions and elephants in my front garden versus sweating a mainsail is quite an adjustment, but here we are! I am really looking forward to the race now. Sailing with a South African is cool- Ryan is calm and collected and an absolute star, with Charlie alongside him leading us from the helm and bow.”

The next Level 4 Training course will get underway this Sunday. Keep an eye on our socials for on-the-water action and a snapshot from life on board.

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