The UK capital has waved off the crews of the world’s longest ocean race as they started their 40,000 mile adventure from Tower Bridge.
Crowds estimated in excess of 120,000 lined the banks of the Thames to cheer on the colourful pageant to mark the start of the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race.
The fleet of twelve 70-ft ocean racing yachts and a flotilla of support vessels, spectator boats and well-wishers participated in a spectacular parade with Tower Bridge lifting to salute the crews who will face the ultimate endurance test.
Legendary British yachtsman, Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “It is wonderful to see these gutsy people set off on one of the greatest adventures left on the planet.
“Departing from the iconic Tower Bridge, in the British capital London, is something really special for the crews and skippers who have been building up to this moment for months.
“To see them return to London as accomplished circumnavigators in 11 months time will be a special moment.”
The armada was joined by a paddleship steamer, pilot boats, police boats, RIBs, spectator boats and other pleasure craft as Britain waved off the 270 crew sailing from London to Rio de Janeiro on Leg 1.
It is the first time London has hosted the Clipper Race and is 40 years since the Thames last featured a round the world sailing event.
The fleet will not be returning until July 2014 after a total of 670 crew race 40,000 miles and visit 16 ports on six continents.
Designed to provide everyone - regardless of sailing experience - the chance to race across oceans and taste the exhilaration of completing a circumnavigation, the Clipper Race has turned over 3,500 novices into ocean racers since its inception in 1995.
Everyone from teachers to sports stars, professionals, lorry drivers, nurses, film directors and more team together to take on the world’s toughest sailing conditions. Skippered by a professional yachtsman, each team will battle to complete eight different legs over eleven months, all vying for the overall top prize.
The race will officially start offshore at Southend on Monday morning at 09.30 BST. The first leg of the Clipper Race ends in Marina da Gloria, Rio de Janeiro, the destination for the 2016 Olympic sailing events. They then continue on via South Africa, Western Australia, Sydney (including the world famous Sydney-Hobart Race), Brisbane, Singapore, China, San Francisco, Panama, Jamaica, New York, Derry-Londonderry and the Netherlands before returning to London’s St Katharine Docks for Race Finish in July 2014.