Clipper Race. The Final Count-Down

by Richard Crockett

The Clipper Race is one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and an endurance test like no other.

With no previous sailing experience necessary, it’s a record breaking 40,000 nautical mile race around the world on a 70-foot ocean racing yacht.

The brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, the event is now preparing for the start of its twelfth edition, the Clipper 2019-20 Race. Starting from London on 1 September 2019, the fleet will complete its circumnavigation when it returns eleven months later, in August 2020.

Divided into eight legs and between 13 and 16 individual races, crew can choose to complete the full circumnavigation or select individual legs. It is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of eleven identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper and first mate to safely guide the crew.

Normally the domain of seasoned pros, this supreme challenge is taken on by ordinary, everyday people. Having completed a rigorous training course, participants are suited and booted in the latest extreme protection gear to commence the race of their lives – an unparalleled challenge where taxi drivers rub shoulders with chief executives, vicars mix with housewives, students work alongside bankers, and engineers team up with rugby players.

The sea does not distinguish between Olympians or novices. There is nowhere to hide – if Mother Nature throws down the gauntlet, you must be ready to face the same challenges as the pro racer.

Becoming an ocean-racer and overcoming the most challenging conditions on the planet requires training. Every crew member, regardless of their previous experience, complete four levels of Clipper Race training that enables them to tackle the most challenging situations on the planet.

Clipper Race HQ in Gosport, UK, was a hive of activity during Prep Week.

Hundreds of Clipper 2019-20 Race crew were busily getting the fleet ready; doing maintenance, organising the all-important victualling, and taking part in training sessions being run by Hyde Sails, Marlow Ropes, and Spinlock.

Prep Week is an extremely important week in the pre-race calendar as it is the last chance for Skippers, Mates, and crew to prepare for their upcoming adventure before heading to St Katharine Docks for the race start on 1 September – a mere few days away.

There are two South Africans skippering yachts. Nick Leggatt is skipper of ‘Zhuhai’ while David Immelman is skipper of ‘GoToBermuda’.

Nick Leggatt will skipper Zhuhai.
pic by

Leggatt brings a wealth of experience to the role of Skipper. At the age of 52 he has accomplished a lot since he began dinghy sailing aged 10; going on to notch up more than 280,000 nautical miles, having circumnavigate the globe three times, and set five world speed sailing records, including a round the world record with American adventurer Steve Fossett’s crew on ‘Cheyenne’ (Playstation) in 2004.

Communication is set to be the byword for Leggatt’s team, who believes that developing efficient lines of communication leads to more effective manoeuvres and a happier team.

For the race ‘Zhuhai’ has a crew from 9 different nations, made up of 41 men and 19 women, with the youngest being 18 and the oldest 66. 9 crew are doing the full race.

David Immelman will skipper GoToBermuda.

Immelman, 48, has extensive offshore racing experience and since catching the sailing bug early at age 5, he has recorded more than 350,000 nautical miles in his log book, with over 200,000 as skipper.

Born in Ennis in Ireland, Immelman has called Cape Town home since a young age, where he grew up racing a mixture of dinghies and keel boats. In 1997, Immelman did take a brief break from sailing to take on the huge challenge of rowing single handed across the Atlantic from Tenerife to Barbados. For the past three years, he has been working as a Yachtmaster Instructor in Cape Town, with his role including skippering training runs from Cape Town to either Rio de Janeiro or Madagascar and back with ten RYA Yachtmaster Ocean students on board.

Immelman’s leadership mantra is to lead by example, and though he wants to balance competitiveness with fun in his team, his ultimate goal is to win.

His love of the ocean extends further than sailing. He has served as a Research Technician for the Marine Mammalogy Department of the University of Pretoria collecting and collating data on marine mammals, specifically Heaviside’s Dolphins and Humpback Whales. He is also a keen diver and has logged more than one thousand hours underwater, both teaching and dive mastering.

For the race ‘Gotobermuda’ has a crew from 10 different nations, made up of 43 men and 17 women, with the youngest being 18 and the oldest 72. 8 crew are doing the full race.

Get Ready for Some Gripping Viewing
Forget binge-watching the latest Netflix series. The Clipper Race Viewer is back and set to take over your lives, bringing all of the drama and making for some very gripping viewing over the next eleven months.

In addition to following regular updates on the Clipper Race Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds, every tack, gybe and strategy call, you’ll never miss a beat of the action with the entire Clipper Race Viewer at your fingertips. Track each of the eleven identical yachts’ hourly real-time course and position as teams battle their way around the world.

Bespoke to the Clipper Race, the web-based Race Viewer has been tried and tested in excess of 120,000 nautical miles of ocean racing, allowing Race Crew supporters to track their loved one’s location 24 hours a day, over all 228 days of racing, on both desktop and mobile devices.

The Race Viewer also has a private race management system, paramount for ensuring the safety of the fleet, allowing the Race Team to interpret the data and track each yacht’s progress closely.

For race followers interested in the finer detail, a host of tools are available including brand new additions for the 2019-20 edition, which further enhance user customisation options. “We’ve developed a range of tools which give greater context to any tactical decisions made by each team. Weather layers can be activated to show current and forecasted wind, swell, air pressure and temperature and even an enhanced rewind feature so followers can catch up on any racing action.” explains George Loader, Digital Marketing Officer for the Clipper Race.

The Race Viewer comes with a warning, with many Race Crew Supporters reporting in with Race Viewer fever. A testament to its success, during the 2017-18 edition of the race, the Race Viewer received in excess 4.35 million page views globally, from 162 different countries. Race Viewer, for the 2019-20 edition, will be active from Sunday 1 September attracting a huge global audience, with many arranging their daily routine around the hourly updates.

Track the fleet HERE as they race around the globe

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