Fifteen different races, 40,000 nautical miles, across six oceans and calling at countries, lasting 11 months…..all on a 70ft yacht. The Clipper Race presents one of the toughest mental and physical challenges in sailing, if not sport in general.
Given its daunting nature, you would assume only a pro, or someone with substantial sailing experience at least, would be suited to embark on such a journey.
Instead, the race is open to anybody, and that is the beauty of it. Whether you are a graduate, a 40-year-old policeman or a 60-year-old midwife, you are eligible for the race of a lifetime.
You’ll need a lot of time on your hands for starters, plus plenty of courage. The race starts in August this year and end in July 2018; it is an endurance test like no other, with countless obstacles encountered on the way.
The following is a breakdown of each leg and what competitors may experience on the way.
Leg 1: The Atlantic Trade Winds Leg
London – South America / 5,968 miles / 33 days
The crew say goodbye to their loved ones and head into the Atlantic. The Doldrums, a low pressured area around the Equator, tends to serve up a stern test with its unpredictable winds and debilitating humidity.
A visit to the Court of Neptune is also a major highlight. Practiced in the Royal Navy, seafaring tradition dictates that any ship crossing the Equator must pay their respects to the Lord of the Seas, King Neptune, to gain his acceptance.
Over a month after departing from London, the teams are greeted in carnival style as the first leg ends in party mode in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Leg 2: The South Atlantic Leg
South America – South Africa / 3,932 miles / 18 days
The swells of the South Atlantic can bring boat speeds up to 20 knots (23 mph). As exhilarating as it sounds; it is a marathon, not a sprint.
As the yachts head to South Africa, they may get an Albatross swoop overhead or catch sight of giant blue whales.
‘’Night watches are what makes this race what it is. The challenge and the adventures, and the time to get to know one another and develop what will hopefully be long-term friendships. When the moon is out and the winds are good, there is nothing so beautiful and peaceful,’’ says Julia Ramsay, participant in the 2013-14 Clipper Race.
The leg ends in Cape Town, where a traditional African welcoming waits.
Leg 3: The Southern Ocean Leg
South Africa – Western Australia / 5,575 miles / 23 days
Maybe this leg should be renamed to something a bit more telling, considering the fleet encountered two hurricanes and gusting winds up to 100 knots (115 mph) a few years back.
As thrilling as it is, the Southern Ocean offers up its fair share of beauty, like double rainbows for example. It is known among sailors as the place to experience Mother Nature at her most raw and beautiful.
The race ends in Perth where a warm welcome waits, courtesy of the Australian summer.
Leg 4: The Australia Leg
Western Australia – Eastern Australia / 5,015 miles / 28 days
The Australian continents sits above the cold Antarctic waters where icebergs flow north, meaning the crew pass through one of the most inhospitable seas on the planet.
Once you have battled through the adverse weather conditions, you are rewarded by the stunning sight of Sydney Harbour where the race concludes to the welcoming of thousands.
Sydney Harbour is a sight when 150,000 people see off the crew as they set off in the next race through the Tasman Sea, via Bass Strait, which has a dangerous reputation with its extreme conditions yet shallow waters.
Leg 5: The Asia Pacific Leg
Eastern Australia – East Coast, China / 7k miles / 53 days
After conquering Australia, the next race begins with the crew heading north through ‘Cyclone Alley’. Storms, squalls, winds, huge waves and blistering temperatures are all likely to be encountered at some stage along the way before ending in Papua New Guinea.
The second race in leg 5 sees the fleet leave Papua New Guinea and straight into the winds of the North East Monsoon.
Some say leg 5 is the most challenging out of all the legs; 7k miles, 53 days and temperatures anywhere from -5C to 30C, a real test of endurance, character, and mental strength.
A heroic welcome waits in China with Qingdao’s famous welcome ceremony attracting huge crowds.
Leg 6: The Mighty Pacific Leg
East Coast China – West Coast, USA / 6,637 miles / 33 days
There is a good reason why few people cross the Pacific Ocean. The closest you will get to humans at times, apart from your own crew members, will be those on the International Space Station.
After reaching Japan, a significant tactical dilemma comes into play: take the shortest or great circle route and risk headwinds or take the southern route which is longer, but with following wind.
Erratic conditions heading towards the American west coast can be challenging. The common sightings of sharks and whales tend to make it all worth it, as does the first sighting of landfall for about a month.
Leg 7: The USA Coast-To-Coast Leg
West Coast, USA – East Coast, USA / 7,115 miles / 38 days
After the fleet bypass the tricky Californian current, the speedy race down the coast of Mexico, via the dreaded Doldrums, could decide the finishing positions coming into Panama.
Panama Canal, one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world, is the iconic starting point the crew depart from as you head up north towards the gusty Caribbean Sea.
Thunderstorms tend to provide a spectacular backdrop as the crews head to the East Coast; the Big Apple waits.
Leg 8: The Atlantic Homecoming Leg
East Coast, USA – United Kingdom / 4,894 miles / 22 days
The crew head through the Grand Banks, known for its thick fog and light winds, passing close to the wreck of the Titanic – so they’ll be on ieberg watch.
After a final stopover in Derry, Northern Ireland, the race concludes where it all began 11 months ago. With the podium in sight and a warm reception to go with it, the race a lifetime is all but complete.