Cops swap patrol for sail on round the world yacht

ALL ABOARD Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, founder and chairman of Clipper Ventures, with Sergeant Tony Birr of the marine police unit and Clipper Race skipper Olly Cotterell
ALL ABOARD Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, founder and chairman of Clipper Ventures, with Sergeant Tony Birr of the marine police unit and Clipper Race skipper Olly Cotterell
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MEMBERS of Hampshire police’s marine unit swapped their fleet of motor-powered boats for a day’s sail aboard a round-the-world racing yacht.

Members of the unit, which patrols the county’s coastline, spent a day off sailing aboard a Clipper 68 yacht, which has been round the world four times.

The sailors, some experts and some beginners, were invited by Gosport-based Clipper Ventures, which runs the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

They were led by skipper Olly Cotterrell, who will lead a crew in the race this year.

Head of the unit Sergeant Tony Birr had previously met Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first man to sail non-stop round the world and is the founder and chairman of Clipper Ventures.

The accomplished sailor had attended the naming ceremony of the force’s new £1.5m fleet of boats and while there the two decided both Clipper and the unit would benefit from experiencing each other’s maritime worlds.

Sgt Birr said: ‘The unit is out on the water every day.

‘But quite a many of them have never experienced sailing in their lives, bearing in mind we police the sailing community.

‘Sir Robin offered us this opportunity to do some sailing awareness training so the team is going out to experience it from the other side in preparation for a busy summer ahead.

‘It is about being visible, it’s also about being part of the community.’

Sgt Birr remained on duty aboard the force’s patrol launch Preventer after his team set sail.

The unit routinely patrols the waters using its 39ft catamaran, Commander, patrol launch Preventer and two Rigid Inflatable Boats (Ribs) named Pursuer and Protector.

As a part of special branch, the officers also have a role to play in counter-terrorism.

And they pay visits to clubs, marinas and maritime community meetings.

Sir Robin hopes staff at Clipper Ventures will soon go on patrol with the officers.

He said: ‘We all use the Solent and it makes sense for them to see what we do, and for us to see what they do.

‘Hopefully we will get some of our guys out but I couldn’t spare them at the moment but I would like that to happen.’

Preparations are under way for the 2013-14 edition of the race with the new Clipper 70 yachts.

The race will see experienced skippers lead amateur sailors around the world.