‘I have always been passionate about the sea’

More than 360 adventurers gather in Southampton to meet their skippers and team mates
More than 360 adventurers gather in Southampton to meet their skippers and team mates
Kieran fears watching too many episodes of Only Fools and Horses has turned Louie cockney                           (BBC)

KIERAN HOWARD: Mange tout, Dad! Mange tout!

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People from all walks of life are getting ready to step out of their comfort zones and crew yachts in the world’s longest ocean race. Features editor SIMON TOFT reports.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the world, can never be accused of leading a boring existence. His philosophy is simple.

Robin Knox-Johnstone

Robin Knox-Johnstone

‘You’ve only got one life, so why not paint it in bright colours?’ he says.

‘Don’t use pastel shades. Make the most of it – get out there, throw yourselves into it!’

He’s talking about the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, an event he founded that gives people from all walks of life the chance to sign up to race 40,000 miles around the world.

More than 360 adventurers travelled from across the globe to Southampton last weekend to discover which of the 10 teams competing in the race they will represent.

Three-quarters of the 489 men and women who will be taking part in this gruelling challenge of a lifetime came together to meet their skippers and new team-mates, travelling from as far afield as Singapore, Australia, New York and Chile.

The crews come from backgrounds as varied as marketing executives, nurses, bankers, carpenters, IT specialists, engineers and chief executives, representing more than 40 nationalities. Almost half of them had never sailed before embarking on their training for the world’s longest ocean race.

Last Saturday the reality of their participation in the race truly begins to kick in; with a skipper in place, team strategies start to take shape, roles are assigned to the crew and, with not long to the race start on July 31, the countdown is on.

The race, organised by a team based in Gosport, will be contested by 10 identical stripped-down 68-foot racing yachts, each sponsored by a city, region or country. Already confirmed for Clipper 11-12 are the Keppel Corporation-sponsored Singapore and, representing China’s Olympic sailing city, Qingdao, both entering the race for the fourth time.

Returning for a second time is Visit Finland, backed by the Finnish Tourist Board. And making their debut in the race are Derry-Londonderry, celebrating their status as UK City of Culture 2013, and De Lage Landen, sponsored by the global provider of asset-based financing programmes of the same name and which will race under the Dutch flag. The names of the remaining five yachts will be revealed in the coming weeks.

This will be the eighth time that Sir Robin’s teams of amateur sailors will circumnavigate the planet, taking the number of people who have taken part to almost 3,000. He wanted to make ocean racing available to everyone, regardless of nationality or background.

This year’s crews will put themselves in the expert hands of 10 professional skippers entrusted with getting their yachts around the world and safely home.

Sir Robin says: ‘Leading a team in a race around the world is one of the hardest and most challenging jobs that any skipper could ever undertake and we’re confident our 10 skippers are up to this challenge.

‘They have all been through a lengthy and rigorous selection process and we have chosen a group of exceptional individuals as our race skippers.

‘They have the ability to draw the line between competitiveness and safety while, at the same time, motivating the crew to retain their focus during races lasting several weeks at a time, whether it be through roaring gales and towering seas or the frustration of tricky calm spells.’

One of the crew members is Darren Hicks from Portsmouth. The 29-year-old technical account manager is doing legs seven and eight of the global voyage.

Darren says: ‘I have always been passionate about the sea and really want to challenge myself with something life-changing. How could I not?’

So what is he most looking forward to?

‘There’s not much that I’m not looking forward to, but I think flying halfway round the world and sailing back is pretty immense. Also I’m looking forward to building some great new friendships.’

But Darren knows it’s going to be a massive test.

‘The hardest part of the trip will be getting used to life on board. Initially it will be a steep learning curse with close quarters, 24-hour racing, adapting sleep patterns etc. But that is also a big part of the challenge I’m looking for.’

Another man who has signed up for the adventure is Ian Geraghty. The 52-year-old event manager from Southsea is doing the complete voyage and says: ‘I’m doing this to fulfill a lifetime ambition to circumnavigate the planet.’

He adds: ‘I’m looking forward to the competitive element, the physical and mental challenge, plus the excitement of visiting new places and meeting new people.’

Ian thinks the hardest part of the trip will be working ‘effectively and competitively’ 24 hours a day as a team and team member.

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