Budding sailors flock to Portsmouth Guildhall ahead of round the world race

THEY are ordinary people who will take on the most extraordinary challenge.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 1:13 pm

Hairdressers, roofers and chiropractors are among the 700 adventurers who will take on the gruelling 40,000 nautical mile Clipper Round the World Yacht Race due to set sail on September 1 from London’s St. Katharine Docks.

Four hundred of the crew members – aged between 18 to 76 years who come from all across the globe – posed on the steps of Portsmouth Guildhall at the weekend.

They were joined by sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston after discovering who their skippers would be, as well as teams they would be sailing around the world with.

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Portsmouth Man Joins 400 People from 44 Countries to Prepare for Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Copyright James Robinson

The race is unique with it training ordinary people with no special interest or knowledge in sailing to compete on the sea.

This year’s event will be the most global ever with 44 nationalities involved. Steven Smith, of Portsmouth, is one of the inspirational people taking part.

The 34-year-old commercial contracts manager had limited sailing experience before starting his training. He will take on the mighty North Pacific Leg – which saw teams in the last edition battle hurricane winds and 14 metre waves – as well as the USA Coast-to-Coast Leg 7, where crews will race from the west to east coasts of the USA and travel through the famous Panama Canal.

Steven said: ‘I’m buzzing for it. Everyone is here for the same thing so everyone has got that common goal. I’m really excited and happy – I feel like an excited kid at Christmas.’

Portsmouth Man Joins 400 People from 44 Countries to Prepare for Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Copyright James Robinson

Speaking of the launch event at the Guildhall, he said: ‘It’s been great to meet a lot of new people, I think there is around 400 of us crew here out of 700 so lots of new faces.’

Steven found out he will be part of team Punta del Este, skippered by Spaniard Jeronimo. It is the first time the Uruguayan city of Punta Del Este, known as the St Tropez of South America, will feature as a team partner.

Steven added: ‘It looks like I am going to have to learn a lot more Spanish because a lot of my team are Spanish.’

Paul Briggs, 59, of Knowle, who is taking part in two of the later legs of the race from Hong Kong to Seattle and then Seattle to the east coast of America, said: ‘It is quite daunting but I wanted to do something that was scary after retiring. I’ve only ever done a little bit of sailing so it will be a big challenge, especially as we could face 70ft waves and 100 mile winds.

Steven Smith: Clipper Round the World 2019/20 crew member Picture: James Robinson

‘We’ve only had four weeks training but it is reassuring to have at least have done that.’

Sir Robin, Clipper Race chairman and founder, who last month celebrated his 50th anniversary of being the first person to sail around the world non-stop, said: ‘These are not professional sailors, these are ordinary people from all walks of life, coming here to start their adventure in a sailor’s city.

‘I want you to be able to say this is the best thing that you have done with your life - so far. Then I will know we have broadened your horizons. Don’t paint your life in pastel colours. You only have one life, make it bright.’

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