by Anna Wardley
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 organisers have set a date for the triumphant return of the fleet to the Solent in Southampton.
(l to r): Cllr Royston Smith, Leader of Southampton City Council, Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, Clipper Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Dean Smith, Marketing Director, MDL Marinas celebrate Southampton’s successful bid to host the Clipper 11-12 race finish.
The Clipper Race fleet has arrived in New Zealand this week – half a world away from the Solent where the race started four months ago and will return in a further eight months. However, advanced planning meetings have already been initiated between Southampton City Council, MDL Marinas at Ocean Village and race organisers Clipper Ventures, to prepare for the return of the ten-strong international Clipper Race fleet on Sunday 22 July next year – just five days before the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
'The race departure from Southampton was spectacular and the warmth and enthusiasm of the thousands of spectators who waved them off made a lasting impression on all the crews,' said Clipper Race Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. 'We anticipate another great reception when the fleet returns next July after its year-long circumnavigation. The crews are ordinary people who have done something extraordinary in taking on some of the world’s toughest oceans. They deserve a heroes’ welcome.'
The yachts will have travelled almost 41,000 miles by the time they return to the Solent, having completed the world’s longest ocean race, visiting 14 ports on six continents. Around 500 people from all walks of life will have participated, completing a full circumnavigation, or one or more of the eight legs the race is split into.
Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet Member for Resources, Leisure and Culture at Southampton City Council, said: 'Southampton City Council is delighted to be working with MDL Marinas and Clipper Ventures to plan for the return of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. We were delighted with an amazing race start and are working on our plans to provide a suitable welcome home for the crews.'
Dean Smith, Marketing Director for MDL Marinas, said, 'Ocean Village really came alive for the start of this epic race and we are very much looking forward to enjoying the same atmosphere again as we welcome the fleet back safely after their year-long circumnavigation. Ocean Village is the perfect setting for local boat owners, residents, spectators and the general public to share in the celebrations.'
Despite reaching the other side of the world, the Clipper Race has only completed around a third of its challenging course around the globe. Following a week in Tauranga, New Zealand the race heads back west towards the east coast of Australia and then onto Singapore, before heading north to China from where it resumes an easterly course across the Pacific towards California. From there the route takes the fleet through the Panama Canal, up to New York and Canada, before crossing the Atlantic for the last time to visit Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland and Den Helder in the Netherlands, returning to Southampton on 22 July next year.
The race start in Southampton generated thousands of visitors and stimulated the local economy by filling hotels, restaurants and shops. The finish will have a similar impact with crews’ family, friends and fans joining officials, sponsors, media and visitors from around the world to cheer the ten teams home.
Clipper 11-12 is raced by people from all walks of life, whose ages range from 18 to more than 70 and who, between them, represent more than 40 nationalities. Each one of them chose to sign up for either the whole circumnavigation or one or more legs of the world’s longest yacht race.
Interest in future races is stronger than ever and the trend of crew places being consistently sold out for the last two editions of the race looks set to continue. A brand new fleet of twelve innovatively designed Clipper 70s, with an option for a further four, will increase capacity to meet this growing demand. The new yachts will come into service from Clipper 13-14 and serve the next four editions of the Clipper Race through to 2020.
With planning for Clipper 13-14 now well underway, a record number of prospective crew are attending interviews to take part in the Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race. Almost 300 crew members have already signed up, with scores of hopeful applicants attending for presentations and interviews at the company’s headquarters in Gosport every month. Last weekend alone 17 people from the UK, the Netherlands and Australia visited the Clipper Race offices to find out more about taking part, having applied for their own challenge of a lifetime.
'We hold crew presentations and interviews all year round at various locations around the world as well as back at our base here on the south coast in the UK. As last week’s record numbers prove, interest is at an all time high with the new fleet of twelve Clipper 70s set to line up for the start of Clipper 13-14,' Crew Recruitment Manager, David Cusworth, said.
The Clipper race fleet is currently in Tauranga, New Zealand preparing for the start of Race 6 to Gold Coast, Australia on 4 December.
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website