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CLIPPER 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race – Skipper trials

Our yacht AURORA is a former Clipper Round the World Race yacht. She was owned and operated by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Clipper Ventures and was raced around the world four times before we bought her.

Clipper now has a new fleet of sleek 68-foot yachts and is gearing up for start of the 07-08 race. Doctors, housewives, students, soldiers, taxi-drivers and others will  head off from Liverpool in September on a 35.000 nautical mile and ten month race round the world. 

The only qualification you need to join as crew is  a thirst for adventure….  so why not check out their website here…. 

Each boat has a crew of 16 amateur sailors and one professional skipper and below Tim Hedges, Race Director for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race tells us about their skipper selection program:

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“For a business so closely involved in sailing, it is somewhat ironic how little time most of us have to actually get out on the water. It was therefore doubly ironic that my first sail of the season coincided so perfectly with one of the increasingly rare “cold snaps” the forecasters seem so fond of referring to. Early spring (Assistant Race Director’s attempt to promote February training!) it may have been, but as Anna Wardley, Simon Rowell and myself cast off with 15 hopeful candidates for the first 3 day skipper selection sail, mid-winter seemed a much more realistic description. Temperatures plummeted but with calm seas, clear skies and an almost empty Solent it proved that with the right clothing winter sailing can bring its own rewards.

The Clipper Skippers are a vital ingredient in the success of each race and it takes a particular kind of individual to take on the challenge.  It’s a really tough job, like none other in the world, and it requires a very specific skill set.

Our skippers have to be competitive racers, but with a strong coaching or instructing background. They need to be capable of maintaining the yacht at sea, as well as motivating the crew and keeping morale up.  On top of that, they also need to be able to represent the city that’s sponsoring their boat. If they are from the region of the sponsor city, all the better.

The current selection process started last year. We advertised in the UK and abroad, in the sailing press, for skippers with a commercially endorsed RYA ocean yachtmaster certificate. They must also have a seafarer’s medical certificate and various other technical qualifications.

We have had well over 100 applications and CVs sent to us on the back of our advertising campaign. Over the course of several months, these will then be whittled down to just 10 skippers.

I was out on one of our three-day sailing trials, which is like an on-water interview which all our potential skippers are put through. From there, we select a certain number of people who show the right skills and attributes to take part in our crew training programme.  By doing this we have a chance to watch the potential skippers on the job, over a period of time. We can see how they interact with the crew and get to know them better.

In April or May, the final shortlist will go before a formal selection panel – and of course, anyone chosen has to meet the approval of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. 

Although the actual skippers will have been already selected, the crew will not find out which boat they will be on and which skipper they will be with until June, when we carry out the crew allocation.  Then, it’s a countdown to the start of the race, when each of our handpicked skippers will be working with their crew in the hope of claiming the Clipper title!”

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