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Anticipation on Crew Allocation Day: We meet the new Clipper Race sailors to discover their stories.

by Mark Jardine 18 Jun 12:00 BST
Clipper Race 2019/20 Crew Allocation Day © Mark Jardine

Clipper Race Crew Allocation Day, held at the Portsmouth Guildhall, is a huge moment in the build-up to the race itself. This is the day when crew find out who their Skipper will be and meet their teammates for the first time.

Clipper Race crew come from all walks of life and all parts of the UK and increasingly around the world. We spoke to some of the crew in the build up to the announcement itself...

Mark Cilliers, who runs a sandwich shop in Jersey, but had never sailed in his life, said: "I love the idea of pushing your boundaries and trying something completely different. I've always loved the sea, looking at it and it's wonderful to now just get out there. I've had two weeks of training so far and have another two weeks to come. My first day on the water was amazing - so much to learn, memorise and keep in mind, but the Skippers are great trainers and it has been a superb experience so far. This is the moment I meet my tribe; the group I'll be spending all those days at sea with."

We asked Jacqui Davies, a property developer and landlady in Devon, how she first heard about the race and why she decided to take part: "I was having a cup of tea one morning, watching the news reports with Wendy Tuck and Nikki Henderson and thought 'Wow, that looks really awesome!', so I went online, looked at all the scary bits, and before I knew it I'd clicked 'Join the race', filled in the online application form and pressed the button. Then I needed to tell my husband! I'd no experience of sailing whatsoever but seeing the two female Skippers finish first and second in the last race was a huge inspiration to me."

Andy Harry, who is retired from the Navy and has lived in the Midlands for 20 years, but originally came from Australia, told us how he found out about the race: "I saw it on Sky TV and thought 'that sounds alright', the next minute I'd signed up! I'd had no experience on sailing boats whosoever. It was quite scary the first time I went out on a Clipper yacht - not what I had imagined it was going to be like - but I enjoyed it. I'm very excited about coming into the Whitsundays as all my family still live out in Australia and hopefully they'll come along and see it all."

Sara McBride, a hair stylist from Perth in Scotland, was drawn into the race through her job: "One of my clients called Mel is taking part in the Clipper Race as well and was telling me about it during her hair appointment and I thought it sounded unbelievable! I looked it up and started thinking 'Maybe I can do that!'. I'd never sailed before, never had an interest in sailing, but thought it looked amazing and thought 'Why not?'. My first sail with Clipper was in a Force 9 wind, it was interesting... after that it all seemed quite safe! I love it! I'm buzzing for it! I'll be Instagramming it up in my jacket!"

Sophie Cross & Timothy Walder are two young adults who'd both had experience of sailing but wanted to do something more:

"I'd done a bit of dinghy sailing before and I think it was the adventure of it which drew me," said Sophie.

"I started sailing with the Sea Scouts years ago. We met on a Tall Ships weekend, and I was looking at Gap Year options, stumbled across the Clipper Race, and quickly became obsessed. Sophie caught on when I wouldn't stop talking about it and here we are!" said Timothy. "I've never left Europe before and I think the Southern Ocean is going to be a huge experience with waves the size of houses."

"It's a really good opportunity to get out and experience the world while we're young." summed up Sophie.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said of the day: "This is where the crew find out who they're going to be with for the next 15 months of their lives, who they're going to sail round the world with, in a small capsule where sometimes the nearest other humans are on the International Space Station! It's a very important day for them and a very exciting day for them. These are the people who've decided to get out there and paint their lives in bright colours, not pastel shades. They're going out there for adventure and they're finding out who they're going to adventure with."

Sir Robin's pride in the event is plain to see when talking to him: "It gives me a buzz! You see all these enthusiastic people looking forward to the great day and their energy is just wonderful. It's also great to see that 33 of the crew from outside Britain have made it to the event; I love that as it shows their commitment to the event. With that enthusiasm we can turn them into really good sailors and give them what they're looking for - a fantastic adventure in their lives."

Find more about the race at www.clipperroundtheworld.com

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