Clipper Race - Crew Journey

Clipper Race - Qingdao to London crew member Grace Kitching tells of her experience in the 2015-16 race from signing up to race finish

An endurance test like no other, raced by people like you, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is an epic eleven-month adventure taken on by amateur sailors.

Racing across the world’s most challenging Oceans, crew circumnavigate the globe on board a fleet of identical Clipper 70ft ocean racing yachts guided by a professional skipper. People from all over the world choose to take on the full circumnavigation or compete in one of more of the eight individual legs and must complete a comprehensive training programme before setting off on the adventure of a lifetime.

The journey for crew often starts long before the Race Start and continues long after they’ve stepped off their boat.

As the current race crew prepare for the start of the Clipper 2017-18 Race from Liverpool on 20 August, we caught up with Grace Kitching who sailed from Qingdao in China back to London on board Team PSP Logistics, crossing both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as part of Legs 6, 7 & 8 in the Clipper 2015-16 Race to find out about her experience.

“My introduction to the Clipper Race was the moment the infamous 50/50 Clipper Race tube advert caught my eye. In the midst of post-holiday blues, sat on the London underground, the iconic image and slogan ‘Achieve something remarkable’ was staring straight at me,” says 27 year-old Grace, a Communications Officer from Yorkshire. “Two and half years later I’ve sailed nearly 20,000nm and crossed Oceans, visited new parts of the world, made an incredibly close group of friends and changed career.

“With no sailing experience, bar a week of competent crew with Sunsail around the beautiful waters of Croatia during the said holiday, it was the appeal of a personal challenge and desire to learn a new skill that drew me to the Race.

The First interview

“My interview took place at the Little Ship Club in London. Looking around the room full of eager strangers waiting for the Clipper Race talk to take place, I sat next to a guy called Gavin. Who knew that he would end up winning the prestigious Yachtsman of Year in 2016!

“I returned my contract immediately and the weekend after that I joined hundreds of my fellow crew members at the Guildhall in Portsmouth for Crew Allocation, the time in your race journey when you find out who your skipper and fellow team mates are. The buzz of excitement is something I will never forget, that and the sea of red Clipper Race jackets. The first few hours of meeting the team and the skipper were interesting to say the least, the human dynamic is a special part of this race but there is a definite bond that unites you all. My team was an international crew made up of 18-72 year olds from all walks of life and all there for different reasons. That diverse group of people were somehow supposed to come together and race across the world’s toughest oceans and we did!

“Signing up relatively late meant squeezing in four weeks of Clipper Race training was no small feat. Training was such a fantastic part of the Clipper Race, the skills you learn, the people you meet. It really is equalising, as whether you have no experience like myself or you have sailed all your life everyone takes part in the four levels to prepare you as much as feasibly possible for the challenge ahead. From safety drills to mother duty, sailing skills and drills to theory, training provides you will the skills to both race and live on board a yacht, but nothing can truly replicate the endurance element of the race.

Once in a lifetime opportunity

“Knowing this was a once in a lifetime opportunity I threw everything I had into my experience. Attending socials, team building weekends and meeting up with fellow crew. I did all I could to maximise my experience, and I am so glad I did.

“Race Start actually fell on the weekend of one of my best friend’s wedding, I sneaked down to St Katharine Docks in London for a couple of days early in the race start week to offer my assistance and wish my team luck. Even though I was only there for a day or two I was so glad I got to experience the atmosphere around the Race Village.

“Once the Race started it was hard not to constantly be on the Race Viewer, tracking the fleet, their speeds, their tactical decisions and reading the blogs and daily updates from on board. Regular meet ups with fellow crew, fuelled the excitement. Hearing from those who had returned and learning from their experiences all whilst preparing for you own.

Looking back

“Looking back, all the debate about what and how much kit to take, the worry of if it would be struggle to become part of the team joining as a ‘legger’, the anticipation and frustration of wanting to know dates and stopovers are all part and parcel of this adventure and I would say to anyone who is thinking of taking part is to just embrace it.

“Though often asked about the race it’s so hard to try to fully describe you experience, only those few who have done it can really appreciate the magnitude of the challenge we all undertook. Luck for me I also shared the experience with my older sister, so will always have someone to reminisce with as she sailed half way round the world on Team Garmin.

“Stepping off the boat in St Kats Dock at Race Finish in London was a surreal experience. After nearly five months away stopping in some incredible destinations, over a hundred days at sea, living and breathing the race with your crew mates, my Clipper Race had finished. Filled with feelings of accomplishment, happiness to see family, sadness that it was over, awe of the crowds and the surreal feeling that our little bubble had burst.

“Since our race finished, the skills I have learnt and friends I have made have led to holidays, further sailing, racing, learning and for me a change in career. I now get to experience the Clipper Race journey from the other side, I recently joining the Clipper Race Team based down in Gosport and I am loving helping current crew prepare for their own race journey.”

Clipper 2017-18

Crew Allocation for the Clipper 2017-18 Race is taking place on 20 May at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. There are free open boat tours of the Clipper 70’s taking place at Gunwharf Quays over that weekend. Come look around and speak to our Race Team about their experiences. For more info visit: ( )

The Clipper Race starts from Liverpool on 20 August and will return to Albert Dock in Summer 2018 following its global route which will include stopovers in South America (port TBC), Cape Town, Western Australia (port TBC), Sydney, Hobart, East Coast Australia (port TBC) Sanya and Qingdao – China, Seattle – USA, Panama, New York, and Derry Londonderry – Northern Ireland.

There are a still a few final spots for crew to join the upcoming edition of the race, and applications are open for the 2019-20 race edition. Find out more