Sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston hopes to inspire greater French participation in ocean racing through his entry in the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe.
Speaking at a press briefing on his Open 60 yacht Grey Power today, ahead of this weekend’s departure from St Malo, the 75-year old British sailor called for more French people to take on the challenge of a lifetime in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the unique event he conceived in 1995 to enable ‘ordinary’ people to achieve something extraordinary.
“France is a nation of sailors with excellent role models; legends in their own right,” said Sir Robin. “Yet it has been underrepresented in the Clipper Race so far. Next year will be our tenth edition and I’d love to take this opportunity in the Route du Rhum race village to appeal for more French crew, a skipper and even an entry.”
The biennial event is now the world’s longest ocean race at more than 40,000 miles and offers international ‘Corinthian’ sailors from all walks of life the chance to complete a circumnavigation aboard the matched fleet of twelve identical Clipper 70 yachts.
Nine French sailors are currently signed up to take part in the 2015-16 edition of the Clipper Race, with around 700 places available for people of all ages and backgrounds with a sense of adventure.
There has never been a French-sponsored team or French skipper but Sir Robin hopes to encourage more Frenchmen and women to discover the Clipper Race and take up the challenge.
“I created the Clipper Race so others could experience the exhilaration of ocean racing, as I have been so fortunate to be able to do during my career. We’ve trained more than 3,000 crew over the last 18 years and I’d not only love to see more French crew, but also to have a professional French skipper at the helm of a French sponsored entry would be fantastic,” added Sir Robin.
“I am here in St Malo today, preparing for the Route du Rhum, because of the Clipper Race. Quite frankly I got jealous of waving off our crew as they prepared to race across an ocean or around the world. Then I participated in the Sydney to Hobart last Christmas, which formed part of the last Clipper Race, and recognised how much I missed competitive sailing. So here I am!”
It is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of twelve identical 70-ft racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper to safely guide the crew.
In the Clipper 2013-14 Race, 42 different nationalities were represented, with professions including doctors, lawyers, film directors, truck drivers, vets, sporting professionals, midwives and chefs.
Among nine French sailors taking on Mother Nature’s toughest conditions in next year’s Clipper Race is operations manager Francois Raux who initially played the virtual game and then realised that he could crew the race for real when he linked to the official web site.
No experience is required as crew will be given full race training. Applicants must be a minimum age of 18 to compete, but there is no upper age limit. All that is asked of participants is a good level of fitness and a thirst for adventure into the unknown.
Divided into eight legs and 16 individual races, competitors can choose to complete the full circumnavigation or select individual legs. Ports visited in the 2014-15 race included Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Sydney, San Francisco and New York.