No experience needed as crew sought to sail the world

Veteran sailor Robin Knox-Johnston competing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The world’s longest ocean race, a tough and thrilling 40,000-mile challenge, is on the hunt for Irish crew, and the best part — no experience is required.

Understandable, then, that the organisers are confident they won’t have to resort to a press-gang, opting instead for a series of recruitment events.

Among those with no sea-legs in the 2013-14 edition was 40-year-old Meath garda Conor O’Byrne, who circumnavigated the globe on the DerryLondonderryDoire yacht, spending more than 11 months at sea.

Conor, who will attend the first recruitment event at the National Yacht Club in Dublin on January 31, said he had harboured a 20-year desire to sail around the world to test himself against nature’s elements.

“I have had experiences which will last with me a lifetime. Experiences that only a few will understand or ever get the chance to live through. It was a huge decision to sign up, but one I will never regret,” he said as one of 17 Irish crew in the last race.

Now in its 19th year, the Clipper Race, was founded by the legendary Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world in 1968-69. It rightly claims to be unique, as around 40% of crew are novices and have never sailed before.

It sees taxi drivers rub shoulders with chief executives, priests mix with housewives, students work alongside bankers, and engineers team up with rugby players — and age is no barrier. The oldest competitor to date was 74, while contestants can take part from age 18.

Crew undergo a comprehensive training programme and can take on the whole circumnavigation or compete in one or more of eight individual legs.

In the 2013-14 edition of the race, 670 people from more than 40 countries took part. To date, over 3,000 novice sailors have been transformed into ocean racers.

Each of the fleet’s 12 70ft yachts is sponsored by a company, city, region or country and is led by a professional skipper.

Derry will be represented for the third consecutive time.

In July 2010, the race visited Cork for an eight-day stopover, generating €6m for the local economy.

The race garnered much attention, even more so when the Irish entry Cork Clipper struck a reef in the Java Sea.

The crew had to abandon the vessel, but picked up a replacement in Panama and ultimately won the final leg, becoming the first into Hull & Humber in England.

The cost of entry for participants varies according to the length of time at sea, ranging from £4,800-£5,900 for a leg, plus the cost of a 21-day sailing and safety training course at £5,000.

The price for the full, one-year circumnavigation is £45,200.

The race starts on August 30, but crews will be allocated their yachts and skippers in Portsmouth on April 25.

Former Clipper Race crew members will be at the following recruitment events: National Yacht Club, Dublin, on January 31; Royal Cork Yacht Club on Monday, February 2; Harbour Hotel, Galway, on February 4; Guildhall, Derry, on February 6; before finishing at the Odyssey, Belfast, on February 7.

For more on Conor O’Byrne’s experience: clipperroundtheworld.com/about/crew-stories

For an online brochure: clipperroundtheworld.com/brochure_15-16/


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