Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Clipper round-the-world yachts gets under way

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Media captionCrews will be in close quarters with each other, without mobile phones or the internet, for almost a year

Thousands of people have turned out to watch 10 yachts leave Southampton to begin the 40,000-mile (64,500km) Clipper round-the-world race.

More than 500 amateur sailors from 40 countries will take turns to sail the yachts, making it the world's longest yacht race.

HMS Illustrious accompanied the fleet to the start of the race off the Isle of Wight at 16:30 BST.

The first leg will involve crews sailing from Europe to Brazil.

Crowds of people lined the marina at Southampton's Ocean Village to watch the yachts head out to the start, off the Royal Yacht Squadron Line in Cowes.

The fleet of 10 identical 68ft (20m) ocean racing yachts and 10 skippers are supplied by organisers of the race, which takes place every two years. Each yacht is sponsored by a city, region or country.

Image caption Lucia Ainsworth wanted to inspire her young relatives by taking part

Participants, many of whom are sailing novices, come from all walks of life and undergo a four-stage training programme to prepare them for the gruelling journey.

Among them is Martin Woodcock, from Fleet, Hampshire, who said: "Clipper have set it up as a race, which is a key part of the whole thing.

"It's not a jolly around the world for a bunch of amateurs. There's no great prize at the end of it, but obviously there's the kudos.

"This kind of opportunity is a very rare thing for an amateur sailor."

Another taking part is Lucia Ainsworth, 45, originally from Brighouse, West Yorkshire, who has given up her job at Lloyds Banking Group in London.

She has joined the Gold Coast Australia yacht skippered by Rich Hewson.

"To take part in this, the greatest amateur yacht race, will fulfil my lifelong dream to sail across oceans," she said.

Image caption The yachts left Southampton accompanied by HMS Illustrious ahead of the race start

"I have resigned from my job and taken a year out not only to take part in the race but to travel in Australia and New Zealand.

"As well as fulfilling my own ambitions I wanted to inspire my young nephews and nieces."

The founder and chairman of the Clipper Race is Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the world.

He spoke to the crews on the eve of the race and said: "Remember how powerful the sea is, treat it with huge respect at all times and that way you will come back safely.

"This first leg alone is more than 6,000 miles which is the equivalent to two years for an average sailor. So you're going to become very experienced sailors very quickly."

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