Starting Point For Offshore Adventure

Published on October 8th, 2018

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA), the British national governing body for all forms of boating, provides certification to affirm skills. Famous among these exams is the Yachtmaster which provides a certificate of competence for budding skippers.

The Yachtmaster exam has three categories – Coastal, Offshore, and Ocean – that address the increasing risks in sailing. For the Offshore exam, it tests the capability of a person to skipper a yacht on any passage during which the yacht is no more than 150 miles from harbour. The certificate is a pre-requisite for the Ocean exam which confirms the ability to skipper a yacht on unlimited passages around the world.

While the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is that rare opportunity for complete novice sailors to compete over the horizon, the hook for some gets set quite deep. To continue the journey, ten circumnavigating crew members from the 2017-18 edition are now celebrating another milestone after successfully completing their RYA Yachtmaster Offshore certifications.

An intensive course, it is the first step to forging a professional career in sailing. At least four more Clipper 2017-18 Race crew are already signed up to soon do the course, with other interested crew set to potentially double the number to twenty newly certified offshore sailors.

Representing the diverse, global nature of the race, the newly qualified crew are from six different teams and cover off seven different nationalities; Great Britain, USA, New Zealand, Cayman Islands, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands.

“It just seemed like a good thing to do while I am trying to figure out what to do next,” said Ineke Van Der Weijden (NED), a member of the Nasdaq team. “But also, it is a perfect way to take all the sailing experience from the last year – and from my childhood – and turn it into a qualification that is respected everywhere. It will really show that I can sail and handle boats.

“The timing was perfect, just after the race when everything is still fresh. Bob Beggs (who was Skipper of the recent Unicef team) is a great teacher and really understands what our strong and weak points are after a year at sea. For instance, on the race we don’t really get to park a boat or navigate in confined spaces, so we focused a lot on that. And who knows, I might end up becoming an actual skipper now!”

Since its first edition in 1996, almost 5,000 people have competed in the Clipper Race. Approximately 40 per cent of competitors are new to sailing when they sign up, making it a highly impactful way of boosting global sailing participation.

Following the race, many participants go on to further their experiences. Either through pursuing qualifications, from RYA Day Skipper up to the Yachtmaster Ocean certificate, or by joining local sailing clubs, and racing and delivery teams.

Another crew member who passed the Yachtmaster Offshore Exam is Mike Miller, who went round the world on winning team Sanya Serenity Coast. Mike spent the past 20 years working in the finance industry and is now taking some time to consider his next career path.

“What I absolutely love about the Clipper Race is that it reinforces the need to say yes to things,” said Miller. “So many opportunities come up, often from the strangest of directions. So often you say no, I couldn’t possibly do something so different. But then one day, you say yes to something bonkers like the Clipper Race and suddenly you’ve had the most incredible, life-changing experience. It’s been exactly that for me and I’m now just excited to see where else it leads me.”

Veteran Skipper Bob Beggs has raced in three Clipper Race editions and has been an RYA Instructor and Examiner for the past 24 years. “It’s absolutely brilliant to see so many Clipper Race crew putting their experiences to good use,” he notes. “They’ve got thousands of miles of ocean experience and are all hungry to continue their development,. It’s really positive for the wider industry that such enthusiastic sailors are looking to get into sailing as a potential career.

“The offshore qualification is a starting point to go on and do great things. The next step would be to see them progress to do the Yachtmaster Ocean, the certificate required to be a Clipper Race Skipper. There are some great potential leaders amongst the group so it will certainly be interesting to see what happens next.”

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Background: Held biennially, the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race got underway August 20 for the fleet of twelve* identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. The 40,000nm course is divided into 13 individual races with the team having the best cumulative score winning the Clipper Race Trophy. The race concludes in Liverpool on July 28.

Each team is led by a professional skipper with an all-amateur crew that signs up for one, some, or all the races. The 2017-18 race, expected to take 11 months, has attracted 712 people representing 41 nationalities, making it the largest to date.

* Twelve teams began the first leg but one yacht (Greenings) ran aground just hours after the start on October 31 of the third leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia. The crew was safely evacuated but damage to the boat was deemed too extensive for it to continue in the 2017-18 edition.

Race RouteRace Schedule and Miles

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Source: Clipper Ventures

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