First Mates for 13th Clipper Race

Published on April 27th, 2023

Eleven exceptional professional sailors have been announced for the highly regarded AQP (Additional Qualified Person) role and are set to assist the 2023-24 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race skippers in leading over 700 Race Crew around the world.

With almost 200,000 nautical miles between them, these highly skilled sailors, also known as ‘First Mate’ will work closely with their Skipper, utilizing their sailing experience and supporting the goals of their appointed team – not only with the objective to gain results on the podium, but applying their knowledge to help create a competent, safe and competitive race team.

Becoming a Clipper Race AQP offers invaluable experience to further develop a professional sailing career, and is a step towards advancing to the role of Clipper Race Skipper in the future.

Dale Smyth, Deputy Race Director says, “AQPs are fully qualified and professional seafarers who fulfil the position of First Mate on board and will help both the Race Skipper to run the yacht and manage the team. They’ll also help the entire crew in achieving their goals and objectives.

“Our AQPs are outstanding individuals who are well established in the maritime industry and many of them will be building towards becoming a Race Skipper in the future using the clear pathway that Clipper Ventures offers. Six of our Skippers for the upcoming edition were AQPs on the previous race, and several of our professionals have come from roles as Training Skippers at the Clipper Race and through working at our sister sailing school, Hamble School of Yachting.”

Within the lineup are a few familiar faces. Maisie Bristow will be returning for her second Clipper Race, having impressed the Race Office with her ability as a Watch Leader, and was invited to step up to the AQP leadership role for the final two legs of the 2019-20 edition, completing 15,000nm from the USA to London.

She will be joined by two fellow Alumni Crew from the previous race, Steve Westwood and Cameron McCracken.

A number of the selected professionals have also worked as Clipper Race Training Mates, First Mates on SKIRR Adventures and Clipper Events, and have supported the refit of the Clipper 70s at Gosport HQ.

The eleven Additional Qualified Persons are:

Angus Whitehead, 20, from Monmouth, is one of the youngest AQPs of the Clipper Race. He has leadership qualities and sailing experience far beyond his years. Angus has sailed almost 12,000 nautical miles in his career, 3,000 of which as a Lead Skipper of a flotilla in Greece and Croatia. Additionally, he also captained the ‘Friendship Rose’, a 75-foot traditionally built Caribbean Schooner, out in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Joss Creswell, 23, from West Dorset, is an adventurous sailor and big wave surfer, with a natural connection to the ocean. Joss not only thrives in tricky environments, but has a flair for sharing his passions and knowledge with others. Joss has sailed over 12,000nm on tall ships, yachts and his own Contessa 26.

Thomas Newsom, 24, from Lymington, is a well-known face at Clipper Ventures, having worked as a Training Mate for Clipper Race Crew and a First Mate for SKIRR Adventures – a voyage to the Arctic Circle. Tom is an experienced yacht racer, racing regularly on the Solent and with Clipper Events, and has clocked over 16,000nm, including passages in the North Atlantic and Arctic Sea, as well as a Trans-Pacific Crossing.

Cameron McCracken, 24, from West Sussex has clocked 36,000 nautical miles, including a North Pacific crossing and multiple North Atlantic crossings. Cameron raced on the Clipper 2017-18 Race around Australia to Asia, and then completed Leg 6 from the Philippines to Seattle on the 2019-20 edition. A familiar face at Clipper Ventures HQ- Cameron has spent the last several months working on the winter refit and teaching future Clipper Race Crew as a Training Mate.

Ben Birley, 42, from Cheadle Hulme, Manchester is a Former Royal Marine with almost 16,000nm under his belt. Ben has spent the last several months working at Clipper Race HQ as a Training Mate, coaching the Clipper Race Crew he will be sailing around the globe with. Ben has crossed the Bay of Biscay a number of times and has until now been living on board his Hans Christian 43’ yacht, getting out sailing in the Irish Sea as much as possible in his spare time.

Charlie Warhurst, 23, from Sheffield, is a recent university graduate who has already sailed 21,000 nautical miles in his career as a Mate, Watch Leader, and Skipper. He has crossed the Atlantic multiple times on iconic events such as the ARC and raced extensively around the Caribbean. He also completed multiple yacht deliveries and worked as a sailing instructor in the UK.

Lottie Wade, 26, from Oakhanger, Cheshire, first started sailing at the age of 19, with the charity – Rona Sailing Project. Lottie has logged over 10,000 nautical miles in her career. She has raced on tall ships and sailed in conditions ranging from the flat calm of the Greek Ionian to the gigantic swells of the Bay of Biscay during a Force 10 storm and commanded a 37 ft sailing vessel from the Cowes to Lyme Regis. Lottie boasts experience of being an instructor, heavily involved with teaching young adults to sail.

Steve Westwood, 48 from Coventry, is a former commercial airline pilot, and competed as Watch Leader on half of the Clipper 2019-20 Race circumnavigation. Clocking up over 25,000 nautical miles in his sailing career to date, since the past edition, Steve has been a Training Mate at Clipper Race HQ. From his 25 years as a pilot, safety is paramount. And his aviation experience of weather will help navigate the complex storms that will be encountered on the race, along with the proven ability to keep calm under pressure. Steve is looking forward to leading a team competently with a friendly manner and a good sense of humor.

Maisie Bristow, 20, from Walton on Thames will be sailing as an AQP for a second time on the Clipper Race. Maisie sailed as crew on board Dare to Lead where she accelerated to Watch Leader, and went on to sail the final two legs of the 2019-20 edition as an AQP. Whilst young in years, Maisie is highly experienced, with an impressive 27,000 nautical miles to date. Maisie is excited to share her knowledge and experience with the crew and have a successful race.

Michael Davies, 29 from Hadley Wood, North London first started his love for the sea at the age of five. After moving to the South Coast after University to sail for Lee on Solent Sailing Club, Mike moved to Palma to pursue his professional sailing career and to date has sailed over 11,000nm. Mike’s long-term goal is to become a Clipper Race Skipper and inspire younger generations to sail.

Laura Hampton, 22, from County Armagh, Northern Ireland, has had a lifelong ambition to circumnavigate the globe. With over 13 years sailing experience, which includes the ARC Transatlantic race, and as Watch Leader on the Tall Ship Royalist, in the Baltic Sea Tall Ships Race and skippered a season in the Caribbean. Laura’s first experience with the Clipper Race was when she participated in the Our Isles and Oceans programme in 2022, experiencing training on a Clipper 68 on the West Coast of Scotland. Laura’s wealth of experience will be invaluable to her skipper and crew.

All eleven First Mates now join the eleven Skippers at Gosport HQ for an intensive program ahead of Race Start this summer.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors. While the start date is not yet confirmed, the 2023-24 race will be the 13th edition for the fleet of eleven identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s which will tackle the multi-stage 41,000+ nm course.

Race details:

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