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Saturday, October 17, 1998 Published at 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK


Adventurers make waves

The first leg of the world's longest yacht race for amateur sailors is under way.

Seven yachts crewed by 67 amateur sailors have set off on the Sir Robin Knox Johnson's Clipper '98.

The identical 60ft sloops were sent on their way from Plymouth Sound by one of the saluting guns from the Type 23 frigate HMS Norfolk.

The ocean racers face a 34,000-mile voyage during a 10-month adventure of a lifetime for the 201 people - from students to pensioners - who will take part in various stages of the event.

[ image: The fleet in formation before leaving Plymouth]
The fleet in formation before leaving Plymouth
Most of the Clipper '98 race crews - each under a professional skipper - have signed up for one or more of the six legs, with 28 paying the 22,750 cost of the whole circumnavigation.

The youngest making the entire trip is Manchester Metropolitan University photography student Catherine Lye, 20, from The Wirral - who had never been in a boat before she signed up.

Catherine, who is on the Serica, is using the trip as a "gap" year before she completes the third year of her degree course.

She admitted she viewed the voyage with trepidation, and confessed: "I am not doing it for the sailing - I am doing it for the huge adventure."

She had always wanted to travel around the world, and felt that the voyage would give her a sense of achievement because "you have got yourself there".

The yachts will call at locations such as the Galapagos Islands, South Africa, Brazil and Japan, and the Clipper 98 race is the only one to travel up the Yangtze river to Shanghai.

[ image: Sir Robin Knox-Johnson:
Sir Robin Knox-Johnson: "Get-up-and-go spirit"
No other sailing event passes through the Panama Canal, or visits mainland China, Cuba and the Seychelles.

The yachts were built by Sir Robin Knox-Johnson's Clipper Ventures company to provide people with the opportunity to take part in the ultimate sailing challenge after a tough training programme.

Sir Robin said the race appealed to people "with a little bit of an adventurous streak in them - the achievers, the risk takers".

The crews included "a big cross-section of society from lawyers to butchers and they are rather special people who have said they want to achieve something with their life".

"I think it is great that we have still got the get-up-and-go spirit in this country."

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