Racing a Clipper 70 around the world is not a job for the faint hearted. Add a non-professional crew to the mix and it’s an exceptional candidate you’d be looking for to take the helm. The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has found exactly that in the eleven professional skippers who, with over a million miles of experience between them, will lead the teams in its twelfth edition this summer.
The Skippers, who have a combined total of 1,312,300nm in their log books, hail from the UK, South Africa and Spain and bring a vast range of experience to the roles; Nick Leggatt, 52, (Cape Town) already has three circumnavigations under his belt; Chris Brooks, 33, (Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex) is a high-performance racer with a 95 per cent podium success rate; Josh Stickland, 31, (Southampton, Hampshire) started his sailing career as a teenager through a Prince’s Trust bursary; Ben Keitch, 42, (Eastbourne, Sussex) spent 18 months with the British Antarctic Survey, and Seumas Kellock, 26, (Edinburgh, Scotland) is a former Clipper Race Crew whose skills were so impressive he has returned to the global sailing event as a Race Skipper.
Clipper Race Co-Founder and Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “Not many people are capable of racing and leading a team in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.”
“As well as being excellent sailors who are proven in taking on the planet’s most hostile environments, Clipper Race Skippers must also be outstanding instructors, exceptional motivators, and strong role models. They will need to be calm and patient under pressure, and understand all types of personalities.”
Regarded as one of the toughest, most rewarding jobs on the planet, Clipper Race Skippers need to display an extraordinary amount of focus and determination over the almost year-long challenge as they lead their everyday crew 40,000 nm through some of the planet’s harshest and most hostile conditions. All eleven Skippers start their job this week with an extensive training schedule ahead.
Sir Robin added: “The role of Clipper Race Skipper is one of the toughest, but most rewarding jobs that exists anywhere in life. It’s a real test of seamanship, and incredibly challenging but is also probably the best job in the world. Our Skippers will work very hard but the rewards are immeasurable. It will be an experience of a lifetime for them.”
The eleven Race Skippers are as follows:
Ben Keitch, 42, from Sussex has an impressive 30-year sailing history which includes racing at a national level, skippering Oxford University’s yacht team, and, most recently, leading novice crews on ocean crossings. Ben’s highly diverse career also includes achievements in physics and computing, diving, the British Antarctic Survey, and much more.
Jeronimo Santos-Gonzalez, 44, who hails from Galicia, is the Clipper Race’s first ever Spanish Skipper. Coming from a seafaring family, he represented Spain in various national and European Championships in his youth after his family moved to Melilla. This dedicated and experienced sailor is now realising a lifelong ambition of sailing around the world professionally.
Mark Burkes, 54, Worcester. Mark feels fortunate to have completed many ‘bucket list’ items in sailing, including a circumnavigation (Clipper 2011-12 Race), skippering in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and Fastnet, and crossing all the world’s oceans more than once, but he is now highly driven to lead a full Clipper Race campaign.
Seumas Kellock, 26, from Edinburgh, knows the Clipper Race inside out and has been working towards the goal of becoming a Skipper for the past three years. Seumas’ natural leadership skills came to the fore while racing almost 50,000 nautical miles aboard Unicef in the testing conditions of the 2017-18 edition of the race; he was put forward and excelled at the Clipper Race Coxswain Course, and was then appointed as a Watch Leader for the full circumnavigation.
Ian Wiggin, 30, from Plymouth, is a passionate racer and sailing instructor who has been working towards his goal of becoming a Clipper Race Skipper for the past ten years. He has extensive sailing and instruction experience across Europe and the Mediterranean, and recently completed his seventh Atlantic Ocean crossing.
Chris Brooks, 33, from Essex, has been a high-performance sailor since leaving school and has a very competitive edge. As a self-described results-oriented skipper, Chris boasts an impressive 95 per cent podium result rate from hundreds of regattas. He has also raced in RORC Fastnet campaigns and qualifiers, and co-skippering ARC’s racing division.
Nick Leggatt, 52 from Cape Town, South Africa, brings a wealth of experience to the role of Skipper. With more than 280,000 nautical miles in his log book, Nick has circumnavigated the globe three times and has set five world speed sailing records, including a round the world record with Steve Fossett’s crew on Cheyenne (Playstation) in 2004.
David ‘Wavy’ Immelman, 48, from Cape Town, has extensive offshore racing experience and since catching the sailing bug at age 5, he has recorded more than 350,000 nautical miles in his log book, with over 200,000 as skipper. For the past three years, David has been working as a Yachtmaster Instructor in Cape Town, with his role including skippering training runs from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, Madagascar and back with ten RYA Yachtmaster Ocean students on board.
Josh Stickland, 31, from Southampton, has over 100,000 nautical miles in his log book, having dedicated his career to sailing and instructing all over the globe. He also has an in-depth knowledge of the Clipper 70s thanks to previous roles as a Clipper Race Training Mate and re-fit team member.
For Mike Surridge, 55, originally from Canterbury but now living in West Sussex, sailing around the world has been a long-held dream. Since starting sailing in his early twenties, Mike has recorded in excess of 100,000 nautical miles in his log book and had extensive racing experience, taking part in five Fastnets, thirteen Round the Island Races, the ARC, and BVI Regatta to name a few. Away from the water, Mike is a keen motorcyclist and has ambitions to learn complete an east to west coast route 66 ride.
Guy Waites, 52, from York, is a highly-skilled racer with a vast, varied experience gained over his 26 year sailing background. Highlights have included refitting and preparing two yachts to sail solo across the Atlantic, and completing the second half of the Clipper 2017-18 Race as a Mate.
The Clipper 2019-20 Race Route
Starting from the UK later this summer, the Clipper 2019-20 Race route will see the teams race from the UK, across the Atlantic to South America; the South Atlantic to South Africa; across the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties to Western Australia; around to East Australia, back into the Northern Hemisphere to China where teams will race to Qingdao, via Sanya and Zhuhai; across the mighty North Pacific to West Coast USA; to West Coast USA via the famous Panama Canal; and then it’s a final Atlantic crossing; before arriving back to the UK as fully proven ocean racers.
To download high-res images and videos of the skippers, please register for free, immediate access to our media portal at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/mediaportal