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Worcester Sailor Announced as Skipper in Clipper Race Challenge of a Lifetime

Local sailor Mark Burkes, 54, from Shrawley, Worcester has been appointed to lead a team of amateur sailors in the next edition of one of the planet’s most gruelling endurance challenges, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Commenting on his appointment, Mark said: “I’m extremely proud to be one of the eleven Skippers to be chosen to lead a team in the Clipper 2019-20 Race. It feels like the past 20 years have been leading me toward this point. It will be my toughest, yet most rewarding test so far in sailing and I can’t wait to get started on building a strong, cohesive, and competitive team.”

Having amassed an impressive 160,000 NM in his log book, Mark Burkes has over 17 years of professional sailing experience, including more than eight years working for the Clipper Race. As well as sailing around the world in the Clipper 2011-12 Race as Media Crew, Mark was a relief Skipper in the 2013-14 edition, and has also been a Clipper Race Training Skipper the past seven years.

Mark adds: “I’ve been fortunate enough to have ticked off several sailing bucket list items, including crossing all the world’s oceans more than once. I know what this challenge takes, having been part of Clipper Race teams previously and having training hundreds of crew members for the challenge.

“However this time will be completely different, as I get to prepare and lead my own team in a full race campaign. That is a milestone in my career that I’ve been working towards for a long time now.”

With eleven teams and approximately 700 participants, the biennially held Clipper Race, which takes almost a year to complete, is the only event of its kind which trains amateur sailors to race around the planet. 40 per cent of crew members have no previous sailing experience before starting their intensive training, making it a unique test of teamwork, fortitude, and leadership. Only the Skipper and Mate on board each team are professionals.

The Clipper Race will be exciting and exhilarating, but also frustrating and uncomfortable at times. As a Race Skipper, Mark will need to display an extraordinary amount of focus and determination as he leads his novice crew through some of the planet’s harshest and most remote conditions. In past editions, these have included phenomenal sea states, hurricane force winds and frigid cold, all whilst being away from land and other humans for up to a month at a time.

The Clipper Race is the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69. This momentous biennial event has a deep passion for challenge and life changing adventure at its core. Since the first Clipper Race in 1996, almost 5,000 novice sailors have been turned into competent ocean racers.

Sir Robin said: “The role of Clipper Race Skipper is one of the toughest, but most rewarding jobs that exists in sailing. Not only do you have to be a highly capable sailor to be able to complete the relentless challenge of circumnavigation, you also have to be an excellent instructor and leader.

“I wish Mark and his team the best in their Clipper 2019-20 Race campaign.”

Mark is now working full-time at the Clipper Race HQ in Hampshire, where he and the other Skippers are leading the intensive crew training courses. The next major event in the race preparations is Crew Allocation, at the Portsmouth Guildhall, on 11 May, where all Skippers and crew will be assigned to their teams for the first time.

Starting from the UK later this Summer, the 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 Qingdao, via fellow Chinese cities Sanya and Zhuhai; across the mighty North Pacific to West Coast USA; then to West Coast USA via the famous Panama Canal; then it’s a final Atlantic crossing before arriving back to the UK as fully fledged ocean racers.