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Sport Sailing World London Rio de Janeiro

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The Clipper Round the World yacht race kicks off in London

Clipper yachts participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race sail through Tower Bridge in London, 30 August 2015. Reuters/Eddie Keogh

A dozen teams will spend a year travelling the globe, and among them only a few are professional sailors. The parade of yachts launched Sunday at Saint Katharine Docks by the river Thames, with the first leg beginning on Monday.

The Clipper Race is unlike any other race. It is the world’s longest ocean race and it will have 12 teams travelling across the globe, sailing its 40,000 nautical miles. What makes it so different is the fact that around 40 per cent of the 700 participants had never sailed when they signed up to compete in the race.

All that is required is to be aged over 18 and able to prove a sufficient level of fitness. And obviously, a sense of adventure. On each of the 70-foot (21-metre) yachts, only the skipper is fully qualified to safely guide the crew. The other members are all amateurs.

Among them are teachers, doctors and students. The youngest participant is 18, the oldest is 74 and more than half of them - 441 people - are from Britain.

The Clipper race is divided into eight legs, and 16 individual races. No one has to complete them all if they do not wish to. For the first leg sail, the teams will travel 6,000 miles to Rio de Janeiro.

After travelling to Brazil, the yachts will go on to South Africa, then to Albany in Western Australia. They will then sail to Queensland, and on to Vietnam and China. The race continues to Seattle and from there to New York via Panama. And the final leg will have the boats travel from the Big Apple back to London. They are due to arrive there at the end of July next year.

The final leg will see the yachts travel from New York back to London, where they are due at the end of July next year.