A Taste of Clipper Round the World Yacht Racing

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What’s life like aboard a Clipper 70 racing yacht? A recent media sail around San Francisco give me a little taste.

My initial impression of the Clipper 70 is that of a beautiful racing thoroughbred, long, lean and fast. Renowned naval architect Tony Castro, whose racing yacht designs have won five world championships, gave it twin helms, twin rudders and a six ft. bowsprit, allowing for inclusion of three large asymmetric spinnakers and a suite of Yankee headsails. He’s given it lots of tools to sprint around the 40,000-mile racecourse.

clipper 70 qingdao – photo: clipper ventures

The sexiness ends when you go below, however. The Clipper 70 is a striped down racing yacht; all luxuries have been eliminated. Even with the great distances covered on each leg of the race, the yachts often finish just minutes apart. Any excess weight could easily cost the win.

While the accommodations are definitely Spartan, the experiences aboard are anything but. Thus far the 12-boat fleet has encountered two hurricanes and 120-knot winds; stopped at some of the most beautiful sailing destinations in the world; communed with amazing sea life in a very unique way.

what a mast hit by lightning looks like

what a mast hit by lightning looks like

There is often an element of living on the edge to Clipper racing. Rigging the sails on Qingdao, the Chinese sailing capital’s entry, we were shown where the mast was hit by lightning during their recent Pacific Crossing. The crew sailed her for the next 5,000-miles, for two weeks, without any electricity.

gareth glover, skipper of quingdao in the clipper round the world yacht race

Skipper Gareth Glover navigated the remainder of the leg to San Francisco using his handheld GPS and charts. The 2013-2014 edition is Glover’s second back-to-back Clipper. A passionate racer, he was anxious to sail the new bigger, faster Clipper 70s, which he’s enjoyed immensely. Plans after the race include going wherever the wind takes him, right now he’s thinking windsurfing in Egypt and skiing Chamonix – how divine!


Raising the sails I was struck by the massiveness of them. They are large to be sure, this is a 70-ft. yacht of course, but they are extremely thick and durable. Unlike other ocean races where sails are replaced with minimum wear, Clipper sails need to last the entire race, a full year.

All the racers on board have responsibilities in addition to sailing and I have to say I don’t envy the sailors charged with sail repair. It’s serious business on those.

Not surprisingly, the chef/restaurateur onboard has the job of victualing (provisioning the ship) for the voyage. It’s a challenging position, shopping in foreign ports for weeks at sea on a strict budget of $6 a day.


Chef Lawrence Lingard is up to the challenge. While everyone takes turns cooking onboard, it’s Lingard’s inspired menus keeping the crew happy. A typical day begins with breakfast of porridge or cereal (oats are an ideal fuel, offering slow-released energy), lunch of corn beef hash and bread, baked fresh each day, and dinner of something like beef casserole, rice or potatoes, bread and dessert, apple crumble is a popular choice. Other typical entrees include: beef pie, Thai chicken curry, pasta carbonara, and stir-fry dishes.

While other Clippers go the freeze-dried food route, the professional chef scoffs at that idea. Lingard sources only frozen food and fresh vegetables – for as long as they can last. He often selects pumpkins for their longevity.

The skipper’s favorite dinner is filet or sirloin with blue cheese peppercorn sauce and that traditional English favorite, bubble and squeak, a staple on the menu of Simplicity, Lingard’s highly-acclaimed London restaurant. He explained the steak dishes by carefully balancing those meals with inexpensive ones.

the chefs that sail together stick together... lawrence lingard with guest chef danny kao of la mar in sanfrancisco. earlier in the day, they had a cook-off, traditional british fare vs. paruvian.

the chefs that sail together stick together… lawrence lingard of simplicity in london with guest chef danny kou of la mar in san francisco. earlier in the day they had a cook-off, traditional british fare vs. peruvian.

I asked Lingard, who had no sailing experience, the inspiration for this sailing adventure for he’s a “rounder” – signed on for the full year-long race. He explained the catalyst was the realization he needed to make some serious changes in his life, a need to reprioritize and take a break from his demanding, hectic lifestyle. Thus far there have been some valuable life lessons.

“It’s been a bigger challenge than I’d even imagined and much tougher emotionally than physically… In the restaurant it’s my way or the highway; on board I’ve learned to be more diplomatic. We’re all very close here, we even share bunks,” he said.

Although there are enough berths for all the crew, storage space is at a premium and since they work in shifts, they elect to “hot bunk.” Teamwork is an important part of the Clipper experience.


We took turns grinding, trimming and steering and generally got a feel for the yacht. It felt solid, but then again this is a boat that recently took on two hurricanes and survived.

Life at sea has been an adjustment for Lingard; he described his first two months as “terrifying.” Although the stress and seasickness did have benefits, he’s lost 30 pounds. “I’m back to my boxing weight!” he said. Then with a smile he added it’s beginning to come back now that he’s more comfortable. He’s learned to love sailing, though it was a bumpy start.

“At first I wanted to get off so badly, but as I learned to sail – and I’m still learning – I grew to love it. Now I’m euphoric when we reach port, I think ‘I just sailed an ocean!’”

lingard showing off his beef cassarole in his postage-sized galley. it's quite a departure from his kitchen at simplicity in london.

lingard showing off his beef cassarole in his postage-sized galley. it’s quite a departure from his kitchen at simplicity in london.

And just how does cooking on board compare to land for the chef? “It’s a nightmare!” he said. Pots and pans drop, utensils fly and knives are especially dangerous when the yacht unexpectedly rocks and rolls in weather.


It was under calm conditions on San Francisco Bay that he prepared a tasty lunch for us, a British comfort food, corned beef hash, egg atop. I can only imagine how comforting it must to share a taste of home while sailing the distant reaches of the world. Qindao has an international crew, but the majority is British.


Though it wasn’t particularly windy day, especially for San Francisco, it was a pleasant sail. I enjoyed getting more of a feel for the yacht and especially liked how responsive the dual rudders were. The helm usually isn’t my favorite position but it might just be on a Clipper 70.

Another “rounder” with an important distinction is Vicky Song whose homeport actually is Qingdao. When she arrives in London she will be the first Asian woman to circumnavigate the globe as a racer.


I delighted in watching Song work the boat. She is a sailing club manager who also teaches sailing and both her experience and passion show. Song deftly handed the lines as she trimmed sails and alertly pointed out potential hazards.

“Challenging sea conditions with ‘massive mountains of waves’ lasting ten hours, but offering great boat speed – 28.7 knots!” account for Song’s most memorable moments on board so far.

Earlier while struggling a bit when rigging the massive jib, she smiled and said, “Imagine doing that heeling at 30 degrees – in the dark!” That was a little thought provoking, I wondered about what heightened senses might be required for foredeck work at night.


vicky song – photo: clipper ventures

Song has a disarming personality and an even more charming energy about her that I suspect would make you very glad she was on your boat. I’m so excited for her and her upcoming place in sailing history.

This being Sail Couture I had to chat about fashion and wine. Skipper Glover shared his love for Oakley sunglasses. Given his fervor I can’t imagine him wearing anything else. He also likes his leather Dubarry boots and especially the Henri Lloyd Elements Sailing Trousers provided as part of his Clipper kit. “They’re lightweight, durable and dry very quickly,” he said.

gareth glover is a fan of henri lloyd's elements sailing trousers

gareth glover is a fan of henri lloyd’s elements sailing trousers – photo: henri lloyd

Glover said he isn’t much into fashion outside of sailing; he’s an outdoorsman through and through. Interestingly, he is only one in his family to sail, an early passion for river rafting led to his love of wind and water.

Song is more attune to fashion outside sailing. She describes her preferred style as “natural beauty” which she finds through boutique shopping. Her favorite wine is that most elegant of reds, Merlot.


paul smith men’s collection spring/summer 2014 – photo: paul smith

armani pinstripe suit, spring/summer 2014

armani pinstripe suit, spring/summer 2014 – photo: armani

I’d stuck gold in terms of fashion with Lingard. He shared his favorite designer is Paul Smith, although when he’s in the mood to splurge it’s Armani. A classic “gentleman’s style” aficionado, the chef is a particular fan of Savile Row suites and Church‘s handmade shoes. At this point I’m seriously hoping for a future Clipper Where Are They Now article just to see Lingard dressed for his natural habitat. Though who is to say what his natural habitat will be given his new love of the sea?

The chef is a more guarded about his favorite wine, he offers just Bordeaux. I probe a bit and then chalk it up to his occupation. I guess a question like that could be rather akin to asking a parent to single out a favorite child…

We’re almost back to the pier at this point and I begin to reflect on the amazing sailors I’ve met what a really lovely day it’s been.


The Clipper Racers are three-quarters of the way through their remarkable journey; just races 11-16 remain. If you haven’t been following the race, now is the time. They have an excellent website and do frequent updates on social media.

The big question now is who will win?


First in a series on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the only race where organizers supply the fleet of 12 identical, 70-ft, racing yachts, each sponsored by a brand, led by professional skippers and manned by sailors of all experience levels and walks of life.

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