Blackpool Skipper to Lead Team of Amateur Sailors in World’s Largest Ocean Race


Lance Shepherd, 53, from Blackpool, Lancashire, is set to realise a lifetime dream after being selected as one of twelve professional Skippers who will each lead a team in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race, the largest ocean race on the planet, when it sets sail in August

Lance Shepherd, 53, from Blackpool, Lancashire, is set to realise a lifetime dream after being selected as one of twelve professional Skippers who will each lead a team in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race, the largest ocean race on the planet, when it sets sail in August.

Lance, a former Royal Marine who began his sailing at the age of 14 with his local Scout group, has followed the Clipper Race ever since it began over twenty years ago.

After passing a series of intense interviews and trials as part of the selection, Lance said: “The challenge of taking a group of novice sailors, from all walks of life, out of their comfort zones and turning them into a successful round the world ocean racing team will be the highlight of my life, not just my career. It is a privilege to have been selected.”

After eleven years in the Royal Marines, Lance began working as a freelance Skipper and has since gained extensive experience in ocean crossings, yacht racing, deliveries, team building, leadership and teaching of the RYA sailing syllabus.

With twelve teams and approximately 700 participants, the biennially held Clipper Race is the world’s largest ocean race. 40,000 nautical miles in length, it challenges individuals to go further, dig deeper and push themselves harder as they pit their wits, skills and courage against the world’s toughest oceans, with no previous experience required.

Only the Skipper on board each team is professional. “I believe a team is made by the complete engagement of every member which is achieved through building mutual respect, encouragement and collaboration,” adds Lance. “I have a very high standard of safe seamanship and will promote a safe culture of continuous improvement for the whole team as they take on one of the toughest challenges in the world.”

“Each ocean we cross will be challenging with its own set of characteristics but. I am really looking forward to crossing the Southern Ocean.”

The race will be exciting, uncomfortable, relentless, exhilarating and at times, frustrating. Each of the twelve Clipper Race teams will need to display extraordinary amounts of focus, determination and stamina as they set out on their circumnavigation before returning as heroes. 

The Clipper Race was 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 people 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 Lance and his team the best in their Clipper 2017- 18 Race campaign.”

Lance is now working full-time at the Clipper Race HQ in Gosport, where he and the eleven other Skippers are leading the intensive crew training courses. The next major event in the race preparations is Crew Allocation, at Portsmouth Guildhall, May 20, where all Skippers and crew will be assigned to their teams for the first time.

Starting from the UK this August, the Clipper 2017-18 Race route will see the teams first race across the Atlantic to South America; the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa; across the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties to Western Australia; around to East Australia taking in the famous Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race en route; back into the Northern Hemisphere to Qingdao, China via Sanya; across the mighty North Pacific to West Coast USA; to New York via the famous Panama Canal; and then a final Atlantic crossing before arriving back to the UK as ocean racing heroes. 

Lancashire Magazine had the opportunity to interview Lance before his big race: How does it feel to be selected as a Clipper Race Skipper?

It feels great and I feel privileged to have been selected. 

How and when were you told and where were you at the time?

I received an e mail whilst I was afloat teaching

How did you/ will you celebrate?

I didn’t celebrate initially other than a little jump up and down inside as I was with students and couldn’t spill the beans!

Although I had a little celebration once I got home with my wife. 

How are you preparing for the challenge?

I’m speaking to as many past skippers and crew as I can for feedback and advice. 

Which Ocean are you looking forward to crossing the most?

I am most looking forward to crossing the Southern ocean

As an experienced yacht racer, what will your attitude or approach be towards the Clipper Race?

I will lead and guide my team to sail as competitively as we can be without compromising any safety or inflicting any damage to the yacht.

 

Article first featured in May 17 issue in the magazine.