A SHAWLEY sailor will sample a life on the ocean waves after being chosen 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.
Mark Burkes, 54, is one of the 11 skippers to be chosen to lead a team in the race which sets sail from the UK this summmer.
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.
From there they will cross the mighty North Pacific to the USA’s west coast before a journey through the famous Panama Canal ahead of a final Atlantic crossing back to the UK.
“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,” he said.
Having amassed an impressive 160,000 nautical miles in his log book, Mark has more than 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 2011-12 race as media crew, Mark was a relief skipper in the 2013-14 edition and has also been a training skipper for the past seven years.
“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 race teams previously and having training hundreds of crew members for the challenge,” he said.
“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 race, which takes almost a year to complete, is the only event of its kind which trains amateur sailors to race around the planet.
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 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.
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 the crew allocation at the Portsmouth Guildhall on May 11 where all skippers and crew will be assigned to their teams for the first time.