Boat parade kicks off Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from St Katharine Docks
PUBLISHED: 20:50 01 September 2013 | UPDATED: 07:39 03 September 2013
Large crowds lined the banks of the River Thames, near Tower Bridge, today to cheer on the crews of the world's longest ocean race.
More than 120,000 spectators are estimated to have waved off the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, as they set sail from St Katharine Docks.
It is the first time London has hosted the Clipper Race and is 40 years since the Thames last featured a round the world sailing event.
The fleet of 12 70-ft ocean racing yachts and a flotilla of support vessels, including a paddleship steamer, pilot and police boats, and pleasure cruisers participated in a spectacular pageant.
Tower Bridge was also opened to salute the crews facing the ultimate endurance test as they set off for the first leg to Rio de Janeiro.
The fleet will not return until July next year after a total of 670 crew have raced 40,000 miles and visited 16 ports on six continents.
Legendary British yachtsman, Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said: “It is wonderful to see these gutsy people set off on one of the greatest adventures left on the planet.
“Departing from the iconic Tower Bridge, in the British capital London, is something really special for the crews and skippers who have been building up to this moment for months.
“To see them return to London as accomplished circumnavigators in 11 months time will be a special moment.”
Designed to provide everyone - regardless of sailing experience - the chance to race across oceans and taste the exhilaration of completing a circumnavigation, the Clipper Race has turned over 3,500 novices into ocean racers since its inception in 1995.
Everyone from teachers, nurses and lorry drivers to accountants, sports stars and film directors team together to take on the world’s toughest sailing conditions.
Skippered by a professional yachtsman, each team will battle to complete eight different legs over eleven months, all vying for the winning title.
The race officially start offshore at Southend on Monday morning at 09.30 BST.
The first leg of the Clipper Race ends in Marina da Gloria, Rio de Janeiro, the destination for the 2016 Olympic sailing events.
They then continue on via South Africa, Western Australia, Sydney, Brisbane, Singapore, China, San Francisco, Panama, Jamaica, New York, Derry Londonderry and the Netherlands before returning to London’s St Katharine Docks.
Look out for our interview in next week’s Docklands & East London Advertiser with chef Lawrence Lingard giving an insight into the complex food preparations and cooking onboard.