SPORT - Two Australian skippers in Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race

SPORT - Two Australian skippers in Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race

Two Australians have been named among 10 international skippers that will contest this year’s Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race starting from England in September.

The Clipper Race pits 10 crews from 27 countries in identical, stripped down 68-foot racing yachts in a 35,000nm challenge over 10 months.

Brendan Hall from Brisbane and Sydney resident Jim Dobie are the two Australians announced among the 10 international skippers appointed to the position following a rigorous selection process, organisers said.

The Clipper Race was founded in 1996 by current chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, as the only global ocean race open to everyone, regardless of background and sailing ability.

Sir Robin who, in 1969, became the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the world said he wanted to make ocean racing available to everyone, regardless of nationality or background. Since that first race, almost 2000 ordinary people are said to have taken the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone and race around the world under sail, and more than 5000 more have been introduced to sailing through the Clipper Training programme.

“Leading a team in a race around the world is one of the hardest and most challenging jobs that any skipper could ever undertake, and we’re confident these 10 men are up to this challenge,” said Sir Robin.

“They have all been through a lengthy and rigorous selection process and we have chosen a group of exceptional individuals as our race skippers. They have the ability to draw the line between competitiveness and safety while, at the same time, motivating the crew to retain their focus during races lasting several weeks at a time, whether it be through roaring gales and towering seas or the frustration of tricky calm spells,” he said.

The skippers are:

* Jim Dobie, 30 (Uniquely Singapore). Singapore-born Jim now lives in Sydney where he has been the chief instructor at an adventure training company for the last four years. He has considerable racing experience and skippered his team on Flying Fish Arctos to second place in the PHS Division 2 of the 2008 Sydney-Hobart Race.

* Piers Dudin, 31 (Hull & Humber). Piers, who lives in Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK, has been sailing from the age of six and has accumulated a wealth of experience, most recently on his Open 6.5m, Thunder. He raced her in the Mini Fastnet last year and hopes to campaign in the Mini Transat when he gets back from the Clipper Race. He has been sailing professionally for seven years and was a maths teacher for two years prior to that.

* Richie Fearon, 28 (Cork). Richie has been sailing since he was a child and has combined a love of the ocean with a career in business. His role as a project manager with a property development company and as business coordinator with the Londonderry Junior Chamber will see him in good stead for the task that lies ahead: managing a team of people whose backgrounds include carpenters, chief executives, nurses, lawyers, and even clergy.

* Brendan Hall, 27. From Brisbane, Brendan has been sailing since he was a child. After working in the IT industry and gaining a degree in philosophy from Queensland University of Technology, he became a professional sailor and has been working with Clipper Training for two years, working towards becoming a skipper on the Clipper 09-10 Race.

* Eero Lehtinen, 45. Originally from Helsinki, Finland, Eero now lives in Cape Town, South Africa. He has previously competed in the Whitbread Race and was a skipper in the 2004 Global Challenge Race. He comes from a sailing family — his niece represented Finland in the Yngling class at the Beijing Olympic Games and his nephew is on course for the London 2012 Olympics. Coached by his dad, Eero’s eldest son is the top Optimist sailor in South Africa.

* Matt Pike, 40. From Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, Matt has also been sailing since he was a child. Like Lord Nelson, he learnt to sail on the Norfolk Broads, getting out on the water at every opportunity. He has worked all over the world, racing yachts and commissioning new boats, and has also put his
previous career as a cabinet maker to good use, restoring an 1958 wooden Folkboat.

* Jan Ridd, 46 (Cape Breton Island). Previously a professional photographer and the owner and landlord of a pub in Weymouth, Jan discovered sailing much later than his colleagues, but took to it instantly and has wasted no time making up the ground. A professional sailor for the last seven years, Jan has been working with Clipper Training to prepare the crews for the Clipper Races and has an excellent knowledge of the 68-foot yachts they will be racing on.

* Pete Rollason, 41 (California). An experienced offshore racer, London-born Pete has recently been devoting his time to sail training. He will take a break from running his own sailing school in Cape Town, where he now lives with his wife and young son, in order to skipper California in Clipper 09-10. Before becoming a professional sailor Peter was an investment banker.

* Chris Stanmore-Major, 32 (Qingdao). Chris grew up in Torquay, Devon, UK, and has lived in Hong Kong for the last four years. He spent four years working as an instructor trainer on a sail training yacht and has an impressive racing pedigree. He captained the middle boat for the HK team in last year’s Commodores Cup in Cowes, has competed in every major regatta in HK and worked with the Chinese team on their America’s Cup yacht for the Louis Vuitton Pacific Challenge Cup in New Zealand. His ambition is to compete in the next edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS singlehanded race which starts in October 2010. And,

* Peter Stirling, 43. Peter learned to sail in the tricky waters of the Menai Straits in North Wales and now calls Hampshire home. Growing up he was a very keen rower with aspirations of Olympic glory but chose to pursue his other passion, sailing. Peter is an experienced racer with many offshore races and ocean crossings under his belt. He has also spent three years working on an Antarctic marine research base for the British Antarctic Survey.

Followers of the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race can look forward to some exciting and exhilarating racing when the event gets underway on September 13. Organisers said the race will start from the Humber River, the first time an around-the-world yacht race has set off from the east coast of the UK, taking the sport to a new audience. During the 35,000nm race, the fleet will stop at 14 ports around the world before arriving back in the Humber in July 2010.

The search will soon be getting underway for suitably qualified men and women to follow in the footsteps of these 10 skippers in the next edition of the race which will start in 2011.

Skippers wishing to register their interest in applying for one of the most prestigious positions in sailing should email:

Photo: The 10 skippers in this year's Clipper 09-10 Round The World Yacht Race, starting from England in September.