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Round the world clipper yacht race gets underway from Liverpool

The clippers in the Mersey today as they sail around the world Photo: ITV Granada
Liverpool 2018 crew prepare to enter the River Mersey Credit: ITV Granada

A fleet of ocean racing yachts are poised and ready to set sail ahead of their 40,000 nautical mile round-the-world adventure.

Moored in Liverpool's popular tourist attraction of the Albert Docks are 12 Clipper Round the World 70ft yachts, which will begin their full circumnavigation on Sunday.

They will be raced across the planet by 712 amateur sailors - led by 12 professional skippers - in what is the 11th edition of the biennial race.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, who is also a former merchant seaman, said he is expecting "thousands to be lining the waterfront" for their departure.

Crowds wave off the yachts at Liverpool's Albert Dock Credit: ITV Granada
Credit: ITV Granada

Liverpool is a global maritime city... the interest from people in anything to do with the sea, the ocean and boats - they just love it," he told the Press Association.

"I am absolutely delighted that we are hosting the event and that it is starting in Liverpool and finishing in Liverpool, it is amazing."

After leaving the Albert Docks, the fleet will perform a white sail parade on the River Mersey, and once the start gun is sounded will begin the race towards Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Split into eight legs, the first to the south American city is more than 6,400 nautical miles and is expected to take 35 days - making it the longest opening leg in the 21-year history of the race.

The race will also visit other cities around the world, including Seattle, Cape Town, and Qingdao - finishing in Liverpool on July 28 next year, where the overall winners will be crowned.

With one of the 12 yachts racing around the world named after the city - Liverpool 2018 - Mr Anderson said he would like to welcome back the boat as the overall winners.

"This (the Clipper race) is taking our brand of Liverpool emblazoned on a yacht on its sails, it is taking the brand of Liverpool across the world and promoting what we are about," he added.

– Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

Co-founder of the Clipper race and the first person to sail solo and nonstop around the world, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said he expects "tremendous support" from Liverpool.

Liverpool is a bit special, because it is about the only city that has this natural affinity with the sea. "So you get tremendous support from the public here."

With the competitors setting off from the city on what will be the longest ever leg in the race's history, it will be a "big challenge for the crews".

"They are going to have to settle down very, very quickly and get used to the fact that for four or five weeks they are in their little capsule and the nearest humans, apart from the other boats, will probably be the space station," .

"(But) the biggest challenge they face isn't actually the sailing, it is getting used to living in a very tight and confined community.

"This requires give and take - people aren't used to that these days."

Sir Robin said both deaths were tragic, unnecessary and upsetting for everyone, and that throughout training and during the race they continuously emphasise safety.

"These crews are aware of the need to take precautions all the time and never ever relax your guard. Providing they do that they will come home safely."

– Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, Chairman of Clipper Race
Co-founder of the Clipper Round the World race Credit: Press Association

:: The Clipper Round the World Yacht race begins on the River Mersey at 12.30pm on August 20 and will return 11 months later on July 28 2018.

In the last Clipper race, Andrew Ashman, 49, from Kent, suffered a fatal neck injury in September 2015 during that edition's first leg.

His death was the first in the race's 20-year history.

It was followed in April last year by the death of Sarah Young, 40, from London, who was washed off the deck of the IchorCoal during the Pacific leg of the race.