Twelve yachts are heading down the English Channel this evening on the first leg of a journey which will take almost 11 months and cover 40,000 miles. Chris Maughan now reports on the dozens of crew aboard sailing into the unknown.
The Clipper Round the World race has begun, with all twelve teams starting successfully and on their way to Brest in France.
Race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said there was an element of envy as he watched the yachts go through the start line.
He said: "You're thinking, oh you lucky people, you're going sailing... This is the start of their big adventure"
Race Director Justin Taylor said: "It was a great sight, it's so wonderful to see the whole fleet together racing for the first time"
Hundreds of spectators gathered on Southend Pier for the official start of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. On the first leg, the fleet will race from the pier to Brest in France, before heading to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Clipper Round the World race teams are doing their final preparations at St Katharine Docks before they set sail on their 11 month journey in just under an hour's time.
Record breaking round-the-world sailors Dame Ellen MacArthur and Sir Robin Knox Johnston are at the start of the race to see the teams off.
Sir Robin was the first man to sail solo round the world in 1968, and co-founded the Clipper Round the World race in 1995. In 2005 Dame Ellen broke the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe.
Take a look at the kind of thing Clipper Race teams will be facing when they set off from St Katharine's Docks today on their 11 month marathon.
Footage: Youtube/ Clipper Ventures
High speed winds and rough waves are the norm on the exhausting journey, where crew members can only work four hour stints at a time because of the punishing conditions.
They'll have to consume over 5000 calories a day to keep up - that's double what an average person is supposed to be eating
At 73 years old, Gil Sharp from Wimbledon will be the oldest female crew member taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
Competitors in the round-the-world Clipper race are making their final preparations today, with less than two days to go until they set to sea. The yachts will leave from St Katharine Docks on Sunday - to begin their 40, 000 mile circumnavigation.