The 12 international crews competing in the 10th edition of the world’s longest ocean race set sail on the 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation off the coast of Southend yesterday.

The 2015/16 Clipper Race, started at 12.30pm in front of big crowds on Southend Pier. Race 1 sees the fleet racing 5,186 nautical miles to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A cannon was fired by officials from Benfleet Yacht Club in the presence of Clipper Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Race Director Justin Taylor to mark the start of the 11-month long ocean odyssey.

LMAX Exchange, skippered by Olivier Cardin, was first over the line, followed by GREAT Britain, skippered by Peter Thornton close behind in second place, and Da Nang Viet Nam – led by Wendy Tuck – third over the starting line.

Sir Robin 76, who became the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-9, said: ‘Watching the crews start their adventure is a very special moment after all the months, and in many cases, years of training and preparation they have undertaken to get to this stage.’The challenges that lie ahead are going to test them to their limits physically and mentally, and they are going to need to work as a team to overcome everything Mother Nature will throw at them.

‘They are going to change their lives forever by competing in this ocean adventure. I wish them fair winds and competitive but safe sailing as they circumnavigate the globe.’

The race start followed a spectacular Parade of Sail by the fleet down the River Thames on Saturday. Tens of thousands of well-wishers filled the international Race Village and lined the banks of the Thames to wave off the 12 courageous crews and their professional skippers.

London’s Tower Bridge lifted to salute the crew twice ahead of their race adventure.

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The opening leg of the race will see the paying crew cross the Atlantic Ocean, including the challenging Doldrums, to reach Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Following the first stopover in Brazil, the fleet will continue on via Cape Town, Albany – Western Australia, Sydney (including the world famous Sydney-Hobart Race), the Whitsundays, Da Nang – Vietnam, Qingdao – China, Seattle, Panama, New York, Derry-Londonderry and Den Helder – the Netherlands, before returning to London’s St Katharine Docks for Race Finish on 30 July 2016.

To follow the fleet on its way to Rio, click here.