A spectacular parade took place yesterday along the Thames, London

More than 120,000 spectators gathered to watch the crews of the world’s longest ocean race set off from London’s Tower Bridge.

Crowds lined the banks of the Thames to mark the start of the 40,000-mile Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race yesterday.

The fleet of twelve 70ft ocean racing yachts and a flotilla of support vessels, spectator boats and well-wishers participated in a spectacular parade with Tower Bridge lifting to salute the crews who are taking on the endurance test.

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.’

The armada was joined by a paddleship steamer, pilot boats, police boats, RIBs, spectator boats and other pleasure craft as Britain waved off the 270 crew sailing from London to Rio de Janeiro on Leg 1.

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 Race

The fleet will not be returning until July 2014 after a total of 670 crew visit 16 ports on six continents.

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.

The race officially started offshore at Southend this 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 (including the world famous Sydney-Hobart Race), Brisbane, Singapore, China, San Francisco, Panama, Jamaica, New York, Derry Londonderry and the Netherlands before returning to London’s St Katharine Docks for Race Finish in July 2014.

Pictures: The GREAT Britain yacht in front of London’s Tower Bridge. Credit: onEdition