The biggest-ever edition of the Clipper round-the-world yacht race, got under way on the River Mersey, Liverpool, on Sunday, 20 August, in front of thousands of spectators.

The day started with crew farewell ceremonies with family, friends and supporters looking on from the Albert Dock colonnades as each team had their moment on stage before all 247 crew members boarded their yachts, ready to leave land behind for approximately four weeks.

The slipping of the lines is an emotional moment not just for crew but also for friends and family.

Catherine Morgan whose daughter, Pip O’Sullivan, set sail for Punta del Este for the first leg of her circumnavigation on board GREAT Britain, said: ‘I think the hardest moment for me was when they actually slipped lines and I felt very, very emotional.

‘I’d held it all in until that point. But now she’s out a sea and the adventure has really started. We’ve been waiting for so long for it!’

The Clipper Race fleet set sail. Credit: onEdition

The Clipper Race fleet set sail. Credit: onEdition

The teams paraded under sail up the River Mersey for the crowds of onlookers. Spectators travelled from all over the country to Liverpool for the occasion. including Sally Donaldson, who was supporting her uncle, Michael Husband, a circumnavigator on Dare To Lead.

‘We’ve got all our family here,’ says Sally. ‘They’ve travelled from London, some from Yorkshire, everywhere to come and see him. It’s been a fantastic, big day. It’s obviously such a special occasion and we wouldn’t have missed it.’

Many of the crew on board have been preparing for this moment for up to two years and even after undergoing the four levels of intense Clipper Race training, setting out to sail across an ocean for the first time is a daunting challenge.

Clipper Race Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop around the planet almost 50 years ago, founded the race to allow anyone, regardless of experience, the chance to experience ocean racing.

He said: ‘Over the next 11 months, our crew and skippers will get to face everything Mother Nature can throw at them. Upon their return they will have sailed across many of the world’s greatest oceans. Very few people get to say that.’

He added: ‘The Clipper Race has got bigger and better with each edition and I can’t help feeling incredibly proud as I watch our crew head off on what will certainly be a life changing journey. I will be watching them closely and wish them all safe voyage.’

Previous round-the-world crew member on board the winner of the Clipper 2015-16 Race LMAX Exchange, Steven O’Connor and fellow crew mates attended to cheer on the new class of crew.

Stephen’s message to the crew was: ‘Always remember, that there is no difference between your boat and the rest of the fleet. It’s your attitude that will prevail, so good luck and safe sailing!’

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A cannon blast marked the start of the race in sunny conditions with strong tide. With winds against them, the first mark was a test of trimming, tacking and spotting the wind.

GREAT Britain was the first team across the Start Line with Sanya Serenity Coast and Garmin less than a half a boat length behind.

A short inshore circuit got the race under way in front of the crowds. The 12-strong Clipper Race fleet is now heading 6,400NM, the equivalent distance of 10 Fastnet Races, through the Atlantic Ocean towards Punta del Este, Uruguay.

This opening leg will take approximately 35 days to complete and is the longest ever in the race’s 21-year history.