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Around the world sail race stops in Oakland as part of Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show

on April 13, 2012

Aboard a 68-foot-long Clipper racing yacht, the date or the day of the week date doesn’t matter, says crewmember Ally Wilson, just the time of the next meal and the time you’re able to sleep. “You don’t worry about land until you’re sort of a day out,” she says. That can happen when you don’t see land for up to 30 days at a time.

Wilson is aboard the Singapore, which is one of ten yachts competing in the Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race. The yachts, all the same size and weight, started arriving in Oakland in late March—the conclusion of the longest leg of the race, across the Pacific Ocean from Qingdao, China—and are docked in Jack London Square harbor through this weekend. The race, which takes place every two years, is the longest around-the-world sailing race, covering more than 40,000 miles, spanning 51 weeks and stopping at 15 destinations on six continents.

The Clipper fleet is on display this weekend as part of the Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show at Jack London Square, which began Thursday morning. The show has 65 booth exhibitors selling sailing equipment, gear and accessories on both floors of the Market Hall. Outside, about 65 boats are on display and for sale in the marina. “Any part, gear or accessory for your boat, you’ll find here,” said Sail America executive director Jonathan Banks.

Also on display in Jack London Square plaza is an America’s Cup 45, the boat being used in the America’s Cup World Series, which is a precursor to the America’s Cup race. The AC45 is a 45-foot black catamaran that can travel faster than 40 miles per hour, and is considered one of the most demanding boats to sail, Banks said, because instead of the typical soft fabric sail, the America’s Cup 45 has a hard wing sail “with flaps and everything.”

The boats of the Clipper fleet are docked in the harbor, and some of the 15 or 16 crewmembers on each boat are giving tours of their boats this weekend as part of the show. Other crewmembers are out exploring the Bay Area. Since each of the 10 boats has crewmembers from all over the world, many are making their first trip to this coast. While other crewmembers were out skiing or visiting Alcatraz or the wine country, Tom Way and Wilson were on their boat, the Singapore, giving tours and answering questions.

Most of the members of each boat in the Clipper fleet aren’t professionals, and 40 percent are novices, said Jonathan Levy, the director of business development with Clipper. That’s because the founder of the Clipper organization, Sir Robin-Knox Johnston, the first person to sail solo around the world, was shocked to hear more people had climbed Mount Everest than sailed around the world, Levy said. “His idea was: If I have a fleet and provide the training and all the support, we can get it at a price that’s more realistic for people,” Levy said.

Way had just graduated from Southampton University in England when he signed up to sail around the world. He was on the Singapore when it left Southampton, the race’s starting point, in July. In a little more than eight months, he’s been all over the world, including making stops in Brazil, Australia and South Africa. He’s crossed the Atlantic twice already, with one trip to go, when the race concludes back in Southampton in July. He’s seen days with little wind, and been in huge storms, like one in the Pacific Ocean during which 100-foot waves came down on one of the Clipper fleet, injuring two of the crew who had to be flown out by the Coast Guard.

Way said that he’s not worried about 100-foot waves coming down on top of his head, though. “Personally, I don’t think about it,” he said. “If you’re that worried about it, you wouldn’t be here.”

Instead, he said he’s just enjoying the lifestyle of being on the water for days at a time, alternating four-hour watch shifts throughout the day and thinking about little else besides sailing. “I remember as a kid always thinking, ‘I want to sail around the world someday,’” he said. “And at 21, the opportunity arose.”

Go here for more information on the Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show, and here for information on the Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race.


  1. livegreen on April 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Cool !

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