A fleet of 10 new boats will be built for the Clipper 2005 Round the World Yacht Race

Clipper Ventures plc, the AIM-listed ocean racing company chaired by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, has today announced the award of a landmark contract for the build of a new 10-strong fleet for the Clipper 2005 Round the World Yacht Race. The contract is awarded to Shanghai Double Happiness Yachts Ltd, a subsidiary of Shanghai Double Happiness Sports – the only Chinese company to be an official supplier to the Olympic Games.

The new fleet of 68ft yachts, from the drawing board of designer Ed Dubois, will be built in China and will start coming into service in 2004.

Also announced today is a sponsorship deal valued at $1,000,000, granting Shanghai Double Happiness Yachts the rights to promote their yacht sales through the Clipper 2005 race, which will set sail from the UK in the autumn of 2005 – the single largest sponsorship deal negotiated by the race organisers to date.

Shanghai Double Happiness, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of sporting-goods, will show case the Dubois 68 at each of the international ports on Clipper 2005, the longest of all the round the world yacht races. Furthermore each Dubois 68 will be named after and sponsored by a major international city, as the exciting city versus city, nation versus nation format of the Clipper 2005 race takes shape.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Mr Huang Yong Wu, General Manager of Shanghai Double Happiness (Group) Inc, today signed the contract at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, Britain’s premier and oldest sailing club.

The agreement is as a major business success for both parties. Double Happiness benefit from the promotion of their rapidly expanding boat-building capability around the world and Clipper Ventures acquire a top quality fleet of yachts. With 10 yachts and an increase to 18 crew berths per yacht, Clipper are able to increase their revenue from crew fees by over 50 per cent.

At 68ft loa, the new state-of-the-art boats are 8ft longer than the highly successful Clipper 60s in use since 1996, yet they weigh two tons less.

Technically known as masthead cutters, the new yachts have a taller rig and larger sail area. Longer hull, lighter construction and a greater sail area are all vital factors which individually will produce a faster boat – put them together and the effect is appreciable. The new Dubois 68s will provide their amateur crews with some of the fastest round the world ocean racers in the non-professional field.

The Dubois 68s incorporate all the lessons and ideas learned in more than 1.2 million miles of racing during the four Clipper circumnavigations run to date. Whilst fast down wind, their taller masts and higher aspect ratio sail plan make them very effective up wind and give an enhanced light weather performance. To cope with the larger sails, aids such as coffee-grinder winches used on the America’s Cup yachts are being fitted.

Built to the latest Maritime and Coastguard Agency construction and safety requirements, the latest electronics and communication technology will be included as standard, providing everything from instant links with home to computerised navigation and tactical information from satellites.

Each of the new yachts will race with an 18-strong crew and the increased capabilities of the new boats have also allowed the introduction of a newly challenging and ambitious route for the 2005 race.