The first of their new round the world fleet is unveiled

The first of Clipper Ventures’s new round the world fleet has been publicly unveiled. The 68ft Ed Dubois design is one of ten yachts being built at Shanghai Double Happiness Yachts in China in a landmark fixed-price deal that includes the build and supply of the entire fleet and every item of their inventory, from mast and sails to knives and forks – the sole exception is flares, which are not allowed aboard during shipping.

The first yacht, named Liverpool 08, has already been sailing since her delivery by ship to London. The sturdy design is a step change from the previous Clipper 60s, not just bigger but more powerful and requiring a greater number of sail changes for the paying crew. The design has evolved for a different route round the world, which features a Southern Ocean blast between Durban and Perth.

“The boat will need quite speedy responses to wind differences if the best is to be brought from her and the reward for sailing her well and efficiently at the upper end of performance will be considerable,” commented Clipper Ventures’s chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston after his first sea trial.

The build in China at a yard which had never worked on a yacht before has involved much long-distance and cross-cultural co-operation, says finance director Jeremy Knight. “I think we underestimated how big the cultural and language difficulties would be. A hell of a lot goes missing in translation. But this yacht shows how much Double Happiness have achieved. Until a year ago most, if not all, at the yard had never seen a yacht, never mind been on one.”

The new design is a key element to a strengthened financial basis for the AIM-listed company. The fleet of ten yachts each has berths for 17 crew (there were 12 crew on the previous fleet of eight yachts), and the sponsorship foundations are firmer. The next two races will start and finish in Liverpool, and the city is paying £1.8 million to host the events.

Remarkably, the deal with Shanghai Double Happiness Yachts is allied to a US$1 million cash sponsorship deal through which the Chinese company hopes to promote its capabilities for production yachtbuilding. Additionally, Clipper Ventures hopes ports of call will pay £500,000 to lure the race there. To that end, sports marketing company Fast Track Sailing has been appointed as commercial and media partner.

The remaining nine yachts will be completed and shipped to the UK in batches between now and late spring next year in time for the start of Clipper 05-06, which starts from Liverpool on 18 September.