Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is competing in the Two Handed Round Britain and Ireland Race which started from Plymouth yesterday

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, chairman of the leading ocean racing and events company ‘Clipper Ventures Plc,’ has teamed up with William Foster, the American owner of Spirit, ex-Spirit of England, a 40-foot trimaran, and set sail on this year’s Two Handed Round Britain and Ireland Race.

Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world, embarked on the gruelling test of seamanship and navigation yesterday, Sunday 9 June, when the Duke of Edinburgh started the Royal Western Yacht Club’s famed Round Britain and Ireland race at 1300 in Plymouth.

The route’s weather vagaries and large tidal ranges make the race a unique 2,000 mile challenge for the shorthanded sailor. Established in 1966, the event is held every four years, starting and finishing in Plymouth, with four compulsory stops of 48 hours at Crosshaven, Barra, Lerwick and Lowestoft, providing the opportunity for competitors to rest, make repairs and experience the legendary port hospitality.

This year’s event marks the Royal Western Yacht Club’s 175th anniversary and is Knox-Johnston’s seventh entry in this classic race. His first race was in 1970, which he won with Leslie Williams in the then giant ketch Ocean Spirit. In 1974, sailing with Gerry Boxall in the largest racing catamaran then built, the 70ft MacAlpine-Downie-designed British Oxygen he won again.

Following competitive entries in 1978, 1982 and 1986, Knox-Johnston teamed up with Bob Fisher and Barracuda for his most recent race in 1990. The formidable pair not only won their class, but also beat the boats in the next two classes above them. Knox-Johnston also won the RORC non-stop crewed race in 1976 and in August 2000 he completed his first solo circumnavigation of the British Isles (1989.5 nautical miles) in 18 days, 18 hours, 56 minutes and 18 seconds.

Bob Beggs, winning skipper of Clipper Ventures’ most recent Round the World Yacht Race, is also competing in this year’s Two Handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, racing aboard the IOR design 36 footer, Predator, in Class 3. Beggs teams up with Nic Gray, a former round the world crew and now one of Clipper Ventures’ training mates.

The only all female team competing in this year’s Two Handed Round Britain and Ireland Race also has a notable association with Clipper Ventures. Becky Walford, lead Skipper on Clipper’s corporate Reflex 38 fleet, is racing in Class 4 with Mary Falk on Q11, a 35-footer.

Another former Clipper skipper, Matt Baker, who took the helm of Plymouth’s entry in The Times Clipper 2000 Round The World Yacht Race, is racing with Richard Wevill aboard the 38ft No Fear of Yealm in Class 3; while Mervyn Wheatley, a Clipper 1996 Race skipper is sailing with his brother aboard the 42ft yacht Tamarind, in Class 2.