Twelve new 68-footers to replace Clipper Ventures's round the world fleet, and a change to the route in 2005

Clipper Ventures today announced the long-awaited decision to build a new fleet of yachts for their round the world race, and also that the route and format for the race will change in 2005.

The existence of an Ed Dubois design to replace their current fleet has been a loosely kept secret for a couple of years, but the AIM-listed company has until now not been in a financial position to go ahead and build this successor. The present 60-footers, designed by David Pedrick and built in the mid-1990s, have served them well but are ageing: they will begin their fourth race round the world in October.

The new design is a step up in size at 68ft. Clearly, an important element of the company’s business plan is the ability to sell more than double the number of berths. The new boats will have 18 berths compared with 12 each in the current Clipper yachts, and they are to build 12 new yachts to replace the existing eight, at an estimated cost of £6 million. This year, each crewmember is paying £26,500 to take part in the 11-month race.

Clipper Ventures have not revealed details of the design, nor of where it will be built. The Pedrick designs were built in the UK at Colvic, but Clipper have been looking into building overseas, including in Hong Kong, China and South Africa. All they have said so far is that the build will be from one mould and is planned to take two years. Work will therefore have to begin next year.

The current fleet will stay in use, said William Ward of Clipper Ventures. “We will sell one or two of them – we’re talking to two or three different people at the moment, but we’ll keep some for corporate and charter.”

Another change for 2005 will be to the race route. Clipper Ventures say this will ‘take in all the major business regions of the world’ and that the changes will be significant. They were unable to say whether the route would continue to go through the Panama Canal or would venture further south.

As before, the object is to have boats sponsored by cities, but each from a different country. “This will pit city against city, nation against nation and give the race a fresh competitive edge,” said Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

The company has joined forces with sports marketing agency Fast Track, which will market the deal and get a fixed commission of the new sponsorship money they bring in.