YBW's Katy Stickland got the chance to crew on a Clipper 68 during Cowes Week 2016. CV2 has circumnavigated four times, and is now used for training and corporate events.

I’m face to face with Paul Strzelecki, chief executive of Henri-Lloyd Ltd.

Both of us puff, pant and grit our teeth as we grind.

It’s the third tack in 10 minutes as our skipper, Cliff Wimpory puts us and the rest of the crew through our paces out on the Solent.

Our ears are now finely tuned to hear “Yankee stop!” – the only words that will allow us to cease grinding.

Grinding on the Clipper 68

Getting ready to trim the main


Our fellow crew members encourage us, urging us to keep going despite the burning in our muscles (not sure about Paul’s but mine are certainly aching!).

We finally hear the magic words!

We stop, high five each other and walk away with a healthy respect for the likes of Freddie Carr or Sam Newton, or indeed any grinder!

It is the Tuesday of Cowes Week and I am out on a Henri Lloyd Clipper Sailing Day on the Clipper 68, CV2.

There is a mix of people on board including Tim Lewis and Megan Powell who are already preparing for the 2017-18 Clipper Round the World.

They already know their way around a Clipper 68 – it is the type of yacht they’re currently training on.

Tim helms on Clipper 68

Tim, at the helm, has signed up for two legs in the 2017-16 Clipper Round the World Race


The Clipper 70s – which were used for the 2015-16 Clipper Round the World – are currently being refitted after the spectacular finish at St Katharine Docks last month.

While Tim and Megan have spent hours learning about the yacht, the rest of us get a crash course from the two crew members – Martin Morrell and Martin Woodcock, who raced on CV2 in the 2011-12 race.

During that edition, the vessel was named New York, and took two podium placings.

There are 16 of us today, all with different sailing abilities.

Some have sailed singlehanded in South America and the Caribbean, while others last went dinghy sailing as children.

Heading out on a Clipper 68

On the Solent


We all get the same basic instruction and safety briefing.

We are then given life jackets and lines so we can clip on if we feel the need.

Cliff is at the helm as we head out from Cowes Yacht Haven, taking CV2 past the gathering race boats until we’re away from the main racing action.

We get a chance to explore down below – taking in the galley, crew bunks, locker room and navigation station. I can’t believe how roomy it is!

Crew bunks on a Clipper 68

Crew bunks on board


Back on deck, we get ready for our first tack.

We’re each assigned a winch, with Martin and Martin close at hand to step in if we need help.

Skipper Cliff shouts “Helm to lee”  – one half of us are releasing lines, the other half of us are grinding.

The pit on board the Clipper 68

The pit


It’s perhaps not the slickest of sailing manoeuvres but we’ve achieved our aim.

With smiles on our faces, we find a spot in the sun and get to know our fellow crew members.

Paul’s wife, Jenny, tells me more about the winner of the Henri Lloyd Seamanship Award, which for 2015-16 was presented to Gavin Reid.

The 28-year-old was on Mission Performance when it went to the aid of the M3 yacht during the leg from Hobart to Whitsundays in Australia.

M3, a non Clipper Race vessel, had a wrapped propeller, a damaged mainsail and a sailor stuck at the top of the mast.

Despite the heavy sea state, Gavin Reid climbed the vessel’s mast and took two hours to free the yacht’s crewman, who had been trapped for nine hours.

What makes the story even more amazing is the fact that Gavin, who had no previous sailing experience, was born deaf.

The rest of his Mission Performance crew mates wore florescent lip balm at night, so Gavin could lipread.

There is not a dry eye on deck! Especially when Jenny tells us that Gavin fell in love with one of his crew mates and they are still together.


At the helm of the Clipper 68

Skipper Cliff Wimpory keeps a watchful eye


Our Ed Dubois designed Clipper 68 is now heading back towards Cowes so we can watch some racing.

The 68 was the backbone of the Clipper Race fleet for four races from 2005-2012.

Clipper founder, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, wanted a vessel which could be sailed safely by amateurs – like us –  and be a good ocean racer.

Clipper 68 sail

Some wind in our sails


It is time for me to take the helm.

As it is Cowes Week there are boats everywhere – certainly not what I am used to…the last sailing I did was in Tobago, with only the odd fishing boat around.

I’ll admit that I am slightly terrified. This is the biggest boat I have ever helmed and it is daunting, but under the watchful eye of skipper Cliff, CV2’s bow is where it should be!

A little scary it may be, but it’s also thrilling, exciting and a moment I will remember for years to come!

John at helm of Clipper 68

Smiles as he takes the helm


It is all over far too quickly, before another eager crew member takes the prime spot.

With Cowes firmly in our sights, it’s time to take down and flake the sails.

It is a cumbersome job that takes all of us!

Back at Cowes Yacht Haven, we head off for some well deserved apres sail, jostling with the rest of the thirsty sailors needing a refreshing pint.


Eric and Susan Hiscock

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