From the East Coast to a global challenge

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
June 2017

He has spent his working life at sea and now Lincolnshire born sailor Andy Burns is preparing for the challenge of a lifetime, leading a team of amateur sailors in one of the toughest endurance races on the planet – the Clipper 2017–18 Round The World Yacht Race.

Andy (31), who began his sailing career when he was just a teenager, underwent a series of intense interviews and trials before being announced as one of twelve professional skippers for the 40,000 nautical mile race, which starts from the UK this August.

With twelve teams and approximately 700 participants, the biennially held Clipper Race is the world’s largest ocean race, challenging individuals to go further, dig deeper and push themselves harder as they pit their wits, skills and courage against the toughest oceans. Only the skipper on board each team is professional.

“I feel incredibly proud to be selected as a Clipper Race skipper for the 2017–2018 edition. It is an opportunity that mixes my love for sailing, ocean travel, people and teaching. I cannot wait to meet my future team, sail around the world and return having forged great bonds over incredible shared experiences,” said Andy, following the announcement of his appointment.

“Naturally, I would like to win and sail competitively but only doing so without pushing the boat or crew to any unsafe limits to get there. I believe that preventing damage is far better than repairing and I will be spending a lot of time learning about my crew and yacht and will be working out the strengths and weaknesses that lay within the team.”

Andy’s impressive sailing career spans nineteen years and has seen him log over 100,000 nautical miles working around the globe in sail training and superyacht industries. An experienced yacht racer, he has competed in three Round the Island Races, six Superyacht Regattas, Cowes Week, the Panerai Classic, The Bicentenary, Sydney Harbour Twilight Series and Lion Island Races.

His passion for sailing began when he was a child growing up on the Lincolnshire coast, where his mother ran a burger bar.

“We were in a location where water sports were quite a big thing; every day over the summer I’d be on the beach doing various water sports, then from the age of 16 I joined the RLNI in Skegness, and I worked on the beach as a lifeguard,” says Andy, who attended Skegness Grammar School.

“I just love being on the sea, in fact I find it quite hard not living by the sea – I think it’s the freedom of it really.

“Plus I like to be able to make my living from something I absolutely love doing. I did my Yachtmaster qualification with the RLNI and then I went to finish it off in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, in my early twenties.

“I finished the practical side of it on sailing and powerboats and after that I worked on various different private and commercial boats all over the world.”

Andy’s job has taken him to Australia, the Caribbean, all around the Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey and Fiji, while he’s crossed the Atlantic Ocean nine times.

“I spend my time teaching and working on private boats and when I’ve been away too long I’m based at Cowes now,” he adds.

“I’m really looking forward to the Clipper Race. it’s going to be a massive challenge though, as it will be about eighty per cent organisation – managing and teaching the team you are given – and twenty per cent actually sailing the boat.”

The Clipper Race was the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968–69. The event has a deep passion for challenge and life changing adventure at its core. Since the first Clipper Race in 1996, almost 5,000 people have been turned into competent ocean racers.

It has brought together everyone from chief executives to taxi drivers, nurses and firefighters, farmers, airline pilots and students, from age 18 upwards, to take on Mother Nature’s toughest conditions. There is no upper age limit, with the oldest competitor to date being 74.

Whether they choose to take on the whole circumnavigation or compete in one or more of eight individual legs, every crew member achieves something remarkable as they conquer some of the world’s most challenging oceans.

The overall route is split into a series of global races, with a maximum twelve points going to first place, descending to one point for twelfth place. The team with the highest cumulative points at the end of the final race wins the series, and the Clipper Race trophy.

Starting from the UK this August, the Clipper 2017–18 Race route will see the teams first race across the Atlantic to South America; then the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa; across the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties to Western Australia; around to East Australia taking in the famous Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race en route; back into the Northern Hemisphere to Qingdao, China via Sanya; across the mighty North Pacific to West Coast USA; to New York via the famous Panama Canal; and then a final Atlantic crossing before arriving back in the UK in summer 2018 as ocean racing heroes.

The race promises to be exciting, uncomfortable, relentless, exhilarating and at times, frustrating. Each of the twelve teams will need to display extraordinary amounts of focus, determination and stamina.

Andy is now working full-time at the Clipper Race HQ in Gosport, where he and the eleven other skippers are leading the intensive crew training courses.

The next major event in the race preparations is crew allocation, which takes place at Portsmouth Guildhall on 20th May, when all the skippers and crew will be assigned to their teams for the first time.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge – we’ve got five months’ training to get prepared and I’m just looking forward to getting on the boat,” added Andy.

To keep up to date with Andy’s race preparations and Clipper Race news visit

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