Thousands of people lined the Liverpool waterfront Sunday as a fleet of a dozen brightly colored yachts set sail on an epic round-the-world race.

Caymanian James Macfee is among hundreds of amateur crew members, many of whom have never sailed before, taking part in the 11-month global journey known as the Clipper Round the World Race.

After a month of intensive training, including crossing the English channel, circumnavigating the Isle of Wight and some intense “man overboard” drills, Macfee and his Liverpool 2018 team set sail for Uruguay, the first stop in the race.

The 30-year-old, formerly an accountant with Estera, is onboard the bright pink racing yacht, sponsored by Liverpool City Council’s international destination campaign and skippered by former Royal Marine commander Lance Shepherd.

The unique round-the-world race matches experienced skippers with crews of novice sailors.

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Macfee, whose primary sailing experience is racing Laser Pico dinghies in the North Sound, said he had been nominated as the crew’s medical assistant.

“This meant two extra days training to practise putting in IV drips and sewing up pigs’ trotters. My two failed attempts at medical school definitely prepared me well for this role,” he wrote in a blog post.

Before departing for the U.K., he told the Compass the race was the chance to fulfil his dream of sailing around the world. He said the race is unique.

“Most round-the-world races are for professionals, elite sailors with multiple Olympic medals,” he said. “This is for the everyday person.”

Race co-founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first person to sail solo and nonstop around the world, told the BBC at the race launch on Sunday that the biggest challenge for the novice sailors would be living together in a tight, confined community.

“They are going to have to settle down very, very quickly and get used to the fact that – for four or five weeks – they are in their little capsule and the nearest humans, apart from the other boats, will probably be [in] the space station.”

The first leg journey to Uruguay covers 6,400 nautical miles and is expected to take around 35 days. The fleet will also stop in South Africa, Australia, China and both coasts of the U.S.

Crew members changing sails in the Irish Sea on board Liverpool 2018, during Leg 1 of the race. – Photo: Courtesy of the Clipper Round the World Race

About the race

The race is “a record-breaking 40,000 nautical mile race around the world on a 70-foot ocean racing yacht.” the Clipper Round the World Race website says.

Divided into eight legs and 14 to 16 individual races, participants can choose to complete the full circumnavigation or select individual legs. It is the only race in the world where the organizers supply a fleet of 12 identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper to safely guide the crew, the site states.

To follow the race, visit

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