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The Clipper Round the World Race
On 1st September a fleet of 12 identical 70 foot yachts will set sail from London, circumnavigating the globe in the bi-annual “Clipper” race, and calling at 14 ports on 6 continents. Apart from the professional skippers, they will be crewed by amateur crews who are paying to take part in this adventure, some for the complete race, and some for individual legs. Among the participants will be a yacht representing Switzerland, the first time Switzerland has participated in a crewed Round the World Race for more than 25 years.
Mercy Ships operates the Africa Mercy, an ex-Danish rail ferry, which is now the largest private hospital ship in the world. It has 5 operating theatres and a total volunteer crew of around 400 drawn from 35 nations, treating almost 4,000 patients on board and 20,000 on land per year. A project for a second ship is now being considered as the need for help consistently exceeds the capacity of the existing ship.
The volunteers, like the Clipper crew, pay for their stays on board, whether for short term stays or as long-term members of the team, often finding sponsorship from their home communities. The African Mercy recently completed a 10-month assignment in Guinea, and, after a refit in Tenerife, is now at Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo for its next mission.
A life saving collaboration
The lack of commercial sponsorship for the Swiss entry created an opportunity. A syndicate of private individuals suggested the entry could be used to support Mercy Ships, both to directly aid the charity which was seeking more brand recognition; also, potentially, to give another level of meaning to the crew and their mission, an approach which I have found very rewarding with other sailing challenges.
After both Clipper and Swiss Sailing had reviewed the charity, they enthusiastically supported the proposition.
The glamorous red yacht “Switzerland” with its partners, Swiss Sailing and Mercy Ships, and with the only lady skipper, Vicky Ellis, was launched and christened very appropriately on the Swiss National Day of 1st. August.
Besides giving world-wide visibility to the Mercy Ships charity, the crew of “Switzerland” and supporters are raising money through sponsorship of the yacht for each leg of the race with a target of USD 15,000 for each leg, enough to pay for 10 life-saving operations. This amount may be doubled by a private donor, who has proposed to match all contributions raised in this way.