New top team for Clipper Race

After 26 years of building Clipper Ventures and successfully hosting 12 editions of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and CEO William Ward are stepping back from the day-to-day running of the business. Clipper Ventures will now be led by internally appointed MDs, Chris Rushton and Laura Ayres.  

Clipper Ventures, which will see its 13th edition of the Clipper Race launch in 2023, also manages experiential sailing brand, Clipper Events, along with adventure expedition sailing company SKIRR Adventures, RYA sailing school – Hamble School of Yachting, and Clipper China.

Rushton has over 20 years of experience in the maritime industry, owning and running Hamble School of Yachting from the age of 21. Since the leading RYA sea school became part of Clipper Ventures in 2018, Rushton has continued as its director, with additional responsibilities as director of training for Clipper Ventures. He also oversaw the launch of adventure sailing brand, SKIRR Adventures.

In her previous role as head of partnerships and events, Ayres has overseen a multi-million-pound global sponsorship portfolio, with a reputation for showcasing brands and building international trade links between partners and host destinations. Ayres also manages Clipper Events. This experiential sailing events brand recently relaunched with the inaugural Knox-Johnston Cup held in September and an upcoming Fastnet Race campaign in 2023.  

Clipper Ventures’ experienced new management board, led by the joint MDs, will be supported by a finance director (Anna Navarro) and race director (Mark Light). William Ward will sit on the board as executive chairman and Knox-Johnston as non-executive director and president.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Dickens/imagecomms

As part of the long-term succession plan, the business has engaged with FRP Corporate Finance, to start a process that will enable the co-founders to reduce most of their shareholdings and find a new custodian to take ownership of the business.

“For the last 26 years William and I have been, and will continue to be, inspired by the thousands of race crew who have taken part in the Clipper Race,” says Knox-Johnston. “By sailing across the world’s oceans, many with no sailing experience prior to their Clipper Race training, they achieve something truly remarkable, which was our goal right from the beginning.

“Seeing the company grow from a biennial yacht race to a multi-faceted company that enables people from all walks of life to participate in sailing, whether an ocean racing experience, adventure to the Arctic or earning a world class sailing qualification, has been a privilege. Chris and Laura have been at the forefront of driving the business to this strong position in recent years, and we could not be more confident and prouder to pass them the helm going forward.”

“The growth of the business is strong, with a packed programme of sailing events next year, and of course the Clipper 2023-24 Race,” says Rushton. “Following the success of SKIRR Adventures’ inaugural high-latitude expedition, we are looking forward to seeing the next group of adventurers set sail to the Arctic Circle in summer 2023. Hamble School of Yachting continues to have a strong programme of RYA courses and the Clipper Events iconic race programme is well underway and we are currently gearing up for the next Rolex Fastnet Race Campaign. As one of the world’s classic offshore races, it is hugely exciting that Clipper Events will have its own class, enabling a wider group of sailors to take part and race in this legendary challenge.”

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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