Top three finish for skipper Lance and his learner crew

Lance Shepherd at the wheel
Lance Shepherd at the wheel

A Blackpool-born skipper captaining a crew of amateur sailors in a round-the-world yacht race is celebrating his first podium finish.

Lance Shepherd’s dream of taking part in a global ocean challenge came true when he was selected as one of 12 professional captains in the Clipper 2017-18 Round-the-World Yacht Race.

The largest ocean race in the world set-off from Liverpool in August with vessels crewed by first-time sailors.

As the race reached its half-way point last week, Mr Shepherd celebrated as his crew sailed into Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Australia to achieve their first top threefinish.

His boat, Liverpool 2018, crossed the line fourth in Race 6 but the third place team was handed a six hour penalty.

Mr Shepherd, 53, a former Royal Marine, began sailing at the age of 14 with the Scouts.

He has followed the Clipper Race since it began 20 years ago.

He was selected as a skipper after passing a set of intensive interviews and trials.

He said: “The challenge of taking a group of novice sailors from all walks of life, out from their comfort zones, and turning them into a successful round-the-world ocean racing team, has been the highlight of my life, not just my career.

“It is a privilege to have been selected.”

After 11 years in the Marines, Mr Shepherd began working as a freelance skipper, gaining extensive experience in ocean crossings and yacht racing.

With a dozen teams and 700 crew members, the biennially held race is the world’s biggest ocean challenge at more than 40,000 nautical miles in length.

The race was the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail non-stop around the world in 1968-69.

Since the first race in 1996, almost 5,000 people have been turned into expert ocean racers.

Sir Robin said: “The role of the Clipper Race skipper is one of the toughest but most rewarding jobs that exist in sailing.”

The next leg of the competition will see Mr Shepherd and his crew sailing to Quingdao in China with the West Coast of the United States next on the itinerary before the final leg to New York.