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Lance Shepherd, Clipper Skipper

Clipper Round the World Race – an interview with Lance Shepherd

Lance Shepherd is a lifelong sailor, ex Royal Marine Commando, and one-time Sunsail skipper, and is now set to take an amateur crew around the world as one of the skippers in the upcoming Clipper Round the World yacht race.

Sunsail caught up with him to find out about his motivations, preparations and hopes for the race and his ambitions for the future ahead of the race starting on August 20th.

SS: Lance, congratulations on your selection to be a Clipper Round the World Race skipper. What was it about the specific challenges offered by the Clipper Round the World race that made you want to compete?

LS: Thank you very much! There are a number of aspects that appealed to me when I decided to apply, but the one most specific to the Clipper Race would be the challenge of leading a team of non-professional sailors in the world’s biggest ocean race. The challenge of taking a group of non-professional sailors, from all walks of life, out of their comfort zones and turning them into a successful round the world ocean racing team will be the highlight of my life, not just my career.

SS: What does the daily routine look like for someone about to take on a mammoth task like the Clipper?

LS: From a Clipper Race Skipper’s perspective, the months leading up to the race (March – August) are all about preparation. We have a very intense schedule right from the beginning which is filled with training and preparation sessions of our own as well as carrying out training for Clipper Race crew during their compulsory Clipper Race training programme. 

SS: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your connection to Sunsail?

LS: I learnt to sail on Lake Windermere aged 14. After spending eleven years as a Commando in the Royal Marines, I decided to become a professional skipper and sailing instructor. Sunsail was the first company I worked for after I had qualified as a professional skipper and instructor. I have very fond memories of all the racing, teaching and large regattas I did whilst I worked there.

SS: What do you enjoy most about that side of the marine industry? Any choice highlights or memorable moments?

LS: I would say that the thing I enjoy the most is that every day is different and every day is a school day!

clipper helicopter shot

SS: As a vastly experienced offshore racer, do you have a favourite or most memorable racing experience to date?

LS: The ARC in 2010 – we had very light winds and had to head pretty far south to pick up the trade winds. I had a great crew and we were on a brand new Discovery 55.

SS: Have you learnt any specific lessons from doing the ARC or Fastnet, for example, that you’ll carry with you into the Clipper?

LS: Definitely – I will be focusing highly on team empowerment.

SS: Your background as a Royal Marines Commando shows that you are made of pretty tough stuff, but how much of a challenge is it to manage and lead people who may not necessarily have that discipline and resilience? Have you been impressed with what you’ve seen of the amateur crews so far?

LS: There are so many invaluable transferrable skills that I have been able to take from my time in the Royal Marines and apply throughout my sailing career. I have been so impressed with the commitment and dedication shown by our non-professional Clipper Race crew members.

SS: What do you foresee as the biggest challenges for keeping the momentum up, motivating people and maintaining harmony aboard? Will close quarters living, dehydrated food or the relentless, long legs in unpredictable conditions be an issue for you and the crew?

LS: I would say the timescale is one of the biggest challenges and ensuring you keep your crew focused for the full eleven month Clipper Race circumnavigation.

SS: You’ve said this will be the highlight of your life and the realisation of a lifelong goal, so where do you go from here? What are your post-Clipper sailing and personal ambitions?

LS: I plan to do some expedition sailing. I am keen to go and see places you can only get to by boat. I would love to sail the Nile, Amazon and also Antarctica.

Sunsail would like to thank Lance and the team at Clipper Ventures for their time and support, and wish everyone the best of luck in the 2017/18 edition of such a great event.

For more information on Lance and his crew please visit the Clipper Round The World website. The Clipper Round the World Race starts in Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock on 20 August 2017. The race will return to Albert Dock for the finish in Summer 2018 at the end of its circumnavigation. The sailors will race a series of 8 legs, with stopovers in South America, Cape Town, Western Australia, Sydney, Hobart, East Coast Australia, Sanya, Qingdao, Seattle, Panama, New York, and Derry Londonderry.



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