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And the winner is…..(or rather, winners are!)

Today we announced an exciting twist to our competition to award a place on Leg 6, the 5,600 mile Pacific Ocean race in the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race.

Competition finalists Heather Thomas, 19, from Otley, North Yorkshire, and Charlie Stannard, also 19 from Tower Hamlets, London had been on their Level 1 Clipper Race sail training week on the Solent and were expecting to return to shore today to be told which one of them been selected for the coveted race experience.

However the pair were met by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Nicholas Harrison, Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation Trustee, to receive unexpected news that thanks to the generosity of the Clipper Race, both of them would actually be going to take part in the race.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston explained: “The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation ensures young people are given their best opportunity to achieve their potential through sailing so I am very pleased to support their hard work and award both Charlie and Heather with a place on Leg 6 of the Clipper 2016-16 Race.

“They both equally impressed our team during their Level 1 training, in some particularly tough wind conditions, and both highly deserve the opportunity to race across the Pacific Ocean – a bucket list experience for any sailor. I look forward to following their adventures.”

Each Leg 6 prize is worth more than £10,000. Literally the chance of a lifetime, the pair will receive full Clipper Race training and protective Henri Lloyd foul weather kit, flights to Qingdao, China and home from West Coast USA, as well as the full crew member experience on the longest and arguably most challenging leg of the famous race.

Charlie and Heather will complete the rest of their race training over the coming months, and will be assigned to their team skipper and crew mates at the upcoming Clipper Race Crew Allocation event on April 25 at Portsmouth Guildhall.

Trustee of the Foundation Sir Ben Ainslie, who launched the competition along with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in September 2014, said: “We are delighted that both Heather and Charlie will be able to take part in this life changing experience and once again we’d like to thank Sir Robin and the Clipper Race for this generous donation to the Foundation. We are all very much looking forward to following their progress on the race.”

Charlie Stannard said: “I was rather nervous this morning but I was crossing my fingers for good news. It’s been an awesome experience. Heather and I have really bonded over the last few days and agreed we would support whichever of us were chosen, but it’s fantastic news that we’ll both get to go. It’s my birthday on Monday so it’s like the best present ever. I’m really chuffed.”

Heather Thomas added: “I couldn’t believe it. I was completely in shock when we got the news and then it sunk in and I was like ‘wow – I’m going across the Pacific’! I’ve never been outside Europe before so getting to go to China and America will also be incredible experiences. I can’t wait to tell my parents now – they are going to be so proud.“

The Clipper 2015-16 Race starts next August and will be the tenth edition of the world’s longest ocean race, also known as one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet. The only event of its kind in the world for amateur sailors, twelve team’s race against each other on board the world’s largest matched fleet of Clipper 70 ocean racing yachts. The overall route is 40,000 nautical miles long and includes up to 15 individually scored races, covering six continents.

The Pacific Ocean leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is 5,500 miles long and will take approximately one month to complete. Starting in Qingdao, China in March 2016, and ending in the West Coast of the USA, the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean. Crew members will be trained to encounter Mother Nature’s toughest, yet most exhilarating conditions, including towering waves, howling winds, and high speed surfs.