Ambitious (CV2) was one of 40 entrants in the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Cervantes Trophy Race, from Cowes, UK, to Le Havre, France – the first race in the Clipper Events Iconic Race series for 2024.  

The race of approximately 110-160nm started on the sunny morning of 20 April, from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, off Cowes, Isle of Wight. RORC Racing Manager Steve Cole reported glorious conditions for the race start with 14 knots from the northwest giving a fast downwind sail through the Western Solent.   

Image: RORC Cervantes Trophy Race


The weekend activities for Clipper Events participants, that included both experienced and novice sailors, started the day prior. Kicking off their experience on Friday 19 April, crew were welcomed to Gosport’s Premier Marina by their team of Clipper Events professional sailing staff; Skipper Guy Waites and Mates, Giles Ferrier and Iain Walsingham. First up was a tour of their yacht, Ambitious, a safety briefing and an afternoon of familiarisation and sail training.   

After a fantastic day on the water, with perfect conditions to run through various evolutions, from tacking and gybing to sail changes and practice race starts. Well-gelled as a team, the crew sailed over to Cowes for an evening of socialising and final preparations. The atmosphere in Cowes was made extra special by the arrival of yachts which had just competed in the Ocean Globe Race.   

Image: CV2 Ambitious crew ready to race


After slipping lines at 0730 to be ready for the 0920 IRC Zero class start time, CV2 had a clean start, downwind. Skipper Guy Waites reported: “a fantastic start on the Yacht Squadron line, we had the inshore end tidal advantage and two-sail reaching out to the Needles at 10.5-11.5 knots which was really exciting, a lot of boats in close proximity.” 

“I had never done a race before, the adrenaline of leading up to the start line and the kick into action when we heard the signal. It was so exciting,” said participant Licy Neilson.   

Licy, who is new to sailing, joined her father Mark Neilson for the Cervantes Trophy Race with Clipper Events. Mark is a Clipper Race alumnus having sailed from Cape Town to Fremantle on board Nasdaq in the Clipper 2017-18 Race: “Sailing on a Clipper Race yacht with my daughter for the first time was something I was really looking forward to.”  

Image: Mark and Licy Neilson 

Sunshine and bacon sandwiches, what more could you wish for? Unfortunately, the answer is wind. South of the Isle of Wight, the wind faded, causing the fleet to compress and progress was slow. But the crew were kept busy with lots of sail changes and trim needed to maintain any decent boat speed. In these conditions, the smaller yachts were able to make advances and some of the larger entrants made the decision to retire.   

Racing overnight to France meant that running a watch system on board was important to ensure all areas of the yacht are cared for, from manning the yacht to ensure safe racing, to cooking, cleaning and importantly ensuring all crew get rest.   


On the approach to Le Havre, all crew were up on deck to finish the race, crossing the line at 0440UTC on 21 April.   

For Skipper Guy, the most memorable part of the weekend was crossing the finish line, “We had everyone on deck, the team had sailed really hard and really well. Quite a long crossing of 24hrs, and everyone was fresh, alert and really engaged in what they were doing and enjoying their sailing which is the satisfying part for me.”  

The team berthed in Port de Plaisance Le Havre before attending prizegiving at Societe des Regates du Havre, for an opportunity to celebrate, have a team dinner and get some rest after a tough 24 hours on the water.   


The final day of the long weekend saw the team return to Gosport. With a great run back across the channel, the crew on board got more time to put their skills into practice and for some to have the confidence to take the helm for the first time.   

Licy explained: “I can’t drive (a car) yet, but I did hop on the helm for a couple of hours- crazy that the team would trust me to helm the boat. It’s nice to get a feel for how the boat works, you can take in everything and learn what’s going on.

“I wasn’t the strongest person on the crew, but I still wanted to get stuck in. I am intrigued to know more about how to sail a boat, to be able to do it myself. I liked learning on this yacht, everyone has been helpful and taught me along the way and RYA qualifications could be the next step.”  

Mark, who is really proud of his daughter, added “Seeing her get stuck in and engaging with all the crew was amazing. I’ve had a brilliant time.”  

For Paul Oldridge this was his first Clipper Events experience and he explained: “Four days of excitement, some slow sailing, some fast, it was a great opportunity to learn, never having sailed on a race boat or a large yacht before.   

“It was interesting joining initially not knowing anyone, but I was made very welcome. There was a great team, the skipper was tremendous, he really blended everything together and made it simple for everybody. Overall, the event was an excellent adventure and opportunity.”  


The Cervantes Trophy Race was the first RORC race in the Clipper Events 2024 calendar of iconic races. Up next is the Salcombe Gin Morgan Cup (6-10 June) race from Cowes to Dartmouth and then Cowes-Dinard-St Malo Race (5-9 July), so there is a lot to look forward to with RORC racing. “It’s exciting, mixed racing, lots of competitive boats, a great experience for anyone who is joining us.” Says Guy.   

All Clipper Events offshore races are open to participants with any level of experience and include a pre-race training day providing an opportunity to learn the ropes

For more information on the upcoming races including pricing, inclusions and dates, check out the Iconic Races section of our website or contact the Clipper Events team by completing an online enquiry form, e-mail [email protected] or give us a call on 02393 382848.  

Find out more about upcoming races you could be involved in.