Dan Smith talks about directing the Clipper Round the World Race

“my role includes managing the twelve professional Skippers… and assisting with the planning, operations and logistics of running the world’s largest ocean race.”

The Clipper Race is the biggest round the world ocean adventure and is also regarded as one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet. At 40,000 nautical miles long and taking almost a year to complete, it consists of twelve teams of everyday people competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts. Only the Skippers who lead each team are professional.

Having to monitor 12 yachts in almost every part of the world is a daunting task. This requires a specialised race management to look at all possible eventualities and emergency procedures to prevent, minimise, respond quickly to and contain any incident. We caught up with the Deputy Clipper Race Director, Daniel Smith, to find out just what it entails.

What are the main roles of your job managing the globe-trotting race?

“As Deputy Race Director, my role includes managing the twelve professional Skippers, leading the race office team in each of the international stopover locations and assisting the Race Director, Mark Light, with the planning, operations and logistics of running the world’s largest ocean race. I am also the emergency contact for the fleet when sailing.”

What are the primary risks?

« Yacht racing is an adventurous sport and therefore there are risks involved that need to be managed to ensure the safety of the crew, skipper and yachts. Most accidents are slips and trips but we also need to be prepared for more serious incidents.

Crew are trained from day one completing four levels of specialised training courses to be able to deal with all situations that could arise. We also have at least one MCA (Marine and Coastguard Agency) recognised Coxswain onboard each yacht to assist the Skipper in safety duties and to take over control of the vessel should the Skipper become incapacitated.

The teams have to take full advantage of all the safety and navigational equipment onboard, plus their Clipper Race training, to get the most out of their boats and remain safe as the challenges differ depending on where in the world the fleet is sailing. »

How big is the response team?

“The Clipper Race response team is a well-oiled machine with different cogs available to help implement the Clipper Race Incident Management Plan. I am, as Deputy Race Director, the first point of contact for the yachts and when an accident occurs the yacht will contact me. My job is then to continue getting updates from on board and liaise with the MRCC (Marine Rescue Coordination Centres). I also inform the Race Director Mark Light, immediately, who informs the rest of the Clipper Race office, where the teams work through the Incident Management Plan, dealing with emergency contacts, partners, friends and family, media, shore side support and more. It is important that communications channels remain clear at all times as every situation differs. The Clipper Race team is ready to mobilise under any circumstance.”

While Dan Smith was working as Deputy Race Director at Clipper Race, an event unfolded that meant the Skipper onboard Greenings, Dave Hartshorn, was no longer able to lead his crew to their destination in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Fortunately Dan Smith is also an experienced around the world Skipper himself, having finished in 2nd place in the 2015-16 edition and was able to take the helm and lead the crew to Punta del Este.

Emergency diversion route mapped out in TZ Professional v3

How has TIMEZERO helped in responding to an incident on the Clipper Race?

“The last incident I was involved in was the medevac of David Hartshorn, Skipper of CV24 Greenings [for more information on this incident, open the official Clipper Race article]. I got a phone call at around midnight and received the news that Dave’s thumb was partially disconnected. The worry was that he would lose it without a quick response and shore side medical care. The incident plan went into force and the yacht that was over 300 miles offshore diverted into helicopter range. We used the TIMEZERO software to assess the safest and quickest route to the unplanned destination. Next of kin of the Greenings crew were informed and the correct facts were gathered by us and passed onto the Communications Team to ensure that Team Partners and the wider public were informed in the right way. While all this was going on I arranged medical evacuation via the Portuguese coastguard and diverted the yacht while the Race Office kept the rest of the fleet informed and organised shore side support for the casualty’s arrival.

I subsequently stepped in as relief skipper of Greenings to sail the yacht to Punta del Este and my role within the team has been taken over by Race Director, Mark Light and Race Manager, Sarah Hoare until arrival in Uruguay.”

TIMEZERO software features are designed for managing a race, such as being able to see all the positions of the boats in real time using the position report. The Race Manager can also use the software to create the route and mark out exclusion zones.

What are the main uses of TIMEZERO for you?

“TIMEZERO is used as a planning tool onboard to plan ocean passages. It is also used to monitor and decide upon tactics based on weather information that we feed into the program daily.

The route for the Clipper 2017-18 Race is similar to that used in previous editions of the race with a few tweaks and new stops to keep things interesting. Lots of continual planning goes into making sure that the boats are in the right parts of the world at the right times of year to avoid dangerous weather systems, straying too close to ice fields and to avoid unnecessary delays due to lack of wind.

Our Clipper 70’s have completed two circumnavigations and started their third, so we have a lot of data on what speeds they are capable of in different oceans at certain times of year. This information alongside the route planning capabilities of the TIMEZERO software allows us to work out windows of time when boats are expected to arrive, mark out exclusion areas, plot race marks and plan our entire race.”

Race detail display within TZ Professional v3

What tools inside TIMEZERO software are most beneficial?

“The features I use most regularly are; vessel tracking and collision avoidance, route planning, weather monitoring and performance monitoring. TIMEZERO is invaluable in my role.”

Inside the Clipper 70


Do you contact the Skippers regularly?

“The Race Office is in regular contact with the Skippers and we have a 24hour rota where we monitor the yachts regularly. We are in contact with the yachts at least four times a day receiving information about crew and yacht conditions, weather observations and boat performance, and each Skipper sends back a daily blog for the Communications Team. In return, we issue daily weather reports of the area of water the fleet is in which can be uploaded into TIMEZERO for accurate routing and tactical planning. We are on call 24/7 should the Skippers need us.”


TIMEZERO offers features adapted for racing and in particular, off-shore racing. TZ Professional is the professional version of software and TZ Navigator is the recreational software. Both provides tools to get the most out of your navigation while not cutting corners on security!

TIMEZERO technology provides a chart engine that makes navigating through charts, routes and weather layers, less of a chore and more of an enjoyable experience. This is why TIMEZERO is appreciated for its intuitiveness.

For any enthusiastic sailboat sailor, having software to plan routing compliments your existing knowledge and provides vital insights that are useful no matter if you’re in a competition or with your family. Choose from over 25 different tools to prepare, create & optimize your routes! Get additional modules like the Routing Module to help calculate the best route possible based on weather forecasts and boat polars.

Visit our website for more information on TIMEZERO as an invaluable tool for race management and navigation: