CREWS are today about to embark on one of the biggest challenges yet in the Clipper Round the World Yacht race.

The teams start off on an epic journey from Qingdao in China in one of the toughest stages of the race this morning.

They are beginning a gruelling 23-day voyage across the vast Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, planning to arrive on Tuesday, April 8.

Daily Echo:

Great welcome They will have to travel 5,800 nautical miles – the equivalent of travelling from London to Manila in the Philippines – across the high seas, battling massive rolling waves and fierce storms before they reach the haven of San Francisco bay.

Isle of Wight-based skipper of the OneDLL team, Olly Cotterell, said the welcome they received as they headed into the northeast Chinese city was the best they had experienced yet.

He said: “It is absolutely fantastic, this is by far the biggest arrival we have had and it’s been amazing.

“None of us were expecting the fireworks to go off as we came in.

“The crew are all really happy.

Daily Echo:

There is a great atmosphere and we are all really happy to be here.”

The teams had originally been due to sail from Singapore but instead sailed from Hong Kong due to safety fears.

Even then this part of their voyage was a tough exercise.

‘Incredible’ Vicky Ellis, captain of Team Switzerland whose crew includes Southampton City College principal Lindsey Noble, 60, and Charlie Pickering, 58, from Southampton said: “It feels really surreal to be here.

Daily Echo:

“I can see the drummers in the corner of my eye; it’s just looks incredible and we are so excited to see some of the sites of Qingdao, this is the one stop over I have really been looking forward to.”

Currently the OneDLL team are in first place overall with Henri Lloyd and Derry~ Londonderry~Doire trailing behind.

Mission Performace, PSP Logistics and Derry~Londonderry~ Doire came first, second and third on Monday.