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Blown away by sailing's ultimate voyage; To most people, racing around the globe in a yacht would be the challenge of a lifetime. To Adam Kyffin, it's the next logical step in his love affair with the sea.

Byline: Peter Elson

IT was a simple request. Just walk past the camera, coaxed Daily Post photographer Colin Lane to racing yacht skipper Adam Kyffin.

Yet what seemed so easy needed several takes. The trouble is that Adam Kyffin is so energetic that he fairly bounced past the camera and had to concentrate on walking slowly, as if learning a new skill.

Of course, what causes a minor problem in a photo session is a great asset in Captain Kyffin's forthcoming maritime challenge.

Kyffin, 38, who learned his yachting skills while growing up by Cardigan Bay, will take command of Liverpool Clipper for her fourth and final outing on the 11-month westbound global race. The Clipper 2002 Round the World Yacht Race will begin at Albert Dock in Liverpool on Sunday, October 27.

He will need all the mental and physical stamina that he can call upon for the race, which finally ends in September, 2003, after 35,000 miles of intense competition across the world's oceans. His vessel will compete against seven other identical clipper yachts, each representing cities involved in the legs of the race: Bristol, Cape Town, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Jersey, London and New York.

Each vessel has a maximum capacity of 14 crew and there are still spaces available if any armchair adventurer fancies breaking out on a last minute working passage.

Kyffin looks the part: blue eyes and a solid physique with sturdy legs that one can imagine standing square on a spray-drenched deck sloping at 45 degrees in the roaring forties.

``I'm looking forward to getting started. We've been training since August, getting familiar with the yacht and melding the team together which is very important,'' says Kyffin, a mechanical engineer, now living in Wallasey.

``I'm very excited about getting the race under way and obviously looking forward to it beginning in Liverpool. We've all got a lot of learning to do and the most successful crew will be the one that makes the least mistakes.

``The first leg will be the most difficult, crossing the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay in October, which will be rough.''

The very idea of pitching and rolling across these notorious stretches of water makes most land-lubbers blanch, but Kyffin merely grins and says it's all part of the challenge.

``After leaving Portugal for Cuba we can expect a nice trip across the Atlantic aided by the trade winds.''

His father, originally in the Royal Navy, took a job at Trawsfynydd power station, which entailed the family moving to Porthmadog, where Kyffin lived until he was 20.

He says: ``I did an apprenticeship at Vickers in Barrow and then have worked all over the UK and the Netherlands as a design draughtsman and a mechanical engineer.''

HAVING settled on the Wirral, he now does contract work for companies such as Vauxhall and Jaguar, which allows him to take time off to pursue his sailing adventures. He is currently working with construction company Balfour-Beattie to where he plans to return after completing the race.

``I've always taken time off for travel and had a three month break to sail the Atlantic. This is the ultimate voyage, though. Not many people have sailed around the world.''

After offshore racing experience he decided that the next step would be undertaking a round the world race. After applying for the Clipper Ventures' race, he was sent out to Villamoura, Portugal, to meet previous entrants who are now involved in the training programme.

As well as exceptional sailing skills, considerable leadership ability is needed to pull the crew together and make them work as a team. Living and working in such cramped quarters for months on end doubtless taxes the most tolerant of crew members.

``In such confined conditions there's bound to be personality clashes and you also have to be able to step in and take over if a crew member for whatever reason cannot perform some task,'' he says.

Apart from Kyffin's role as mediator and peacemaker, he has the requisite nautical qualifications such as yacht master (both offshore and ocean), long-range communications, navigation, first aid and sea survival.

He says: ``I was asked to skipper's trials in Poole and assessed in greater detail about my skills. There were 11 of us competing for eight places and we were split between two yachts to see how we coped.

``We had to deal with injury situations, a ropes course, and back on land a climbing wall. About a week later I was contacted and told I'd been successful. I've not done ocean races before, except for one transatlantic race and shorter RORCs (Royal Offshore Racing Club) races which are a couple of hundred miles long.

``Luckily, I've never suffered from seasickness when sailing offshore. Some people can sail dinghies around the coast for years, but when they take part in an offshore RORC can feel terribly ill. Most people who suffer do get over it in a few days.''

THE Liverpool Clipper's bid is supported by the Daily Post and Liverpool Echo, Jaguar Cars, Iris Galleries and sponsored by Liverpool City Council. The vessel is a custom-built Clipper 60 class, based on a Pedruick design, which in turn is directly derived from a stretched Nicholson 55.

``It's an extremely overengineered (which means highly safe) yacht that is perfectly suited for its task,'' says Kyffin. Next year it will be replaced by a slightly bigger 67ft version.

``I suppose I got the sailing bug at the age of three or four when my dad bought a 26ft long cruiser yacht to take advantage of Porthmadog harbour,'' says Kyffin.

``I really got into it, so when I was eight my parents bought me a Optimist dinghy, followed by a Mirror and Laser dinghies.

``Living in Porthmadog is fantastic for any child interested in sailing. I was out sailing in the harbour and bay every day during weekends and school holidays.

``I would go out in any weather in the Laser dinghy. My father used to receive phone calls from people looking out from the surrounding cliffs saying, `Do you know what your son Adam is doing?''' He survived, of course, and often returns to Pwllheli to sail, as well as Scotland and Southern Ireland. His current yacht, Flash II, which is a Hunter Formula 28, is based at Liverpool Marina.

``I've always loved the sea. The fitter you are, the better you enjoy it. I don't jog or go to the gym - I just keep sailing. You don't have to be as fit on these bigger keel boats than if you're sailing dinghies where it is essential to be in tip-top condition.

``My girlfriend Carol will come out to most of the stop-overs. She's become very interest in sailing, although she only started sailing after she met me six years ago.

``I was thrilled when she recently came second in a women's race. She'll probably keep a map of where we're up to in the race with pins in it to mark our progress!''


ON THE CREST OF A WAVE: `The first leg will be the most difficult, crossing the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay in October, which will be rough,' says Adam Kyffin, looking ahead to captaining Liverpool Clipper on her race around the world; Picture: COLIN LANE
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2002
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