Meet Clipper 2017-18 Race Skipper Nikki Henderson

31 March 2017

At 23, Nicola ‘Nikki’ Henderson, from Guildford is set to be the Clipper Race’s youngest ever skipper, by over a year, meaning she will take over the title from Alex Thompson who proved youth was no barrier to success when he won the Clipper 1997-98 Race, aged 26.

Sailing with family and friends since the age of 13 the idea of being able to work at sea was planted after a short stint in the Sea Cadets. Nicola has since carved a successful sailing career, in both racing and instructing which would rival those twice her age.

Since 2006, Nikki has sailed 38,000 miles during which she has skippered three ARC races across the Atlantic (twice winning the Youngest Skipper Award), the Caribbean 600 - an inshore race circuit, two Cowes Weeks, co-skippered two Fastnet campaigns and sailed over 10,000 miles in offshore deliveries.

As an RYA instructor for over three years she has already taught over 200 students and also launched a Sailing and Watersports centre in Denver, Colorado.

Asked about her selection, Nikki says: “It feels great, I hope I can be an inspiration to other young people to go and achieve what they set out to, to push boundaries and go get what they want if they put their minds to it and work hard.”

On feeling any added pressure, she says: “There is pressure for all of us to perform, but I am confident in my experience skill level and maturity.”

Asked which ocean she was most looking forward to crossing, “all of them,” comes the answer, though she adds: “The Pacific will be one of the most extreme mental and physical challenge my crew and I will face, the harder we push ourselves the greater the reward. The sense of achievement at the end will be lifechanging.” As well as checking the largest ocean on the planet off the list, Nikki will have the added bonus of being welcomed into port by friends and family who live in the area.

Nikki is highly motivated, conscientious and holds herself to high standards. Leading by example is extremely important to her. Her top piece of advice to crew is: “Expect to reach your physical and mental limits during the race. The rewards come when you push these boundaries.”

On her ambition for the race, Nikki says: “I know how fun competitive racing can be. Being part of a team that is driving for the podium is very motivating, but for me, winning is more than the podium finishes. My ambition is to keep my team safe, look after our boat, and sail with poise and style all the way around the world. I want to create an extraordinary life-changing experience for every member of my team, to inspire them and to show them why ocean racing is the best thing in the world.”

Five Things About Nikki:

What is your life motto? Always strive to leave places and people in a better state than when I found them

What is your favourite word?
Onomatopoeia. I learned how to spell this when I was about eleven years old via a song. It reminds me of how simple life used to be! No matter how challenging something seems at first, break it down into manageable chunks, make it fun and it will become easy.

What is the longest continual time you have spent at sea to date?
23 days across the Atlantic

What is your favourite song?
Beautiful – by Carole King

What was the last book you read?
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and An Ordinary Man – an autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina (I love history).

We will be introducing one of our twelve Clipper Race Skippers every day. Look out for Dave Hartshorn's profile tomorrow to discover more about his sailing career, his police career and his favourite meal at sea.

To read more about our twelve Clipper 2017-18 Skippers, click here.

Want to race the world’s oceans? There are limited berths on board the Clipper 2017-18 Race due to start this August. To secure your place, apply here.

Apply now