A SAILOR whose first boat was a dinghy at Cotswold Water Park is about to skipper a 70ft yacht around the world.

Richard Gould, 26, will lead a crew of about 20 in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race this summer.

Founded in 1995, the race offers paying crew members the chance to train for and experience ocean racing.

Mr Gould, a former pupil at Wootton Bassett School, said: “The Southern Ocean is incredibly challenging because there is no land mass there, and the weather systems just roll round.

“And also challenging is the Northern Pacific. It’s the world’s biggest ocean.

“You’re out thousands of miles away from land and you really see the raw power of the ocean at its best, with no human influence on it at all.”

Mr Gould began sailing with his father, who is a GP in Chisledon, at the Cotswold Water Park at South Cerney.

He said: “I started sailing as a hobby, and by the time I got on to finishing my GCSEs I made the decision that I wanted to pursue a career in water sports. I turned down a place in sixth form to train to be a professional water sports instructor in wind surfing, dinghies and kayaking.”

During the race he’ll be in charge of one of a dozen competing vessels for nearly a year of sailing.