Mission Performance

“Good Morning Mrs. Sturt-Scobie. Your mission should you choose to accept it involves leaving Team Switzerland for 2,500nm on the toughest race of the Clipper Round the World yacht race to join a shorthanded crew… this isn’t mission difficult, this is mission impossible”…

(words borrowed and adapted from Mission Impossible conversation between agent Hunt and commander Swanbeck)

Mission Performance was 4 crew short of the minimum number required to sail a Clipper 70. They needed 12 and asked the biggest crews for volunteers to join them on the race from Singapore to Qingdao. A race that is renowned to be one of the toughest in the race schedule.

We talked about it as a crew and although Greg had volunteered we needed him on this race to hone our foredeck strategy before the Pacific leg. It just made sense to volunteer.

Mission Performance. Photo credit: Clipper Round The World.

Mission Performance. Photo credit: Clipper Round The World.

What I hadn’t bargained for was the emotional reaction I had that outweighed any logical rational view of doing the right thing. I realized as I saw Switzerland slip her lines in Singapore that I was actually scared. Frightened of leaving what had become normality in a situation that is anything but normal. Racing a yacht 40,000nm is far from normal and yet my normality and security was my team. Team Switzerland.  Everything that I had learnt since August with this team was now part of my “normal” way of life and security.

And what I had not expected was a boat in a state far worse than others in the fleet.  Mission Performance had been sailing, metaphorically, with one hand tied behind its back and its legs tied together: 6000 miles as a training boat and no new sheets and halyards before it started the race from London.  No anti-fouling until Sydney – in effect slowing its flow through the water.  No running (pumped) water to either heads sinks’; no vertical grab bars in the galley – basic safety when trying to move around below decks along with no horizontal safety bars in either wet locker. No functioning sewing machine for sail repair; a gas hob that burns leaving carbon deposits and gives out emissions; a gas hob with six burners that you have to use pliers to operate; a broken oven door requisitioned since leg 2; a broken traveller winch and port Yankee car; no shackles available for their preventer lines; cave lockers that collect pints of water; saloon that leaks onto the low side; hull fitting in the forepeak that leak water into the bilges.

So all in all a pretty unnecessarily uncomfortable existence for its crew.

The crew of now only four round the world out of an original team of nine has developed an amazing ability to work around all these issues and retain a great sense of humour.

I can honestly say that I had reached the edge of my comfort zone. The comfort zone consisted of a strong electric fence, a barrier that I just didn’t want to reach through. If I dipped one tiny finger tip towards this fence I would get a rather large and painful electric shock. Or rather, I was getting shocked every minute of every day already. I didn’t like it and didn’t want to dig deep anymore.

However, thanks to a great crew; skipper and humor I did make it, we all made it and Mission Performance achieved 4th place this race. We proved that the boat could be sailed fast in spite of its handicaps.

I struggled to think about the positives some of the time on this race, however,  thinking about the art of the possible and focusing on what can be achieved I think that finally someone turned off the electricity supplying that electric fence.

Comfort zones… aren’t they what you find in airport lounges?!


1 thought on “Mission Performance

  1. Lesley Roberts

    OMG. I thought that Clipper could not surprise me any further but this takes the biscuit. No wonder there are only 4 of the RTW crew left, I’d be asking for a refund! I can only imagine what it took to stay strong. I know that once on you cannot get off but maintaining a positive or at least balanced outlook, being self aware and digging deep are definitely choice. Top Bird. X


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