Monthly Archives: September 2014

A year ago from today


A year ago today was the start of the Clipper Round the World Yacht race.

Brand new boats, brand new crew, a mix of all ability sailing skills. It was to be the official start of “the adventure of a lifetime”.

The actual adventure had started many months earlier in the form of gently discussing the idea with family, and then onto actually applying to join the race. How to explain to your boss that what you want to do will really benefit him, and me as well as the team, and the Company. In amongst this, learning all the sailing terminology and figuring out what kit you really need with you from the myriad of advice being given by past and present crew.

One of my concerns that I remember vividly was about my hair. And when I look I back I really do laugh to myself, Hair….it gets wet, it gets matted with salt water, and sticks to your head, it sticks up and no-one, absolutely no-one, cares a jot.

A year before race start my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, he was so proud of me for taking on this adventure and as he had supported me throughout my life in every challenge I’d ever taken on, I missed him, his humour, and his encouragement. In his place was my hugely supportive mum.

I had a very tiny vague idea what I was letting myself in for having completed my level three training in a Force 8 gale. Throwing up so much that I wanted the experience to be over immediately and I scared myself rigid about how I’d cope with sea sickness on board. In the end, Novartis’ travel sickness patches worked wonders and I avoided sea sickness (until the last race!).

I wasn’t doing the race to find some meaning to life; I was doing it to experience life in a very different format to that which I was used to. Waking at 6am, leave for work, catch the train, the tram, work, eat, return home – going to the gym, going cycling….repeat.

My new work routine was in an extremely variable environment with six hours on, six off, four on, and four off, four on. Oh, unless there was a call to do a sail change at 15 minutes from watch handover in which case your off watch time was considerably reduced. My new “office” was either windy or baking hot; wet or burning dry; sweaty; physically demanding; mentally challenging; required considerable stamina and the ability to learn new things and apply that learning immediately and effectively in sometimes dangerous and extreme physical conditions.

I loved it.

I loved the team work, loved learning new things and applying that learning. I loved being out in the elements, challenging myself to do even more. Watching the colours change in the sky as we traversed the globe; checking cloud formations as an indication of imminent difficult weather conditions; seeing shooting stars and pods of playful dolphins; albatross and whales; streaming phosphorescence as the waves broke and the inky black night sky that enveloped you like a velvet glove; the sigh or howl or scream of the wind; the delicate silence and quiet lapping of the water; Trevor the pigeon and many other feathered friends who took relief from the elements on our deck before flying off.

I loved the genuine support that we had for each other as a crew, especially after our experience in the southern ocean. We knew then if we hadn’t appreciated it before, that we could rely upon each other and that any one of us would do absolutely anything to keep each other safe.

The birthday cakes and biscuits kindly made to keep spirits up; the cups of tea to keep you warm; the hugs from crew mates when the going was tough; the jokes and the laughter; the kindness of strangers when we arrived at ridiculous times of day and night as they provided warm welcomes and support. The friends and family who came to see me; who supported and encouraged me in so many different ways throughout the race – their love and thoughtfulness meant and still means so much.

The smell of fresh bread cooking as you’re on deck at 0500h longing for your bunk after a hard and wet watch. Sighting land after weeks and weeks at sea; racing to get out of your dry suit with another crew member and forgetting the 25 years difference between you as you shriek and shove each other to win the ordeal. Putting the plastic snake in someone’s bunk after leaving Panama (wasn’t me); finding and implementing wacky ways to wake up crew mates without being thrown overboard. Presto, it’s still 40-30!

I am so proud of how we managed to raise money for great charities, our boat charity -Mercy Ships; and my own personal charities – Friends of India and the KULE foundation, knowing that you’ve made a positive difference to someone somewhere. We had chosen a particular kind of hardship by competing in this race, for the people for whom we were raising money; they do not have that choice, that freedom. We made a difference.

And the difference to me after nearly a year away from home?

Well, I‘m pretty handy on the foredeck in hurricane force conditions, and can trim a spinnaker to find a smidgen of wind in windless conditions…….

I know that I have amazingly supportive; caring and loving family and friends. To know that you’re loved and cared about is a huge privilege and something that I appreciate very much.

Have I done something amazing?

I’m not sure.

I consider that I made a choice to do something different in my life and to add colour and to enrich my experience of the world and all it has to offer on so many different levels. And I certainly achieved that. If that is something remarkable, something amazing, then yes, I’m proud to say that I did indeed do something amazing.

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