Category Archives: Tour du Monde

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

Drifting?

“To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Boat

I was in Coverack, Cornwall last week and saw this boat in the harbour and I started thinking about drifting – not just at sea but in life, or whether we are anchored to anything, and whether that ‘anything’ is useful. An odd thought perhaps and it may well have been at the moment I needed just one more Cornish cream tea or a Cornish pasty.

There are so many metaphors from sporting activities, and as I was learning to sail, I found those linked to sailing really interesting. Some might even say clichéd. But I love them, they’re so expressive.

However…………

Since I returned, I have to admit that I did find it hard to settle down into “normal” life, whatever “normal” is supposed to look like. And if I was to admit it, I had perhaps drifted into things that appeared at the outset interesting and exciting, and also to some extent, feeling as though I “should” take on a particular role, rather than be more discerning.

What is normal

In the job I’d done prior to sailing, I had a great team; we supported each other and worked together with a clear end in mind, always considering the art of the possible. And as a racing crew, I loved that team spirit and wanted to replicate it in the work that I undertook following the race. Achieving the art of the possible.

Yet what I too often found in some of the work environments was a situation where some people were more interested in retaining the status quo, or told me that ‘it had never been done before, so it can’t be done’. For those of you who know me, you can imagine how I felt hearing those kind of words.

Yes, grrr and gnashing of teeth!

So back to the picture of the boat – to get away from drifting, it was time for me to take stock. And to do this, I worked with a friend who helped me to challenge and consider what was important to me, to think about my personal anchors in life, aka values. In other words knowing what I value most, recognising my guiding principles. This is what we came up with and which I thought I’d share with you: Family, Friendship and Integrity along with Curiosity, Courage, Authenticity and Fairness.

Thank you to Malin www.the-expatcoach.com for helping me define what is important to me. Now that I have this, I can more constructively figure out what next so that I can find an environment, and a role in which I can be the best that I know I can be. I also had a conversation with a coach called Dan Beverly http://danbeverly.com who helped me focus, knowing what my values are, on how I get to where I want to be.

Am I there yet? Not quite.

Yet I am closer to being there than I have been. And I have the end in mind – working with curious, authentic people, who want to be the best they can be by being courageous and fair, living and working with integrity, in what they do for themselves, their team and the organisation – and ultimately for something much bigger.

If, as you’re reading this, you’re wondering where you’re at, what next, and/or what’s important to you, I’d highly recommend that you take time to define your own personal values and goals. I’m not suggesting that you should take on a round the world yacht race in order to help you to be clear about who you are and what you stand for, yet I do encourage and perhaps challenge you to have that conversation with yourself.

My challenge to you to do this is not just for the sake of securing a great job but also about living your life to its fullest. Some of you may have read the articles by nurses working in palliative care, about regrets of people who are dying. The top five regrets were noted as:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

Reference: “Inspiration and Chai”

I dare you – have that courageous conversation with yourself if you haven’t done so already. And then consciously choose your path – set your sails and aim for that destination. You might end up drifting every now and again, but you know what – with a good anchor, even when the tide might appear to be dragging you backwards, your anchor will hold until the tide turns and you can then move forward once more.

Need some help with that conversation – drop me a note -alysouns@hotmail.com , or catch up with Malin, Dan or Lesley (my inspiration for racing the yacht that she a year earlier had sailed around the world 😉 ) You can reach Lesley at https://www.braveconversations.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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How time flies

Has it really been over two years since my last post on this blog site? Yikes.

Since I finished the round the world race, I felt that perhaps I didn’t have anything “worthwhile” or “exciting” to share. And there are rather a lot more spokes than spinnakers at the moment.

This year, it appears that I’ve ridden, rather than sailed, almost 5,000 kilometres, of which 54,000m has been ‘up’. That’s sort of the equivalent distance of six times up Mount Everest. Before I competed in the Round the World Yacht race, I’d ridden about 3,000km to this point in the year. I did another Etape du Tour aka the amateur stage of the Tour de France in 2016 and then again this year as well as riding in the London Prudential 100 mile event.

In my first year back after the race I really didn’t want to do anything that stretched me physically and mentally. I shied away from anything that was, as I saw it, a challenge. I was tired, exhausted even and didn’t “need” anymore challenges.

How the pendulum has swung since then.

A friend of mine told me that the London 100 was an ‘event’ and not a “race”, at which I screwed up my face and thought, “hmmm, what does that mean?”. A little bit like the quizzical look I had when talking about what I would be doing during 2013/14, and some people would have a different interpretation entirely (to me) of what it was. The clue of what I was embarking upon was in the title. Simple and clear, a “round the world yacht race” – obviously…..!

A lot of what has happened since the race has got me thinking about the meaning of the language that we use (that I use), and its impact on others (and on myself). I’ve spoken to groups about my learning from the race experience, my preparation for the race and my experiences since returning, focusing on how we choose to do things, or not as the case may be. One of the people who inspired me, when asked about what she did, says that she, “sailed around the world” whereas my description of exactly the same event is, “I competed in a round the world yacht race”.

When I thought about continuing with this blog, I was struck with questions to myself about whether people would still be interested in hearing from me.

Just that sentence with the words, ‘struck with’ makes me take a step back. Was I actually hit with a question? Of course not, yet, the word ‘strike’ suggests to me, being hit, and in that happening, stepping back (or being pushed back). And that is in fact what has happened, what I allowed to happen. I’ve stepped back from doing what I love doing – writing, and sharing my ‘thinking out loud’ moments.

What are the words that you use most frequently and how do they impact how you think and act?

I’ve had so many exciting moments and quite a few not so exciting moments since Christmas 2014 – think time stuck in the doldrums kind of moments. I’d like to re-kindle my love of writing and thinking out loud, and take some time over the next few weeks, or maybe longer, to share with you some of the “what happened next” episodes to “spinnakers and spokes”.

So here’s to raising the spinnaker once more, to heading downwind in a leisurely, cruising kind of way. The sun is shining; the birds are gliding above us, perhaps even Trevor the pigeon will reappear on deck. Remember the smell of fresh made bread as the dawn breaks, with the dolphins leaping, leaving behind glowing silver phosphorescent streaks in the still waters of the ocean.

Those words and the images they evoke leave me with a sense of calm.

Here’s wishing you all a peaceful, calm week ahead.

 

 

Happy Christmas lovely friends, family and blog followers,

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.” ~ Friedrich Koenig

Christmas Eve last year involved ensuring the boat was ready to race. Last minute preparations and team briefings to clarify race start roles and our tactics for the infamous, famous and treacherous Sydney Hobart yacht race.

Christmas day in Sydney was rainy, and without my youngest son and my Mum it wasn’t quite altogether. No “usual” pre-Christmas parties with friends and family, however a great evening of secret Santa gifts at Charlie, Nick and Ralf’s apartment.

And this year, parties galore, friends all around and a feeling of warmth and happiness and comfort. Not to mention the amazing amount of cycling we’ve been able to do, right up to today. Not great for those hoping for a white Christmas in the Alps. Great though for those of us mad enough to ride out in 5°C on a Sunday morning.

I’ve now been home five months since the race finished, applied for about a dozen jobs, had half a dozen interviews, decorated two of our bedrooms, cleaned out cupboards, made numerous trips to the charity shops, caught up with friends and cycled over 2,000km.

Two great friends and race followers have got married, my friend and inspiration for joining the race has had a baby girl, and my daughter is in her final year of University having directed an amazing youth production of the musical “Hairspray” in August. Middle son is doing well studying his fine art degree and young son is having a ball, excuse the pun, playing rugby and studying A-levels. I found out that another friend I met back in the 80’s had died of a brain tumour, another has had a double mastectomy and others are creaking at the seams.

I am thankful on a daily basis for good health, stamina, resilience and a darn good sense of humour.

I may not have found paid employment ……..yet, and please don’t get me started on on-line application sites……. However, I am home, safe and warm with family and great friends. I stretched myself beyond what I imagined possible last year. I still have a distinct and profound dislike of the Tasman sea and have no great desire to sail in those waters e-v-e-r again (sorry Viki Moore!) But then Viki is in NZ and has the roaring 40’s to contend with on potentially a daily basis. The 40’s are Viki’s playground, hats off to her! Viki writes a great blog under “Astrolabe Sailing”.

SONY DSC

Photo credit: Viki Moore

 

And Bailey boat cat is one of my heros , he’s a pawsome individual who I would never have expected to meet. Bailey is a male seal point Siamese cat who lives on a yacht on the coast near Rome and through his blog kept me entertained during my round the world adventure. He even has a book called “Adventures of a feline afloat”. Check his stories out at www.baileyboatcat.com

Baileyboatcat

Photo credit: BaileyBoatCat

 

So on Christmas Eve, from my home in France, with my family around me, I bid you all a wonderful festive season and good wishes, good luck, good health and happiness with a huge dose of fun and laughter to you all during 2015.

Cycling on Christmas Eve

Cycling on Christmas Eve

Learn to appreciate what you have before time makes you appreciate what you had

The week that was ………………  Lessons in leadership

And what a week it has been. Starting on Monday with the dining table surrounded by Clipper family and friends. It was a joy to meet up with Francoise and Rene from Mercy Ships and to share our fun and what often must have seemed insane renditions of life on board a racing yacht, thanks to tales from Carlo, Karina and Chris.

It was a pleasure to host Vicky our skipper and David, the Clipper recruitment director for dinner the night before Vicky’s talk to the British Swiss Chamber of Commerce about the race and Leadership lessons.

Vicky sharing her thoughts about leadership on board. Credit: ©point-of-views.ch

Vicky sharing her thoughts about leadership on board. Credit: ©point-of-views.ch

Vicky has always been a great public speaker and Tuesday night in front of around 80 of Geneva’s business leaders was no exception. Such confidence and enthusiasm was impressive.

Chris Preston, Leg 4 and Leg 8 crew member and boat sponsor, and I had been asked to support Vicky during the question and answer session after her talk. Sitting on the front row, listening to Vicky’s recollections of the race and some of the hairier moments during the voyage, sent emotional memories flooding through me. Up until this point, I could tell you that I had just participated in something extraordinary, yet it hadn’t really and truly felt extraordinary – life on the boat becomes routine and actually becomes “the norm” – it’s what you DO, it’s just (dare I say it) another job, albeit there is never a day truly the same and it’s a bit more wet or cold and dangerous than the regular office environment.

However, listening to Vicky talk about a particular incident in the Southern Ocean during which Gordon and I found ourselves the first two up on the fore-deck bringing back on board the Yankee 3 in the middle of a hurricane (no kidding) as well as the team work, camaraderie, jokes, and charity fund-raising (over USD46K for Mercy Ships, that’s over 30 life changing operations). I was reminded of what I’d done and why I’d done it. I had the tissues in my handbag, but thankfully avoided the need to use them, only just!

Then the questions to Vicky and to “the panel”.

I was astounded when Vicky was asked how – wait for this, “as a pretty, young female” she gained credibility from the crew. I really thought that I’d been transformed back into the 1970’s. My astonishment at the question delayed me from hearing all of Vicky’s answer and I wish I’d had the gumption to respond later. However, the fact that she, and the other skippers had thousands of miles of ocean racing behind them, that Vicky had actually skippered a boat to win a transatlantic race and she had been through a particularly rigorous selection processes , not forgetting all the qualifications she had to gain in the run up to actually applying for the race. AGHHHH –

It makes me wonder how Leaders in business gain their credibility. I don’t think that it’s by being a man or woman, it is surely about your track record and the relevance of that to the role you’re about to undertake.

We were then asked about how we developed trust throughout the team.

Team work

teamwork and trust

I was reminded of Steven Covey’s lecture I attended a few years before the race, “The speed of Trust” in which he says that trust is made up of four components:  1) Integrity 2) Intent 3) Capabilities and 4) Results.

http://www.myspeedoftrust.com/How-The-Speed-of-Trust-works/book

Covey asserts that all four of the above are necessary for the building of trust saying that a person of integrity that does not produce results is not credible and if you are not credible you are not trustworthy. He also asks you to consider 13 behaviours that lead to high levels of trust.

As a team we had agreed how we would behave towards each other and agreed some basic yet important parameters before we were even on the boat. Without actually referring to Covey’s work we had inadvertently built a framework within which we could start to build trust within our team of 63 very different individuals.

We had a team building weekend and had people working together even before starting the race, to get to know and start building trust in each other.

However, when it came to actually racing a 70 foot, several million pound vessel, few of us had the skills, knowledge or competence to do so with exceptional results, from day One. And that is what Vicky as the leader had to work on. And on each leg our knowledge, skills and competence changed. For some it improved, for others new to the team it was the start of a steep, fast learning curve. And it was our job as round the world crew to ensure that our new crew mates succeeded, and gained our trust (as well as them trusting us).

We were also asked about discipline on board and how people were motivated or kept in line (interesting) given that Vicky had no opportunity to reward through bonus schemes or other corporate incentives.

Many of the team on board Switzerland were professionals in their own right. They were successful and used to leading others.

For us as crew, there were times when a quiet “thank you” or for others a public gesture, would have worked beautifully as a motivator. Often though we knew when we’d done something wrong or not as right as it could have been done –the response is immediate in boat performance and on a boat there is no place to hide your mistakes. We all owned up and shared the learning with our crew mates because we simply didn’t want them feeling as bad as we had done in those situations.

We didn’t mention the keel hauling that took place albeit rarely (!)…. I am joking.

And then the million dollar question to all of us about what we will do differently when we are back in our leadership roles on terra firma.

It felt as though all eighty eyes were firmly transfixed on us. Slow the breathing…think…

Replying under the gaze of 80 pairs of eyes.  Credit: ©point-of-views.ch

Replying under the gaze of 80 pairs of eyes. Credit: ©point-of-views.ch

I will work harder to understand an individual’s motivations for doing the job in question – what makes them tick, how do they want to be recognised, motivated, challenged, rewarded?

I will recognise and value that there is more than one way to skin a cat – just because someone wants to do something differently to the way I think it should be done, it can still be right, still be effective and it’s the outcome than matters ultimately.

I will take the point from Vicky’s own reply and be more aware of my mood and how that might affect others.

I will demonstrate humility and vulnerability when appropriate in order to demonstrate that I am actually human.

I will be aware that whilst I set extremely high standards for myself (and do expect others’ to do the same – ouch) that actually not everyone is wired the same as me and rather than be disappointed or frustrated by that, I will ask/watch/listen/figure out where someone’s starting point is as well as continuing to encourage “greatness” .

And whilst the corporate world is a tough environment, I’ll apply the adage that there is no failure, only learning. Sometimes, for someone, a new environment is where that learning might take place.

I will also think very carefully about the words that I use because words have values and judgements and labels that come with them. The language that we use affects the way we think, how we behave and how we view other people and situations. I will use words that enable people to achieve what is important to them, to encourage them be the best they can be.

And finally, having listened to a recent Ted talk with Simon Sinek about Leadership in his closing words he says the following:

“…….there are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.

Click here if you’d like to see more of Simon’s talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en

Vicky started her race campaign with WHY – WHY are we embarking upon a race around the world, and the answer was “to do something amazing”. She inspired us because this was something we wanted to do for ourselves and we all bought into her vision, her belief, her purpose for becoming a skipper on the race.

And back to the opening question as to how a “pretty young thing” could have credibility – you bet she did! And what’s more she believed with a passion in what she was doing, she inspired us to follow and to buy into what she was offering.

She enabled us to achieve something amazing because we believed in her vision!

Team Switzerland

Team Switzerland

thanks to the BSCC committee and sponsors for the great opportunity to tell our tale. Credit: ©point-of-views.ch.

thanks to the BSCC committee and sponsors for the great opportunity to tell our tale. Credit: ©point-of-views.ch.

A year ago from today

Reflection-Quotes

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.

last quote

 

the end part 2

And so we have it, Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2013-14 is over.

The journey up the Thames will forever last in my memory, it was incredible.

The joy of family and friends and crew seeing each other from the spectator boats.  Who is it?  Can you see them?  Oh wow!  There they are!

I thought that I would be really tearful and overwhelmed, but not so.  I was ready for the finish. I’d had a great time, for the most part.  I’d shed more tears in the last eleven months than probably in the last eleven years, especially so whilst in Den Helder.

So I was empty of tears and full of joy, elation, and thanks.  Thanks to wonderful family and friends.  Love and pride demonstrated like never before.  I knew for sure that I was cared about in a way that I’d never dreamed of.  I’d achieved something that few would even consider, let alone do.  Thanks to the amazing meeting of Lesley Roberts and Sue Knight in Kerala in 2011 I’d achieved something amazing.

And returning up the Thames could well have been a Canaletto piece or a scene from a 1690 pageant – no tall ships but still, twelve amazing racing yachts built more like Land Rovers than Ferrari type Volvo racers that had safely housed hundreds of amateur sailors.  We’d pushed them, challenged them, abused them and they’d still done a sterling job.

Coming up to Tower Bridge marked the end of the journey.  A spectacular journey it was.

Seeing Swiss flags and former crew was warming and hunting for family faces intense.  There they were, first Katherine, then William, and then, framed in the sunlight, Mum, with tears gently rolling down her cheeks, and Jean with a huge smile of her face.  And finally James, who had supported me around the world in port, from home.  You name it, he’d been there for me.  And Jean and mum and Lesley had sent cards with wise words; love and luck; fun and “special packages” to nearly all the stop overs.  I am a lucky woman.

Hands on the stern mooring line I concentrate.  Don’t want to muck up now, in front of thousands!  We don’t.  We’re moored.  Cameras clicking, crowds shouting, clapping, laughing.  The noise of relief, joy, excitement is overwhelming.  Yet still I am speechless.  I must be grinning like a mad woman.  I am so happy.

And then…the ’til now hidden bottles of fizz are revealed and we all tuck in – in our trusty plastic mugs (!) to varieties of fizz.

Team Switzerland is fifth out of twelve boats in the clipper round the world yacht race.  Our goal had always been to finish in the top half of the fleet, to end the race with smiles on our faces and we’d done that.  We had always done our best, everyone giving of themselves all that was possible at any given time.  When that came together, and the team did every bit of their best at the same time, it worked wonders and we earned podium positions.

Now was time to celebrate and enjoy the feeling of being superstars for the afternoon.  Seeing ourselves on the big screen was fun and our heads spun.  We’d all made great friends, experienced things way beyond our comfort zones of eleven months ago, laughed, cried, teased, baked, cleaned, sailed our socks off and lived like we’d never lived before.

The end!

And…………

The start of a new beginning!

life continues as normal for some

life continues as normal for some

The end is nigh part 1

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it ~ Greg Anderson

Breakfast starts a little bit later than usual, some of us have been lucky enough to have an extra hour sleep before our big day begins. A yummy breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Well done Greg!

It is grey and slightly damp, light rain gently falling and Continue reading