Tag Archives: St Katharine Docks

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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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!


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

London and Race Start

The atmosphere in London was incredible, thousands of people lined St Katherine docks and what seemed to be the whole length of the Thames.

The England 7’s squad joined the Great Britain boat and the competition for the fastest grinder.

rugby sevens player on harken

We had worked so hard as a team to get our boat ready for the first race. From resolving the leaking diesel engine Continue reading

Wanna be a rock star…?

When I signed up for the Clipper adventure of a lifetime, I hadn’t realised that the attention we’d get as crew would quite match that of being some kind of celebrity, but there we were, Friday afternoon cruising up the Thames. Ferries, cruisers, pedestrians casually strolling along the river and apartment dwellers all waving madly at the parade of yachts. St Katherine’s dock absolutely shrouded in people. And we hadn’t even started the race! Continue reading