Just over a week ago I returned from a glorious week in Kyoto, Japan, meeting colleagues at the medical school of Kyoto University who are undertaking a research project that is similar to the project I am currently delivering with colleagues at Bath University. As well as mentally and physically preparing for my imminent departure to the States and sourcing sailing kit and medical supplies, I have to get the qualitative component of this research project written up to a publishable standard before I leave. I have about a month left! There’s nothing like a writing deadline to focus the mind.
A few days before I departed for Japan, my hosts at Kyoto University emailed to say there was a coronavirus outbreak. I couldn’t believe it. My first opportunity to visit Japan and the coronavirus had struck! I had two fraught days wondering if I should go (I’m so glad I did) and trying to source face masks as advised by my Japanese hosts. So I really empathise with all the current race crew and Chinese sponsors who have been hit hard by the outbreak. It’s been a logistical nightmare for the Clipper Race committee to re-route the fleet, especially as plenty of crew were looking forward to meeting up with family and friends in Sanya and Zhuhai. The original route for Leg 5 took in 3 Chinese ports, but that’s all changed since coronavirus cases started being detected.
In re-routing, the fleet now go by the Japanese Ryukyu Islands. So as I flew home, I thought about how my team and I was the closest I have been to them for weeks, but they were far, far below me as I braced myself for the turbulence of ‘Storm Dennis’ upon my arrival back into SW England. The turbulence kept us circling above the runway for an extra half-an-hour as the pilot had to keep aborting his attempts to land due to the gusting winds. By the time we did land I was minutes away from using the sick bag! The experience reminded me of how I feel the first 1-3 days at sea on a Clipper 70. Terribly seasick. However, I know from my training that it goes away with time.
Still, it did make me smile, when I read a fortune I received at Ninnaji Buddhist temple in Kyoto because my fortune slip read: “You may worry about the change of environment for a while, but you will become accustomed to it rapidly.” My fortune also contained a miniature frog (Kaeru) bestowing me luck in “traffic safety and health”. I couldn’t decide if this was in relation to my trip to Japan and the flight home through Storm Dennis, or if it was in reference to my very imminent embarkation of Punta del Este and 60 days living on the ocean…I’m hoping it’s for the latter and banishes seasickness!
I have decided I will take this little frog with me in my kit bag, together with my St. Christopher that my mother-in-law gave me two years ago when I went to Gosport to do my first week of sail training, because there’s no such thing as too much luck – especially when embarking on a challenge that will take you into the unknown!