Off Shore. On Air.

Since they have been safely flown home following quarantine in Subic Bay marina, there’s been a flurry of media coverage of my team mates who were sailing in the aborted race. So I thought I would share their reported experiences of the race so far with you.

First up, is one of Punta del Este’s circumnavigators, Mary Vaughan-Jones, discussing her experience of the race in the Independent newspaper and how it came to an abrupt end due to the coronavirus outbreak. You can read the article here.

Next up is Clara Carrington, having done most of the race to date, being interviewed in a 30 minute podcast hosted by The Sailing Show. Listen here.

“Abby’s guest this month is Clipper Round the World sailor, Clara Carrington.  Clara has been a passionate social sailor through her life and having worked shore side for the Volvo Ocean Race, Clara has now embarked on her own round the world race with Clipper.  Clara is racing with team Punta del Este which is currently lying third overall in the Clipper Round The World Race.  Abby chats to Clara from her home in Uruguay having recently returned following the decision to postpone the remainder of the Clipper Race due to the global impact of COVID -19. They discuss how Clara’s experience in human resources helped her with the crew’s interaction and what she learned from each leg especially with adapting to new crew members and the importance of empathy in a team situation.”

Finally, but by no means least, ‘legger’ Jim Leaf, sharing his race journey on The Enterprise Podcast. Listen here.

“After stepping foot on to a sailboat for the first time ever in April 2019. Jim completed 4 weeks of training with Clipper Ventures, earning his Competent Crew and Sea Survival qualifications. He then joined the loud crew of the Punta Del Este Clipper Yacht to race 11 other boats from the Punta Del Este in Uruguay to Cape Town South Africa. He directly crossed the South Atlantic through the eye of 3 relentless storms, back to back.

Joined by 21 other crazy amateurs and led by 2 amazing professionals. Jim and the crew finished in 2nd place after battling 40 – 75-knot winds and 8 – 12m waves for 16 days! This amazing experience was to become the most incredible test of endurance of his life so far. Back on terrafirma, I caught up with Jim to reflect on the lessons he learned about teamwork, communication, social awareness, compassion, leadership and crisis and stress management.”

I should be so lucky.

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!

My fortune slip.
Unwanted fortunes blowing in the breeze at Ninnaji Buddhist temple.