So....how did this Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race come about? Last year, I applied to an advert, and emailed Steve Wigmore (Professor of Transplantation Surgery) who was looking to get a team of transplantees to be part of the Clipper 11-12. I flew to Edinburgh for the initial meeting/interview and to meet David Cusworth (Clipper Recruitment Manager ) and get what felt like a grilling by others. But, never the shy me - went in all smiles and just gave it my best shot. A once in a lifetime opportunity, and I wasn't going to walk away with a 'No...sorry....your not suitable'.
So to the present day - here I am about to embark on my first level's training and feeling all smiley and nervous and like 'WoW..reality it's happening now'. It all fell together at the very last minute and for a while I thought it wouldn't happen due to sponsorship and over Christmas felt very down for this reason. I knew I needed a miracle - and I got it :)
Here I am at the London Boat Show whereby I got to meet the amazing, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. Sir Robin is the founder and Chairman of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
I am the first ever double-lung transplantee to be involved in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, both making and creating history - yipes.
I am going to do the last leg (8) which sails from Usa, Canada, Europe, Ireland and back to the UK. This involves,
4,000 miles, 22 days at sea, with 4 races in total. But, I need to complete all my training this year before the race starts.
Friday 21st Jan
A long happy musical drive down to Gosport after saying goodbye to my parents. Not really sure what I have let myself into and full of nerves and excitement. I arrive early evening at a local B&B and a quick walk which leads me to a local pub for dinner. Time to snooze - ready for the adventure.....
Up nice and early - cooked breaky in my tum tum and away I go to find the Clipper offices and marina. Well...lots of bags with clothing, sleeping bags and a crammed office full of people feeling all sorts of emotions like me rock up for the unknown.
There were about 20 of us and the first day was to learn about yacht 1st aid survival, safety and basic sea survival (more would be covered on this on last day). Info overload, but necessary! Then we were split into 2 groups and away we went onto a 60 foot Clipper training yacht and time to live it up onboard with 11 people. We were all going to be trained by Olly (Skipper) and Rich (1st mate).
A quick tour - bed claim and 1st meal with chatting and getting to know each other. My initial reaction was what a great bunch of people and little did I know how much we would bond by the end of the week. I also met, Nick another transplantee (kidney) and great to have a connection as its not easy for people to understand how close to death we both were - to suddenly still be alive and able to fulfil what were once mainly dreams.
Here I am with Level 1 training crew:- Dan, Tim. Nick, Wendy, Dmitri, me, Jim, Steve, Pauli, Cath and James. All smiles and ready to test our mini space bunk style beds/sleeping bags after a dinner of roast chicken/salad/bread.
Bring it on Clipper Big Brother ;)
Quite a learning curve having a tour outside the yatch and learning about all the sails...then as easy as 1,2,3 - out to sea!!
We were split into two watches - Baywatch and Crimewatch...I ended up in Baywatch (no red swimsuit though) and had competitions to see which watch could tack the fastest moving sails back and forth with wind changes. Some people already had sailing experience and for me it was completely from scratch. I did feel very overwhelmed with the amount of information, technical names etc to learn and just did as best as I could.
Today was a tough day for me and by the end I felt physically exhausted. The highlight for me, was when the yacht was on an angle and I sat with the team on the high side with my feet over the edge looking at the view in the distance. I felt quite emotional and it just hits me unexpectedly realising how lucky I am to still be alive to witness this beauty. I could have cried happy tears - but difficult to explain...so just I smiled to myself and drank a cuppa (it's a hard life - eh) x
Can you guess whose feet - Clipper training crew ;)
Ahhhhh..what a cuppa :)
Living life on a yacht strips away all glamour and it is a case of back to basics. No bath/shower..no makeup...no fancy clothes...no privacy...and toilets (heads). Wet wipes as a shower and suitable clothing was the glamour!
I actually enjoyed this part - even though I do like to pamper and feel good..but a good experience for me to be 'au natural'. At the end of the day - it will be about winning a race and having an amazing experience and thats why I'm here. Anything else can wait! However.....I would be lying to say when arriving at various marina's and having the opportunity to shower, was like O.M.G Lush!!!! :)
When you get to see views like this - it makes it all worthwhile. I'm not saying sailing is easy...it's not......you have to put the hard graft in to reap the rewards.
Today, we sailed from Gosport to Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight and again learnt so much to do with sails, rope knots, wind techniques and so on. Still loving my experience and eventually all end up in a local pub. Many pub games were played led by Tim (supposedly drinking games) and a great social and more bonding with us as a team. A giggly and fun evening and all I will say now is
ZOOM (us Clipper crew will know what I mean) :) xx
Woohoooooo!!! Look at me here hanging over the edge of the yacht trying to get above the spinnacle pole. Actually, I was petrified even though harnessed and my ever fear of heights. But, I thought what the hell I will try what I can. I never got to sit on the pole...nevertheless, it was still an achievement for me.
And felt very shakey and breathless upon returning.
Part of the team's duties is not only to be split into 'watch' groups whereby you work on a shift basis hours on (to look after sailing)/hours off (whereby when not sailing - you sleep). There are also, 'mother' and 'engineer' roles. The mother role is responsible to feed the crew with breakfast, lunch, and dinner and with copious amounts of tea+coffee!! The engineer role to check engine before sailing and other bits.
Today was my mother day with Pauli whilst actually sailing at sea! So breakfast...nice and easy, a display of various cereals/fruit. Then for lunch I buttered about 20 rolls and Pauli filled with turkey,brie, and cranberry. Dinner....hmmm, pasta and red pesto..however I wasn't a very good Mummy.....was down in the galley (kitchen) and the waves were having a little rocky motion. I started to feel a bit queasy..so it was like...get lifejacket on...get back into the cockpit and hope I'm not another victim of the sea sickness lurgy.
Thankfully a sea sickness tablet soon rectified that - I just felt for those who actually were sick and a couple of people felt rough for quite a while. Ok, so maybe a mini 'low' but left Pauli to cook by himself - sorry for my blunder.
The sail we were doing was to get to Brighton - a 12 hour sail turned into a 24 hour sail. And the watch system started after dinner - with 3 hrs on/3 hrs off. Baywatch started and after 3 hours, I tried to sleep - no such luck. Back on deck..barely able to keep my eyes open. All sorts of jokes, games, stories were told - probably best not repeated on here..whats stay on the yacht - stays there and the wind blows into the sea ;). That must have worked as 2 hours passed and I thought only 1 more hour! Then back to sleep for 3 hours - dont think I really slept doing this and quite hard task doing so. However, it is all about setting us up for how things will be and what to expect, and the body will adjust and I will sleep when have the chance..that I know.
Wednesday 26thStill on the watch system through the night and daytime until we arrived at Brighton about 2pm. This was a real flavour as to what it would be like on a watch rota. I sat in the cockpit dozing and finding it hard to keep awake. I almost felt defeated - but tried to keep my eyes open. This is the reality of it and mustered on I did.
I reckon this must have been the hardest challenge - the mental aspect to keep strong and focused..regardless of all the physical labour to maintain a yacht at sea.
Needless to say...I was happy when Brighton was in view and a shower was on the horizon..lol
The evening was spent off shore at a local pub......funny this sailing lark seems quite fun now ;)
NB: This photo is not from today - we certainly didnt look this fresh and bouncy sailing through the night....just, I thought it was a nice photo ...Tadaaa...Jazz hands...(me, Jim, James).
WOOOOOoooeeeee I slept like a trouper last night, exhaustion won me and sleep I did! Rock n Roll baby!!
Check me out at the helm ;)
Here I am with Cath, Tim, Dan, and at the front James...don't know why they are smiling...wasn't exactely a good driver ;)
Today's adventure was to go from Brighton back to Cowes and at sea for approx 8 hours. Urm....and have you ever tried having a wee whilst onboard a rocky yacht.....LOL......don't ask!!!
But, Ohhhhhhhhhh, one of the heads got blocked...ewww. And you really should have been a fly on the wall - all the toilet humour thereafter..best not repeated here. But many laughs from this and even when Tim and Dmitri bravely tried to unblock the heads when back at Cowes Marina.
I totally loved today - such an amazing feeling being at sea.
The evening was another night out - a need for team morale, ok any excuse to get to a pub!
Check this view out - makes the experience ever more enjoyable and rewarding regardless of hard work and lack of sleep. Simply Stunning!
And for the latest sexy fashion wear - we have our top models from left to right:- me, Wend and Pauli
Last day at sea and time to get back to Gosport for a deep clean taking a few hours inside and out of the yacht. Team work still needed here to take on this huge challenge. But, we did and had time to shower, check out a Clipper 68 foot yacht that we would actually be racing in. Then you guessed it - PUB!! And, no I'm not an alcoholic - but J2o's did make good business from me over this week.
I was kinda feeling sad as today was the last day and such a great bond made with amazing people that I have met this week. Already on Facebook, Twitter, email, and number exchanges - whether we cross paths again on more courses or during actual race, definitely fabulous friends for life.
Featured here:- me, Olly (Skipper), Nick, James, and Wend
Well, before I get too soppy - let me finally talk about the sea survival day course. Phew this was a learning curve - firstly how not to swim to safety and how to correctly swim to safety. I was quite anxious stepping off the pool side and falling into deep water with a fully inflated life jacket on. But, it's amazing how quick you return to the surface of the water and remembering to cover airways and keep body warm. Trying then to swim on our backs using arms only to get to the life-raft and get in - like a mound of bodies being thrown in helplessly. Everything needs to be done correctly as it has been known for people to still drown whilst entering face first into a life-raft if a pool of water inside. This was repeated twice whilst buckets of water where being thrown over us...quite scary and I hope this never happens! As cold water - shock - and actually swimming/getting into a life-raft all a mission. But, I'm definitely glad learnt this!!
Woke up feeling still drained and a little swaying. Breakfast....then homeward bound. All excited and ready for Level 2 starting 26th Feb. but, in the meantime I still have to train for the World Transplant Games inbetween all Clipper courses and revise everything I've learnt. Also, to be a genius at mastering the various marine knots required onboard a yacht. And the bruises that I have been left with - all part of the experience - thankyou Clipper!! xx