Friday Aug 28, 2015

Sailing around the world with no experience

The Clipper Round the World yacht race is the planet’s longest ocean adventure. It is a nautical odyssey that circumnavigates the entire globe, crossing every major ocean, battling brutal conditions, and visiting six continents over one year.

However, the most remarkable thing about this extreme ocean odyssey is that almost half of the participants have no sailing experience whatsoever.

Teachers, bankers, accountants and former elite athletes are just some of the amateurs who have undergone an intense four-week training programme to form 12 sailing teams capable of completing the journey.

Each boat will be led by an elite professional skipper, but around 40% of their crew will still be finding their sea legs as they race over eight different stages spanning 11 months, starting this Sunday.

British former UFC fighter Dan Hardy is one of those novices, but insists he his ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“I’m anxious to get started now,” he said. “I had no experience of sailing before. I’ve done four weeks, which is the four levels of training and that’s it.

“As soon as the level four training was finished and I knew there was nothing else to do. I’ve just had two weeks of waiting and it feels a lot like fight day.

“That familiar feeling of waking up in the hotel at 11 and realising you’ve got hours to wait until the fight comes around. It feels like that but it’s days. I’m definitely ready now though.”

689 other crew members are hopefully feeling the same way. Dan is initially only taking part in the first leg – a month long trip from London to Rio de Janeiro - but many other first-time sailors will be setting off for the full journey - visiting 14 different ports including stops in New York, Sydney, Cape Town and Vietnam along the way.

The crews range in age from 18 to 74, hail from 44 different countries and work in 347 jobs. Their goals and ambitions will vary too but, whether the priority is a podium spot or simply to step out of their comfort zone, it will certainly be a life changing experience for all of them.

“Since the inaugural Clipper Race in 1996, I have seen thousands of international crew transform into ocean racers and seamen,” said Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the race’s founder.

“By taking on Mother Nature’s toughest conditions, they have widened their horizons and have memories to cherish that can only be won through experience and teamwork.

“We do see this magic change in people that only happens after experiencing nature in its rawest form.”

During the race nature will appear in all forms, including hurricane-force winds, icebergs and massive waves.

The weather also brings with it physical challenges, on top of the long days and lack of sleep. There are also, of course, the emotional obstacles of being away from home, friends and family. At one point during the Pacific leg, the closest other human beings to the teams will be sitting in the international space station.

Thousands of people applied for the opportunity to take part in the race, hoping to leave their normal lives behind, at least temporarily, and achieve something extraordinary.

But despite making it through the application and interview process and the training regime, the biggest challenges lie ahead. For Hardy, the toughest battle will be mental.

“I’ve always been aware that I’ve got a mild anxiety for being so far away from land that I can’t see it,” he said.

“The idea of being on a boat and having to rely on the vessel and the people on it to keep me safe and get me where I need to be means my inner control freak will have a bit of meltdown.

“You never quite sleep soundly either because you are always a bit on edge because there are always people on deck and there’s always a risk of someone going over. You’re sort of 70% asleep and 30% listening for a man over board call.”

With risk comes reward and there will be plenty for the intrepid, inexperienced explorers to look forward to, including potential to claim an historic victory.

Joining Hardy on the Great Britain boat will be Britain’s greatest ever badminton player, Nathan Robertson. With Olympic silver and Commenwealth Games gold in his trophy cabinet, he is no stranger to sporting success.

However, he believes that just taking part in the Clipper Round the World race will be more rewarding that those victorious moments.

“It’s going to be one of the greatest things I do in my life – and it may well eclipse the experience of the Olympic Games in terms of pushing myself beyond what I already know,” he said.

Whether you want to win or just get away from your desk for a few months, applications for the next two editions of the race are now open, with various options for would-be adventurers who think they are man enough to climb aboard. In work and life, it’s not every day you get a unique opportunity like this that’s labeled ‘no experience necessary.’

Channels: Extreme.com, Outdoor

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