Stuart Read, Director of Sabre Financial, will be taking part as a crew member on the "Dare to Lead" racing yacht in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2017-18.
In April 2018 I am embarking on the adventure of my life and sailing nearly 9,000 miles as a crew member on one of Clipper’s 70-foot yachts. The route will take me from Seattle on the north west coast of the USA to New York via the Panama Canal. From New York the race continues across the Atlantic Ocean to the finish at the Albert Docks in Liverpool via a brief stopover in Ireland. The Clipper Round the World Race was the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, the event is now on its eleventh edition.
Divided into eight legs and 13 to 16 individual races, crew members can choose to complete the full circumnavigation or select individual legs like myself. It is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of twelve identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper to safely guide the crew. With no previous sailing experience necessary, it’s a record breaking 40,000 nautical mile race around the world on a 70-foot ocean racing yacht. A Clipper 70 is not a place for the faint hearted or work-shy.
It is anticipated that I will be away from the office between 18 April and 1 August 2018, during this absence all emails and calls will be diverted to my support team of Jo Massey and Bunny Rothwell. Whilst they will be able to help with all administrative issues any advice queries will be passed to my colleagues Shaun Bell, Andrew Bond and Scott Robinson where appropriate. Any annual reviews that are due during this period will either be conducted prior to my departure or deferred until the summer months when I return. Many of you are aware of the great team that we have at Sabre and rest assured you will be looked after in my absence.
At the time of writing the Race is currently on day 13 of Leg 3 which is known as the “The Dell Latitude Rugged Race to Freemantle, Australia” the route taking the boats across the Southern Ocean and one of the most inhospitable places you would wish to sail. Temperatures are barely above freezing and seas are normally mountainous. Life on board is very difficult with the normal time on deck being restricted to some 20 mins because of the weather conditions, below deck is not much better and temperatures broadly similar. Many crew have up to 7 layers of clothing on, with only the brave soul being prepared to remove anything before getting into their cold damp bunk.
Bizarrely a waiting game has descended over the fleet as winds have dropped and many are only making minimal headway, with some 3000 nautical miles still to cover and the warmth of Freemantle to look forward to many crews are naturally frustrated. Dare to Lead whilst currently leading the race overall have slipped back to 9th position and are ruing the decision to have headed North. With many days ahead and fickle winds the positions will no doubt change many times and there is still lots of sailing to be undertaken over the next couple of weeks.
Regular updates of positions and daily blogs from the boats can be viewed on the links below:-
There are many roles to play on deck. The race teams are trained to be a self-sufficient unit, capable of handling any situation, no matter how severe the conditions. As well as the general sailing roles, teams also learn how to be plumbers, electricians, tacticians, navigators, cleaners, IT specialists, bakers, sail repairers, weather forecasters and medics.
With limited facilities below deck, crew members “hot bunk” whilst racing and operate a 4 hour on 4 hours off ”watch pattern”. Every 8 days 2 crew members take it in turns to operate “mother watch” whereby they prepare the food and drink for the remaining crew, clean the living quarters and complete all the necessary safety and engineering checks. The reward for this being a change into clean clothes and a weekly wash whether it is necessary or not! Normally the domain of seasoned pros, this supreme challenge is taken on by ordinary, everyday people. Having completed a rigorous training course, participants are suited and booted in the latest extreme protection gear to commence the race of their lives - an unparalleled challenge where taxi drivers rub shoulders with chief executives, vicars mix with housewives, students work alongside bankers, and engineers team up with rugby players.
The sea does not distinguish between Olympians or novices. There is nowhere to hide - if Mother Nature throws down the gauntlet, you must be ready to face the same challenges as the pro racer. Navigate the Doldrums en route to South America, endure epic Southern Ocean storms, experience South African sunsets, face the mountainous seas of the North Pacific - and bond with an international crew creating lifelong memories before returning victorious.
Leg 7: USA Coast to Coast
Leg 7 begins under the eyes of the American media as and heads back out into the vast Pacific Ocean. While California and the Baja slip by to port, the talk will be of tactics; inshore or offshore? The inshore current can give a decent ride but, with the land close by, fickle winds affected by night and day temperature can provide an unpredictable breeze. Further offshore, the current can’t help you but more consistent winds can. A poor tactical decision could cost us the race, even at this early stage.
Whatever the decision, the charge south will be a swift one, to begin with. To make life more difficult, the further south you go, the more fluky the breeze gets. Central America typically brings high temperatures and light winds. This is a real test of yacht racing skill. Patiently and constantly trimming your sails to find an extra quarter knot of boat speed will certainly mean the difference between first and last. We won’t be able to switch off for a moment. Ocean racing is like a lengthy game of chess and often the final results only become clear on the last couple of days. With boats sometimes finishing within a few minutes of each other, it’s never over ‘til it’s over. Then from the finish line off Panama City, we will then stand by for one of the engineering wonders of the world: the Panama Canal.
We will rise through the locks on the Pacific side up to Gatun freshwater lake, fed from the surrounding rain forests. Then it’s down the locks on the other side and the waters of the Atlantic welcome the race fleet again. The next part of the race takes us north through the blue water sailing playground of the Caribbean and will expect tropical heat, trade winds and squalls. Challenges will come from every point of the compass all the way up to New York. As we draw closer, we won’t be surprised if thunderstorms make a regular appearance over the horizon. As we sail past the Statue of Liberty and moor close to Ground Zero, we will probably be the only people in the city who have arrived from the west coast by sea. The city never sleeps, and whilst fatigued we will hopefully have some serious celebrating to do after taking on such a tough mental and physical challenge.
Leg 8: The Atlantic Homecoming
While this might be the homeward bound leg, there is plenty of racing still to be done. With more individual races, an Atlantic crossing and homecoming, this is one of the most sought-after legs on the race. And, with almost 40,000 miles of racing already behind the fleet, there are still valuable racing points to be won. Third place on the overall race has been decided on the last race of Leg 8 on the last two Clipper Race editions.
The weather might be mixed but the competition is hot, with teams battling it out for the final race points. The first part of this Leg takes us north and a check of the sea temperature will tell you when your racing yacht is getting a helping push from the Gulf Stream. A further check will tell you when it gives way to the cooler Labrador Current and the mixture in seawater often produces unpredictable fog banks. This last ocean race across the Atlantic might seem like familiar ground, especially to a Round The World crew, but nobody will take this mighty ocean for granted. We will need to stay focussed, race hard - and sail safe. The route will have waypoints to avoid any risk from ice and will take us close to the Flemish Cap, a fishing ground made famous by the book and film, The Perfect Storm.
Then it’s a 2,000-mile blast back towards Europe and one of the warmest welcomes of the whole race in Derry-Londonderry, a week-long celebration to mark everyone’s achievements - we can expect concerts, festivals and an endless flow of Guinness!
With the odyssey almost over, it’s a great place to gather your thoughts and put our achievements into perspective. But still the challenges come thick and fast. A short and intense race from Ireland back to the finish at the Albert Docks in Liverpool, more important race points to collect and a huge welcome awaits from friends and family.
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