A sailing voyage around the world that taught me the importance of respect, honesty and humility
The Clipper Race is like a social experiment, putting together 20 people who have never met before in a confined space with an extreme environment– Alex Laline
The opportunity to be part of the Clipper Round the World yacht Race was something I was not gonna let slip. It was racing on big yachts round the world…. It was perfect. Learn about my story in this link
I left Indonesia and moved to the UK, where the race would be departing from in just a few months. I got allocated my team “ClipperTelemed+” and we started training and getting everything ready.
The crew varied from a wide range of ages, nationalities, professions, lifestyles and backgrounds. There were people who were there to accomplish a dream, people who wanted a challenge, people who wanted to win and people who were just happy to finish in one piece.
On ClipperTelemed we were proud to have the oldest crew member of the race, a woman from Texas called Linda who at the time had 69 years of age and also the youngest crew member of the race who had just turned 19, me.
Getting a yacht ready to race round the world it’s not an easy task, you need to take in mind all the food and water you might need, all the spares and equipment you might use, medical equipment, etc. specially when there’s 23 people onboard.
After months of training and getting the boat ready, the time arrived. The time to slip lines from London and point the bow of “ClipperTelemed+” towards Brasil, the first stop of the race, was here.
It’s a strange feeling, to wave goodbye to your loved ones knowing that the next time you’re gonna see them will be in 11 months, after having sailed round the world… it’s unthinkable.
The first days of racing it’s when I realised this was nothing like the kind of racing I was used to. I was used to sail in close proximity to other boats, always comparing your speed with other boats and always motivated to get the extra knot…. This was completely different, we had just left London a few days ago and we already couldn’t see any boats … and we still had more than 3 weeks before arriving to Brasil. It’s when I understood that this wasn’t a race against the other 11 yachts, it’s when I understood that Ocean racing it’s not about you racing against them…. It’s about pushing yourself to go quicker against something you can’t see.
You’re tired, you’re wet, you’re cold, you’re scared… all you can think is about reaching your destination, you think about a warm bath, about having a steak with fries, about sleeping for hours uninterrupted… but the only thing you can think about after you arrive back on land, it’s to slip lines again, to go back to the Oceans and be at the mercy of the elements again… it’s like a drug.
I realised how monotonous Ocean sailing can be sometimes and how quickly your body adapts to the conditions. How you become a part of this “bubble”, where nothing apart from sleep, eat, sail and repeat is relevant. You are completely isolated, you don’t know what’s going on in the world… it’s freedom. I got used to the rhythm of pushing the boat while being tired, to cook while the boat was heeling at 30°, to sleep through loud noises, to have rain showers, to get guided by the stars…
I’ve always respected the Ocean, I’ve always known that it has the last word, but now I realise that back then I was still a bit over-confident and that on the Ocean, as soon as you turn your back to the elements, they bite you back. That’s what happened when we were for the first time in the Southern Ocean… a block holding the Spinnaker halyard broke at the top of the mast and the only way to take the big sail down was to send someone up the 30m mast while the big sea state was throwing the boat up and down. That someone was me, so after a long night-watch, at dawn, I put the harness on and went to the top to get rid of the sail. Everything was going according to plan, the sail came down and I just had to come down, but then is when things started going wrong. I started getting very tired and I was struggling to hold onto the rig, it was at that point when a big wave hit the side of the boat, making it lean to her side and sending me flying out of control. I swung for a short period of time before I managed to grab hold of a spreader, but the problem was that the lines I had gone up with were twisted around the mast and I couldn’t come down… what followed next was amazing. A bunch of people who hadn’t met before, all scared, all wet, all tired… started working together to come up with a plan on how to get me down. It was spectacular to watch, although I wasn’t paying much attention on what was going down on the deck from the top of the mast to be honest.
The crew managed to get me down and after checking if I had broken anything and making sure I was fine we restarted racing. I was lucky to come out with only a few scratches and bruises.
We went through big storms, moments of tension, moments of absolute pleasure, moments of thinking about giving up, moments of anger, moments of sadness… sailing pass Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leewin, through the Bass Strait, sailing in the South China and North Sea sailing across the Atlantic, Indic, Southern and Pacific Oceans and 11 months after the race started, there we were, sailing into London after having circumnavigated the world…. even to this day it’s still hard to believe what we achieved
The Clipper Round the World wasn’t just about the sailing, it was all about the people around you, taking care of each other in extreme conditions. Every one of us was outside their comfort zone but together we managed to push and give the best of each other.
In the middle of the race I knew I wanted to do this, I wanted to devote myself to sailing, I wanted to explore places and I wanted to race on a more professional level. So as soon as I got back to London I knew this was just the start of my sailing career. Check out what followed in this link