An endurance test like no other, raced by people like you…
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is an epic eleven-month adventure taken on by amateur sailors. Racing across the world’s most challenging oceans, crew circumnavigate the globe on board a fleet of identical Clipper 70ft ocean racing yachts guided by a professional skipper. People from all over the world choose to take on the full circumnavigation or compete in one of more of the eight individual legs and must complete a comprehensive training programme before setting off on the adventure of a lifetime.
The journey for crew often starts long before the Race Start and continues long after they’ve stepped off their boat. As the current race has just completed Leg 1 from Liverpool to Punta del Este we caught up with Grace Kitching who sailed from Qingdao in China back to London on board Team PSP Logistics, crossing both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as part of Legs 6, 7 & 8 in the Clipper 2015-16 Race.
“My introduction to the Clipper Race was when the 50/50 Clipper Race tube advert caught my eye. In the midst of post-holiday blues, sat on the London Underground, the iconic image and slogan ‘Achieve something remarkable’ was staring straight at me,” says 27 year-old Grace, a Communications Officer from Yorkshire. “Two and half years later I’ve sailed nearly 20,000nm, crossed oceans, visited new parts of the world, made an incredibly close group of friends and changed career.
“I have always enjoyed team sport, hockey and horse riding predominantly but I had never taken on a major challenge. With friends who had run marathons, climbed mountains and travelled the world I was itching for a change both personally and professionally. Whilst on holiday, my sister and I decided to do something a bit different and complete a competent crew course to learn how to sail. I was hooked, the power of the boat, learning new skills and team work. Once I had spotted the tube advert and after a bit of Googling I learnt all about the Clipper Race. Knowing that so few people have sailed across an ocean, that the race provided the training necessary, that it was a competition but also highly team focused, with the added opportunity to travel in a totally different way, I knew it was the challenge for me.”
“Time and finances play a big part in any personal challenge – both the cost and opportunity cost of what you could be earning whilst away. It can also be a massive risk in terms of your career. To take time out can be difficult, but I looked at it as an investment in myself. The ‘yes’ mentality that came with signing up to take part has since opened many doors for me.
“Shortly after signing up to take part I was shown a job advert for a six-month internship in London working for a small but influential charity, Women in Sport. The timing was perfect it fit just before I was set to join the Clipper Race and with a leap of faith, fresh CV and train to London I secured myself an opportunity to move from management to communications and I loved it. It was another major risk, to not only give up what was my job and career path at the time – a training scheme with Tesco – but to move to London and then set sail for 6 months. This was my gap year and I decided to throw everything at it.
“My team, PSP Logistics, was an international crew made up of 18-72 year olds from all walks of life and all there for different reasons. That diverse group of people were somehow supposed to come together and race across the world’s toughest oceans and we did! Led by a skipper who is the only professional sailor on board and the rest of the crew is allocated to have a fair mix of both the experienced amateur sailor and total newbies. Around 40% like me, have never sailed before.
“Though often asked about the race it’s so hard to try to fully describe your experience, only those few who have done it can really appreciate the magnitude of the challenge we all undertook. Lucky for me I also shared the experience with my older sister, so will always have someone to reminisce with as she sailed half way round the world on Team Garmin.
“The hardest parts of the race were the weather extremes – working in conditions of intense heat or cold, depending on where you are.
“Crossing the North Pacific Ocean was one of my highlights, but by far the toughest thing I have ever done. 35 days of being, cold, wet and exhausted. Battling through storm force winds, surfing down waves the size of houses and sail changes on the bow in sleet and snow. Yet it was by far my favourite Leg. The best moments were those times when you’ve had a really tough watch, you ache from feet to fingertips, you’ve changed numerous sails to make the boat go just that little but faster, fixed whatever problem or challenge you faced that day. And then afterwards you all just sit there, adrenaline still pumping and utterly exhausted but you look around and everyone is just beaming from ear to ear.
“Alongside that, the Clipper Race is a true test of endurance as it is not all slamming waves and strong winds. Some of the most difficult times can be those when there is no wind, when you are struggling to get the boat’s speed just above floating with the tide. Testing your patience and frustrating every competitive bone in your body.
“With around 20 crew on board at one time, living, eating, sleeping and racing together life on board is another huge challenge. All whilst often on an angle of about 40 degrees and on a yacht where the floor space is about the size of a large living room can be extremely testing. You share duties from cooking and cleaning, to navigating and engineering. Onboard you can learn to steer the boat, work the lines in the pit and make the sail changes happen on the bow. When you get to port, you have to look after the boat, cleaning, restocking, and maintaining both below and above deck.
“The Clipper Race truly is a challenge like no other, not only a personal accomplishment. The race provided huge personal development, giving me skills and confidence that have helped me to make a career change that I needed and wanted, a variety of opportunities, experiences and challenges and also contacts, friends, and memories that will last a lifetime.”
The Clipper Race’s global route commenced in August from Liverpool and is currently in Punta del Este before racing onto Cape Town, Fremantle, Sydney, Hobart, Whitsundays, Sanya, Qingdao, Seattle, Panama, New York, and Derry Londonderry and finishing in Liverpool on 28 July 2018.
Della Parsons, twice circumnavigator on the Clipper Race, will be presenting on October 7th at WAExpo 2017, the flagship event of the Women’s Adventure Expo, a social enterprise celebrating and championing female adventure. To book tickets, find out more and hear Della speak click here: WAExpo 2017
To find out more about the race visit Clipper Round the World Race.