“Robert Granville, Nick Golding, Domenico Grazzani, Tasha Hacker…”
“Holy shit, that’s me!” I screamed, jumping up from my seat and reaching over to high-five Ryan.
After a morning of chugging coffee, chewing my nails and pacing back and forth in anticipation of this moment, it was a relief to hear my name and know my fate had been sealed.
Contrary to your guesses, I was not at a Hogwarts’ ceremony with Harry Potter waiting to find out which house the Sorting Hat would choose me for. Rather, I was watching the live broadcast from England of Crew Allocation for the Clipper Round the World Race.
Yep, that’s right. I’m going to be an ocean racer.
The Clipper race is the closest an amateur sailor will ever come to doing something like the Volvo Ocean Race; a round-the-world adventure on stripped down, 70-foot racing boats. It is the only race in the world to take hundreds of amateur sailors, train them specifically for ocean racing, and place them on racing monohulls to battle it out at sea on a circumnavigation. There are 12 boats in total, each carrying 22 amateur crew and 1 professional skipper.
Before you ask, we were completely sober when we signed ourselves up for this insane challenge. Ryan and I even signed up to crew on two different boats, which means we won’t be racing together. We’ll both be doing two out of the eight legs making up the full round-the-world race. And, of course, Ryan and I have a little rum wager on who’s going to win.
We’ll be setting out with the fleet on Leg 1, which includes two races: the first starting in Southern England and finishing in Brest, France, and then after a 2-3 day layover, we’ll be heading off to the west coast of Brazil. The entire leg covers nearly 4,500 nautical miles, taking us out of the English Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, across the Atlantic Ocean and the equator and down the Brazilian coast. We’ll tackle strong tides, confused seas, the fluky conditions of the infamous doldrums, and both cold and hot weather.
Once we are safely deposited on Brazilian soil, we’ll have about 30 days to get to South Africa and meet our boats again for the third leg of the Clipper, which will start in Cape Town and finish in Western Australia. This epic 4,700-nautical-mile leg takes us across the South Indian Ocean and the treacherous Southern Ocean, which will have us facing torrential rains and fast-moving weather systems, fighting large, powerful depressions, surfing down monstrous waves at speeds of up to 30 knots and hopefully dropping us at the doorstep of a well-stocked pub when we finally reach Australia.
The Clipper team has three months to train us and a fleet of 650 amateurs to be ready to take on this awesome challenge.
But not to worry. As the Clipper Founder, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said in an inspiring speech he gave on Crew Allocation Day, “We’re giving you about the finest training anyone has developed for what you’re taking on. We train you to go out and sail oceans. And there’s not many people who do it. More people have climbed Mt. Everest than have sailed around the world.”
What’s more, I’ll be covering the experience from start to finish here on Turf to Surf. So stay tuned for more news about the Clipper race and our upcoming training in England.
I know this experience is going to be nothing short of amazing and difficult and life-changing. So, despite the concerns I have about this adventure, I’m banking on the advice of that oft-quoted fellow, Mark Twain, who said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.”
Featured photo credit: Clipper Ventures Plc