7 Pieces of Advice to Crew on the Clipper Round the World Race

in Clipper Talesย / Life at Sea
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henri lloyd clipper round the world race crew

The start of the 2015-2016 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is exactly 4 weeks away. Which means there are about 250 amateur crew from all over the world who’ve signed up for Leg 1 of the race. And about half the crew on each boat have taken a huge leap and committed to doing the full round-the-world-race, which will take about 10 months to complete.

Right now, these brave souls are packing up their houses, quitting their jobs, fretting, preparing, making lists, ordering dry bags and waterproof gear on Amazon.com and trying hard to explain to confused loved ones why this mad adventure is a good idea. Some may even be trying to explain to themselves why the hell they’re doing this.

But whether they’re ready or not, this race is happening. It starts in London on August 30th and anyone who is racing on Leg 1 from England to Brazil, regardless of their prior sailing experience, will be catapulted into the learning curve of a lifetime.

I know this because I’ve been there.

 

Leg 3 - Southern Ocean - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 13/14Yep, that’s me, enhanced by Brian Carlin’s amazing photography.

Ryan and I raced on Legs 1 and 3 in the 2013-2014 Clipper Race; I crewed on Henri Lloyd and Ryan crewed on PSP Logistics. And that was meant to be the end of it. But I loved the experience so much, I got back on my boat for the last race, Leg 8, which finished in London in September 2014, bringing the whole experience full circle for me. It was a privilege to do the final race of the Clipper with my team, who not only won the race from Derry to Den Helder, but also won the full round-the-world race.

So when my friend and Clipper training skipper for Levels 1 and 2, Jim Prendergast, messaged me to say he’d gotten the job as one of the 12 Clipper Race Skippers on the upcoming race, I literally squealed with excitement. I was thrilled he would get to have this experience and I was also interested in following his progress as he makes his way around the world with his crew this year.

 

Jim Prendergast and Tasha Hacker clipper race trainingJim and I both have our serious faces on for Level 1 Clipper Race Training.

And then Jim asked if I had any advice for his boat, since I crewed on the winning boat in the ’13-’14 race, and since he now had the weighty responsibility of turning his crew into a winning team. I couldn’t help but laugh nervously. Advice? From me? The woman who cracked her head open on the first day of her Level 1 training, forcing Jim to turn the boat around and take me to the hospital?

This would require rubbing the scar on my head, opening a bottle of wine and having a good, hard think. Which is exactly what I did. So, if you’re crewing in the Clipper Race, or thinking of signing up for Clipper, or you’re at all interested in ocean racing, here are my 7 pieces of advice for Clipper Race crew based on my experiences racing on Henri Lloyd with Skipper Eric Holden and an amazing crew from all backgrounds and ranging in age from 18 to 73.

 

the women of henri lloyd clipper raceThe amazing women I raced with on Henri Lloyd in Leg 8.
1. Boat harmony is paramount

On land, when you’re warm, well-rested, well-fed and in your right mind, you would probably say that the best way to deal with conflict is to confront it immediately so feelings don’t fester and cause resentment.

But on the boat, everyone goes through periods when they are not at their best. The conditions and general lack of comfort means people can be irritable, irrational and not mentally at their strongest. And putting a bunch of irritable, irrational people together in a small space for weeks, maybe months on end, means that huge conflicts can erupt from the smallest things, like the coffee running out, the best bunks being taken or a spinnaker being wooled incorrectly, so it has to be wooled again. And when a conflict erupts, it affects the mood of the entire boat. And it can turn an otherwise cohesive team of adults into a gaggle of petty children.

 

clipper round the world race leg 8 henri lloydA beautiful picture of some very cold, uncomfortable crew.

You do not want to spend weeks or months at sea with petty children, so it’s important to ask yourself this question before you decide to voice your beef with someone:

Will this improve the atmosphere on board?

If the answer is “no,” then hold that thought until you get to port. Sure, your gripes might come gushing out like water from a burst dam between beer #4 and #10, but at least then you’ll have some space in which to get away from all the people you might have just insulted.

Or, better yet, you might not even remember what you were upset about because now you’re on land. And because steak. And showers. Who can stay mad with a belly full of meat, armpits that smell of roses and a scalp that no longer itches from salt-water build-up?

But, more importantly, when you’re in port, take the time to hang out with your crew and get to know them when everyone is relaxed and no longer stressed. By getting to know the people you race with 24/7 for weeks on end at sea, you’ll understand better how to navigate conflicts and defuse them because you’ll have a deeper understanding of the different personalities on your boat.

Conflicts create divisions amongst the crew, which is what creates an unhappy environment onboard. An unhappy crew don’t work well together and crew that don’t work well together don’t race well together. It’s as simple as that.

Remember, your crew are not your competition; it’s the boat ahead of you, just over the horizon.

psp logistics clipper raceThe opponent. That’s Ryan on the bow, asking for a whooping.
2. Pay it forward

You will have moments when you will wonder what the hell you were thinking when you signed up to cram yourself into a sweaty, fiberglass closet with 20 people you’ve never met before.

But know this: a happy boat is a winning boat. And compassion is the key to happiness on board.

So when you’re having a good day (and there will be incredible days), be aware of the people around you who are having a bad day and make the effort to help lift at least one person out of their misery.

 

southern ocean henri lloyd clipper raceYou know someone’s having a bad day when they can’t make it to their bed.

For example, when you’re mother, be the best mother you can possibly be. Serving up a good meal lifts crew morale immediately. Making coffee for everyone when it’s not meal time has an amazing way of making people smile and swell with gratitude for such a seemingly small gesture.

If someone is looking more tired than you are, and you have extra energy, offer to give them an hour off watch and take the hour for them on deck. If someone is sick, maybe let them sleep an extra watch or offer them a better bunk.

These sound like small things, but they can have a huge impact, especially the longer you are at sea and the more uncomfortable the conditions get. And the truth is, in a few night’s time, you’ll be the one who is sick or so tired you can’t keep your eyes open on deck. And maybe all you’ll need is a gesture of compassion to lift you up.

If every crew member takes it upon herself to lift someone out of a funk when they need it, then the whole boat collectively lifts itself out of a funk every day. And, trust me, that boat will go faster as a result.

 

Henri Lloyd Position Reports Clipper RaceWhiteboard showing position updates helped us focus on our goal: to do our best.
3. Strive for equality, not uniformity

Equality on the boat means everyone has the right to grow as sailors, enjoy the experience and learn in the process.

What it doesn’t mean is everyone has to contribute equally or do the same jobs.

You will have the full spectrum of backgrounds on your boat — those who have sailed before, those who have never sailed, the strong, the injured, the old, the young, the athletes, those who’ve never played a team sport, the engineers and the leaders.

Everyone on board has strengths and weaknesses. A winning boat doesn’t rotate regardless of ability. You wouldn’t send someone with a fear of heights up the mast in a storm; that would be pointless and unnecessary. Likewise, a call for help on deck doesn’t mean everyone should go up. Those who are willing and able are the best crew to step forward when needed.

 

henri-lloyd-southern-ocean-clipper-race.jpgThis motley crew is made up of people from all ages and background, all of whom have something to offer.
4. Whatever sacrifices you’ve made to get here, this is only the beginning

Everyone has made sacrifices to get on this race. Some have taken out loans to pay for this experience, some have left children and family at home, some have traveled long distances, started a fitness regime or made a major life change to get where they are now.

But these sacrifices are just the beginning. The most successful boats make the most sacrifices to win. Some boats curb their weight limits, some sleep only on the high side and some exhaust their crew with countless and constant sail changes to get the most out of the wind.

Some of the sacrifices you will be asked to make will include cleaning the heads, emptying the bilge, giving the lower bunks to those less able-bodied, cooking in the galley in the sweltering heat and helping out on deck in your off-watch. And that’s just naming a few small sacrifices.

If you know and expect you will make sacrifices on this race, you will feel less put out by those sacrifices in the moment. It is about the long game; the race is a marathon and the more work you put into every aspect of being on this race, the more you will get out of it.

 

cleaning the bilge clipper raceNo one loves cleaning the bilge. But crew mate Meg Reilly still does it with a smile.
5. Rid yourself of fixed expectations

Life-changing experiences come to those who are open to learning something new. If you come onboard with a fixed idea of what your experience in the Clipper Race should look and feel like, then you may be shutting out opportunities to discover something new about yourself.

Doing the Clipper Race will open your mind and expose things about yourself and others that you can’t possibly predict. Don’t limit your experience by deciding what should happen before you get on board — do your best in training and understand that the experience of racing and crossing oceans will be completely different from what you might expect. You will learn more about yourself at sea than you can possibly imagine…if you’re open to it.

 

southern-ocean-clipper-race-henri-lloyd.jpgYou might not expect to be at the bow in a storm. Surprise!
6. Be prepared to learn and teach simultaneously

Whether it’s prior sailing experience, leadership ability, physical strength, mental fortitude, or a specific skill, everyone on board has something to offer, something to teach and something to learn.

Open your heart to those opportunities and don’t let your pride get in the way of learning. If you don’t know how to do something, ask questions. If you know how to do something that others don’t, be patient and teach it to someone else. The more skills a crew can acquire from each other without burdening the skipper, the more cohesive the boat will be and the faster the team will progress.

 

henri lloyd leg 8 clipper round the world raceBy Leg 8, Henri Lloyd was great at coaching each other and learning new skills.
7. Any boat can win

That is the truth. Regardless of who your skipper is or how strong or weak your crew are, if you adhere to the above six points, then your boat will be in the running to win.

 

Henri Lloyd leg 2 winners clipper raceHenri Lloyd, winners of the 13-14 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

post-line-divide
Good luck everyone! And remember to enjoy the experience while you’re in it, and not just in hindsight. Every day will present a new, extraordinary opportunity to learn. Be present in the experience and soak it up.

Love,

Tasha

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20 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Daniel Halenko August 3, 2015, 2:05 am

    Awesome read @ half six in the morning before my level 4.

    Written with passion and as on mark as I can only feel at this stage it is.

    Thanks Tasha, made me smile from ear to ear ๐Ÿ™‚

    Daniel Halenko x

    • Tasha August 3, 2015, 3:53 am

      Hi Daniel,
      Good luck on your Level 4! You will love it! What boat are you racing on? A month will disappear fast!
      Tasha

  • Niall Healy August 3, 2015, 7:04 am

    Great story Tasha. The experience of the race teaches many things that are so valuable in life.

    I learned a great moto for the race from Round the Worlder Jason ‘Action Jackson’ while on board Derry-Londonderry-Doire during Leg 8. We were engaged in the glamorous taks of pumping out the bilge in the crash bulkhead. It was one of those moments when you get some one to one time with a crew mate and learn from their experiemce, which is privilege. As we were makking our way accross the Atlantic the mood for a lot of the RTW crew was reflective. They had spent the last 10 months racing some 35k miles together and not the end was in sight. As a legger i was very intresten in how the experiemce of racing around the world had changed their perspecrive on life. I was asking Jason about the experience and discussing the highs and lows of the adventure. Jason shared three words that seemed to be his mantra and these stick with me to this day. Embrace – Endure – Empathise. These three words seem, to me in any case, to sum up the attitude one needs to nurture to make the most of the experience. Thank you Jason for these,works of wisdom and thank you Tashs for sharing your insight. Bon Voyage.

    • Tasha August 3, 2015, 4:24 pm

      Niall,
      Thanks for sharing that — I love it: Embrace, Endure, Empathize. It is so true! Funny how these experiences are also applicable to human relations on land as well, though just more concentrated on the boat ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Superma August 3, 2015, 1:03 pm

    This had made my day and no one can tell you this accept a crew member who done the race.
    Thank you Tasha for sharing this great story with us. As for the advice, I can tell you that I wil not forget any. You have engaged me with sailing.
    I’ve done all my levels of training for the RTW race.
    I am doing one leg and it is leg8. Team IchorCoal.
    I will be at race start in London and will be at the stop over in cape town as I am from Cape town. RTW crew members that do leg2 and 3, I will be so excited to meet all of you.

    Tasha thank you very much.
    Please like our page on facebook, Sapinda Rainbow Foundation and follow us on twitter @sarainbow.

  • Ruth August 5, 2015, 3:37 pm

    Embrace…Endure…Empathize—-excellent life advice, on or off a boat. Question for you, Tasha, regarding the makeup,of the crew: “some who have never sailed before” ?? How do they do it? What role do they have as a member of the crew? Curious, because that would be me!
    Ruth

    • Tasha August 6, 2015, 9:22 pm

      Ruth,
      I sailed with so many crew who had never stepped foot on a boat before their Level 1 training. So, before we start, just know that: you will be surrounded by people who don’t have experience as well. And therefore, what you achieve and the progress you make depends entirely on your desire to learn. Just step on board as a student of life, and take every new day and new watch with the attitude that you will learn to do something you’ve not done before. Before you know it, you will be the expert on the boat in something. I just can’t tell you what that is just yet because you need to glean it from your experience. But strive to be good at everything you do, and you will find the very thing you’re most good at. And, in the meantime, have a blast! It is the most fun I’ve ever had on a boat, for sure!

  • Pat August 5, 2015, 3:56 pm

    Great advice Tasha! This should be required reading for all of those about to embark on the next race [and all future races for that matter].

    • Tasha August 6, 2015, 9:18 pm

      Thanks, Pat! I really appreciate that. It was hard to distill all those crazy experiences into something very general and what I hoped would be applicable to any racing crew member. So I’m so glad to hear it resonated ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Steve Oconnor August 5, 2015, 6:21 pm

    I throughly enjoyed your magic words of wisdom, gained through your experiences on the clipper race. I have recently completed all the various levels and will be RTW on Team Olivier (LMAX) I sincerely hope to be able to embrace the sentiment you described in such wonderful detail.

    The thought that a simple thank you and words of encouragement go a long way, will certainly stay with me.

    Your descriptions , have made the forthcoming adventure , seem very real now.

    Thank you very much

    • Tasha August 6, 2015, 9:17 pm

      Wow, aren’t you a lucky guy! I really really appreciate your note – it’s wonderful to hear that what I wrote made any sense at all to someone who has not yet stepped on to the Clipper Race! It is the most incredible experience I’ve had to date, so I have no doubt it will have a huge impact on your life, as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Graham Thompson August 11, 2015, 3:14 am

    Hi Tash, remember me….? What wise words but that doesn’t surprise me because it was people like you that made henri lloyd such a great experience for all of us.

    • Tasha August 11, 2015, 1:57 pm

      My dear Graham,
      How could anyone possibly forget you and your solidly positive demeanor, even in the toughest of times out there on the Southern Ocean. It was tough, right? But you and the team handled it so well, and that was evident in our near-victory and very close second place on the podium.

      Thank you so very much for those too kind words — it was the people on Henri Lloyd, you included, that allowed me to get so much out of that experience. It was absolutely unforgettable.

      So good to hear from you.

      xx

  • Zena sSlim August 12, 2015, 5:41 am

    What a fantastic account and advice. My dream is to do this trip and reading this piece has made my heart skip a little at the prospect !

    Thank you !
    Z

    • Tasha August 12, 2015, 12:55 pm

      You’ll love it! I don’t know anyone who’s done the Clipper Race who has regretted it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Graham Thompson October 7, 2015, 10:26 am

    Dear awesome Tasha
    This certainly brought the memories of Leg 3 flooding back – thank you
    AND
    let me know when you are next passing through the UK – please!
    Graham

  • Lawrence Lingard October 7, 2015, 10:38 pm

    loved reading the blog. All so true!
    Happy memories.
    Hope all’s going well,
    L x

  • Douglas February 23, 2016, 7:15 am

    I started investigating the Clipper RTW Race after you mentioned on one of your Cheeky Monkey videos.

    I really want to do the full RTW in 2017-18, with a view of acquiring my own Catamaran and circumnavigating with my wife starting 2019. Have applied and am just waiting for an interview, so a start has been made!

    With something like this, I view it as a personal challenge, and your insights of life onboard, and interacting successfully with your crew, is great advice. I like doing things that are challenge and out of my comfort zone, which the Clipper RTW would definitely be. Heck, I would be will to attemp to climb the mast, even though heights are not my favourite thing. At least I could say I tried then.

    • Tasha February 23, 2016, 10:02 pm

      Wow! How exciting for you! It was an incredible force in my life, for sure, and I have no doubt you will get so much out of the experience. Has your wife thought of doing it, too?

      -Tasha

  • Stuart July 19, 2017, 4:40 pm

    Great read
    Off for my interview on Friday and looking forward to it
    Cheers stuart

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