• Steve Hodges

The adventure begins.

Updated: Nov 2, 2019

What an interesting day. Billed as an ‘interview’ for the 2021/2022 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race I would suggest it was more a getting to you know session. Unlike a more traditional interview the day was split into two halves, the first half of which was with the extremely personable and friendly Della telling us all about her experience of The Clipper Race. Della is a great advert for someone who has gone ‘all in’ with a brilliant tale of throwing caution to the wind (forgive the pun) and winding up doing one full and one almost full circumnavigation.

The door to a world of adventure !

Della is honest, frank and detailed when she is setting out of expectations of the event. Everything is discussed and no questions are off limits. With her personal experience she has seen many aspects of the race from many angles and in many different circumstances. Her stories are interesting, descriptive and personal.

From a potential crew perspective, there is a fascinating selection of people in the room. 12 of us in total, split pretty much 50:50 men and women but a verity of ages and backgrounds. It is an excellent cross section of society but I am shocked by the lack of experienced sailors in the room. I am by a country mile the most experienced yachtsman, which is a real surprise to me. I anticipated many, many more coastal cruisers looking for the next level of adventure but am met largely with non-sailors, dingy sailors or people who have only sailed on holiday.

What is very apparent in the room is that there is a commonality in spirit. Everyone has a different motivation for being there but everyone is looking for challenge and adventure, albeit on a verity of levels. Also a common feature is a willingness to mix in with each other and converse. Everyone is happy to chat over coffee and lunch and equally when it comes to sharing cars to get to the viewing of the training boats a mile down there road, there are no shortage of offers for those of us who have come by train. A very friendly and engaging bunch and already a bizarre sense of ‘team’.

The main questions or concerns from the team where about the heat, the cold, the toilet facilities, personal hygiene, that lack of privacy, the lack of sleep and seasickness. Della handled them all with demonstrable examples and seemingly complete honesty. There was no dressing up the situation but at the same time she was pretty clear that it was a huge adventure, it was ‘life changing’ and it would balance enjoyment with challenge in equal proportions.

Learning about the training patterns, the process the costs and other practical information was also interesting but the bit I found most interesting was the sense of community around The Clipper Race. Fewer than 6,000 I think she said had done the race and it creates a family-esk community of interest. Crew mates, training buddies, bunk buddies, the whole Clipper family and then the extended alumni of all those who have gone before – all join together to form a large community based around a shared experience be it one leg or the full circumnavigation. Equally it would seem that friends of crew, relatives and even friends of friends become interested in tracking your progress and stories even extend to reinvigorated family relationships with interest parties galvanised by a common interest in the crew.

The Clipper Race Family

Following a quick round of sandwiches and coffee, a toilet break and some more chatting there was the second half of the day. A 121 interview with a lovely chap called Will who was really just interested in making sure I wasn’t a compete nutter. He wanted to understand my sailing and life experience, my reasons for being there, what I wanted to get out of it and what I could contribute to the team. I think unless you are a social menace or maniac this bit is much of formality but it was certainly very interesting to get his view of the race and the process in support of what Della has been telling us. We chatted about human behavior, team work, sailing capability, relationships and alike and I let him know that I was planning on documented my story along this 18 month journey.

I have spoken to people about the experience and so I sort of had lots of practical details but what I really took away from today is that while The Clipper Race provides incredible personal challenge there is a genuine sense of belonging to something bigger, something that in NLP we would consider the principles of the Logical Levels – a join sense of purpose and identity. And it all rooted in positivity and excitement.

After the chat, we headed off to look at the training boat, an old 68 footer which was everything I had been set-up to expect. Big. Beautiful but basic in terms of home comforts, and conversely quite complex in terms of rigging and technical equipment, certainly compared to my little Colvic 35 footer. She looked sturdy and safe and well kitted out. Hopefully home for a week in the spring and a week in the summer if I am indeed selected.

One of the 68 foot training vessels

Training starts in March. So assuming I get an email early next week, sign the contract, pay my £500 deposit and then start the payment plan, I will be in. I am looking at leg 2 which is currently Uruguay to Cape Town. Della thinks I will feel short changed if that is all I do but time is, as always, my enemy and with four weeks of training and then 24 days of being away I will struggle to find any more time over the next two years. But we will see, you can book other legs if they are available quite late on so I will commit to Leg 2 and see where life takes me.

Instagram picture from Leg 2

I am fascinated to see how this all pans out. The team at The Clipper Race are friendly and honest and welcoming, the people I met today all have something burning inside them that the need to deal with and are choosing to do it by putting their lives on the line and tackling some of the most mentally and physically challenging events available to the average person in the street.

So I await the email Monday, and then the adventure begins. I will keep a detailed trail of what is going on in this blog and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

#clipperrace @clipperace #theraceofyourlife

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