4. Curiosity ……… or what my birthday socks “said” to me!

Today is my birthday.

Like lots of other birthday boys today I got a pair of socks……… but mine were twin ankle length, 100% waterproof and breathable, with merino wool lining and a hydrophilic membrane (apparently!). This is what my socks “said” to me:

Curiosity is at the heart of the human spirit. It is what makes you dream of adventure. It is what pushes you to look over the next hill. It spurs you on to cross rivers and fields to see a new horizon. You can defy nature’s attempts to hold you back and stand steadfast – committed to your goal to take on the challenge when others would turn back. Your achievements are what defines you.

……………… which is just as well, as the socks looks slightly more appealing than my waterproof, merino wool, rib knit boxers!!!!!!!


IMG_4738   IMG_4753

3. Its All Really A Question of Balance!

Sailing on a Clipper 70 racing yacht is demanding. Crew, be they “round-the-worlders” or “single-leggers” or doing their own half-circumnavigation, will burn an average of 5000 calories a day and have no more than 4 hours sleep at any one time. Its hard strenuous work that will only get harder the more tired I become. Facing Mother Nature at her rawest, most angry moments, I’d rather like to put up a good fight. I’m hoping my body will say thank you if given a head start before pushing it in the South Atlantic, Southern Ocean, North Pacific and North Atlantic ……….. so its time to start improving my fitness ……….  It’s All Really A Question of Balance.

Getting fit(ter) is therefore an important prerequisite and will require focus on the following 5 areas:

  • healthy eating
  • muscle tone
  • aerobic fitness and stamina
  • stretching
  • core strength and balance……………….. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.

Now some of this is fairly obvious and some has an added sailing twist. Yes, I’m going to work on lowering my fat intake but while lots of diet and fitness programmes will stress the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, BOTH will be a luxury onboard during the race …………….. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.

Muscle tone should be improved gradually so its many repetitions of small free weights for me rather than a few repetitions of big weights and resistance machines. When it comes to aerobic fitness its time to step up my exercise programme a notch every week and introduce more variety. So where I currently walk I will walk longer. I will start to walk faster. Swimming is going to reappear. Instead of walking upstairs, I will be running. Lunchtimes at home are going to include a bit more brisk walking,  I might even walk more quickly to and from the pub! I’m introducing 10 minutes of stretching exercises into my daily routine. The suppler and limber my muscles and tendons are, the less likely I am to pull them. I will be more agile when moving around on a heaving wet deck or whilst climbing over and around things at a 45 degree angle below deck. Over time I aim to introduce sit ups, push ups and planking…………..It’s All Really A Question of Balance.

Sit ups, push ups and planking will all help core strength. Core strength is essential. Just helming a 70ft yacht in certain conditions can feel like a full body work out and once I have started to improve my core strength I need to work on my balance …… core strength, agility and balance are all closely intertwined…………. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.

I have to learn to feel what my vestibular system (located in my inner ear!) is telling me. The more sensitive I am to this the better my balance will be.  I need to start by closing my eyes and concentrating on standing totally straight and upright with my feet close together or even touching. I will  feel my body swaying slightly, constantly correcting my balance. Time and patience need to be devoted to this exercise. Then I am to try standing on one leg, flamingo-like, for 30 second stints. If I start to lose my balance, I should squat down to regain stability. Apparently it helps to focus on an object close by to begin with as the eye will help detect subtle movements and aid my body in correcting them. This exercise requires me to progressively try to focus on points further and further away until I am looking at the horizon. The official Clipper guidance on all this goes on to say,

“Standing in the middle of a park or a field performing this exercise may look a little odd, but keeping nearby objects out of your peripheral vision will dramatically improve your rate of progress. Once you are confident with this exercise, try to do the same with your eyes closed. Over time you should be able to stand on one leg, with your eyes closed, without having to squat for at least 30 seconds.”


gotomeer-bonaire-2535963-o        IMG_4725

2. Clipper 2017-2018 Race Facts

  • The Clipper Race is the biggest round-the-world ocean race, and is also regarded as one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet.
  • At 40,000 nautical miles long and taking almost a year to complete, it consists of twelve teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts.
  • 712 crew, representing 41 different nationalities are signed up to compete in the Clipper 2017-2018 Race, making this edition the biggest event to date. Crew can choose to take part in either the entire race or one or more of its eight legs.
  • The Clipper 2017-2018 race set sail on Sunday 20 August from Liverpool’s Albert Dock, and this will be the event’s eleventh edition. It will return to Liverpool on Saturday 28 July 2018.
  • The 2017-18 edition will be the fourth time the Clipper Race route has visited Liverpool, making it the most frequented Clipper Race stopover port.
  • The Clipper Race last visited Liverpool a decade ago during the 2007-08 edition.
  • The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing.
  • 40 per cent of crew are novices and have never sailed before starting a comprehensive training programme ahead of their adventure. It is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors.
  • There is (thankfully!!) no upper age limit, the oldest competitor to date was 74. Crew must be over 18 before starting the race.
  • This unique challenge brings together everyone from chief executives to taxi drivers, nurses and firemen, farmers, Olympians, airline pilots and students.
  • The Official Race Charity is UNICEF, who have been gifted a team yacht entry for the 2017-18 edition. During the 2015-16 edition, supporters and Clipper Race Partners raised over £323,000 for the charity. For the 2017-18 edition there is a £400,000 target.
  • The overall route is split into a series of 13 races and points are awarded for each race. The team with the highest cumulative points at the end of the final race wins the series, and the Clipper Race trophy.
  • The Clipper 2017-18 Race will visit Liverpool, Punta del Este (Uruguay), Cape Town (South Africa), Freemantle (Western Australia), Sydney (New South Wales), Hobart (Tasmania), The Whitsunday’s (Queensland), Sanya (china), Qingdao (China), Seattle (USA), the Panama canal (Panama), New York (USA), Derry-Londonderry (Northern Ireland and then return to Liverpool. The route for 2019-2020 is not yet published.

1. So How Did It All Start???

People of a “certain” age know where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. Others know where they were and what they were doing when Neil Armstrong took his “one small step.” Maybe you can remember your first day at school? When you moved house. When you decided to change jobs. Can you remember what you were doing when the last “significant” event happened in your life? When you made that last decision to DO something really significant, adventurous, challenging and exciting?

Well “Clipper” came to me ……………………………………………………. on a golf course. Actually to be really accurate ….. in the Clubhouse over a beer but you get the idea. Ironically it was a golf course in a county with no coastline and couldn’t be further from the sea. Indeed the only maritime link it has is “Aqua” in the name and water on 6 of its holes which my golf ball has a pretty unerring ability to find on those occasions when I am not trying to hack it out of the trees.

A chap called Ron Biggs was responsible. Not to be confused with The Great Train Robber of the same name, despite a criminal tendency when it comes to recording golf scores, Ron passed me the official guide to the Clipper 2017-2018 Race and I was hooked. I read it from cover to cover and never said a word. Sure I had heard of Clipper before and I do recall seeing the “Achieve Something Remarkable” posters on the Underground in London. But I’d never really had the opportunity before. Nor for that matter the inclination. And ….. that slight nagging voice in my head pointed out …… you could count the number of time I’ve been afloat in a yacht in the last 35 years on the fingers of one hand. So for the moment I kept my council.

And so I read ……. and I googled……. and I visited the Clipper website ………. and I talked about it with Ruth ……….. and one night I drove across to Leeds to listen to a crew briefing and meet people who had done all or part of the Race in the past, and some more people who were thinking about racing in the future. Some time ago Ruth had bought me an RYA Day Skipper all-in-one course at Plas Menai in the Menai Straits (Why she did this is maybe a subject for a future blog!) and so off I went to try out this sailing malarkey. I was determined that if I didn’t like sailing (unlikely) or sailing didn’t like me (possible) that  would kick thoughts of Clipper into touch and no one would be any the wiser…………….. within a week I was heading down to Clipper HQ for my interview!

What followed ….. contract, medical, insurance, off to the Small Boats Club in London with Ruth and then Clipper Level 1 training (and a small accident) will all follow in subsequent blogs!