Technically not, not only because I still have two races to go on Leg 4, but also I still have 7 months to go until Liverpool. But being in Sydney feels halfway round.
I certainly feel like I’ve spent enough time on the boat. The start of this race was quite tough for me, since I didn’t particularly enjoy Leg 3 and we only had 5 days to rest in Fremantle, which is nowhere near enough. I spent the second half of Leg 3 (the South Indian Ocean) thinking of other things I could be doing with my time, and the first week of this last race to Sydney in a similar I-hate-this-boat mood. There’s a few reasons for this…
Firstly, I feel like I’ve already done what I set out to do. I didn’t (and still don’t) have any particular desire to complete a circumnavigation by sail. I joined to gain experience, try some ocean crossing, maybe later on be a watch leader, and generally be a better sailor. Unfortunately I vastly overestimated the level of sailing experience of the rest of my crew, with the result that I was watch leader continuously from Gosport to Fremantle – which is rather exhausting, mentally. (The reason I enjoy chef duty on the boat so much is it means I don’t have to think about sailing for 24 hours!) I know that one never stops learning; it’s certainly not like I’ve learnt everything and I’ve finished. But… there are Yachtmaster courses in Australia, and the Whitsundays seem an excellent place to gain some mate/skippering experience in coastal and tidal seas.
It also turns out that I enjoy ocean racing less than I expected. Coastal sailing, exploring bits of land and sea and the boundary between the two, I have done a fair amount of over the last few years and enjoyed it immensely. Although ocean sailing is certainly not all the same, in general I find it much less interesting. (Occasionally though it really is awesome – watching glow-in-the-dark dolphins swim around the boat under a starry sky, surfing down huge swells at 20 knots with the cavitation roaring underneath the boat, the wandering albatrosses silently soaring in front of the boat…) If I did sail professionally, I imagine it would be something like teaching, which usually means day sailing.
On the other hand, if I wanted to go back into a job that doesn’t need another month or three of training, now would seem like a good time to continue my travels on land (before the money runs out). I’d like to see more of Australia; I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand which isn’t far away. I could travel the other half of the world by air and land, a road trip across North America on the way home, and maybe more places. I’m in a very enviable position of not having any commitments back home and still having some savings; I could select destinations on the basis of interest and where the next flight happens to go… an early-mid-life ‘gap year’ is very tempting. Going to the Blue Mountains today certainly didn’t help – it made me realise how much I miss mountains, I could’ve spent another 5 days there easily!
Finally, I can say with confidence that the Clipper 70 is my least favourite boat I have ever sailed. It’s sturdy, yes, it’s easy to maintain and it sails very well downwind. However, it’s clear neither crew safety* nor crew convenience were in mind when they were designed, and they are absolutely awful at sailing upwind. Going downwind in a boat designed to sail upwind is simply a bit slower; going upwind in a boat designed to sail downwind will test your patience and endurance (and your ability to fall asleep in a sloping bunk with condensation that drips directly onto your forehead).
Really, the only thing keeping me on the boat is the crew. All the people I’ve sailed with so far, all the people I’ve yet to sail with on later legs – they deserve to have a full crew. And yes, I have enjoyed sailing with all of them so far. Not only that, but I really love sailing with GT, I’m learning so much and he doesn’t deserve to lose his bosun, coxswain and a watch leader (did I mention how all these jobs tire me out? I think I did). Also I pinky promised Bill Lyons not to leave her. So there’s that…
Oh, and my parents keep telling me about all the distant relatives and acquaintances that are apparently following me religiously and that I really shouldn’t let down. Hello to you all!
Bring on the Sydney-Hobart on Boxing Day!
* this is not a comment on Clipper Ventures, merely on the original design of the boats. Clipper have done – and do – a huge amount of work on safety.
Bill, Ineke (off Nasdaq) and Tom (off Sanya) at three Three Sisters lookout.