It ain’t half hot Mum!
So here I am again motoring through the Doldrums Corridor, this time on the Solomon Sea rather than the Atlantic Ocean, as in September 2019. Conditions here, on the other side of the planet, are even hotter as we make our way from the heat of the Australian Summer towards Sanya in China, via my second equator crossing. There is no escape from the heat as the sun beats down every day, with the odd shower or heavy downpour of rain increasing the humidity which remains with us through the hours of darkness. Living and sleeping conditions below decks are even more trying with the lack of air resulting in us being constantly soaked in sweat making even resting and sleeping very trying. Oh, the glamour of ocean racing!
These are the conditions that I dislike the most on the race of your life and I long for the high winds and mountainous crashing waves of the South Atlantic, as in Race 2. There is unlikely to be anything like that until Zhuhai reaches and takes on the challenge of the North Pacific in Leg 6. So, for now, we are stuck with days, or weeks of steady progress under an unrelenting sun in what seems to me to be a massive, featureless watery desert. For the first time, over the weekend, I have experienced a real urge to give up my quest to circumnavigate the world. My first key objective of reaching China, and reuniting with my younger brother Graham in Qingdao, now being almost within reach. I shared this potential action with a number of my crewmates who understands the demands of this race and the pressure of different conditions imposed on individual sailors. I am not good with boredom as my wife Julie will testify.
Finding a place to be alone with your thoughts on a 70 foot boat, inhabited by 18 other people, is not easy. However, I achieved this last night by going and sitting on the foredeck of the yacht under a perfect deep black sky, watching shooting stars soar across it, while others slept. This gave me the opportunity for three hours to consider what would be a momentous decision for me if I was to ultimately pull out of the race in China.
Though leaving home and family for eleven months to attempt to circumnavigate the world could be said by some, including me, to be a selfish decision, it is interesting that though it is the action of an individual it involves a cast of hundreds in my case. To explain; though it is my race of your life’ I share it with my family, friends and supporters who live and take part remotely in the race experience through blogs like this and the Clipper Race Viewer. So any decision on my part to give up has implications on many others, if only disappointment, beyond me.
Recognising this fact gave me the opportunity to reflect as to how such a decision, which may be understood by most adults, would affect my younger supporters, for example, my two great-nephews Oliver and Jacob, plus young Toby at my home sailing club up in Teesdale? Plus just how could I stand up in front of Anne Dauber’s class of eight year olds, some of whom apparently want to follow in my footsteps, or wake in this case, and become ocean sailors when they grow up, and tell them that I gave up because I was feeling hot and a little bit down? There is then the little matter of the shaving mirror every day for the rest of my life.
The above represent good reasons to carry on and complete the circumnavigation but I am, if not anything else, very competitive. There is no way that my sailing club colleague and fellow round the world competitor, James Anderson on Imagine your Korea is going to have bragging rights if he completes and I don’t!
The circumnavigation of the world will be completed when the race returns to London on Saturday 8 August. Leg 8, Race 15 will see us race from Derry, Londonderry, over the top of Scotland and down the east coast of England. Saturday 1 August is celebrated as Yorkshire Day - so there is a chance that I will be sailing along the Heritage Coast of my beloved county on that day. I can’t give up an opportunity like that with the feeling of pride that it will deliver.
So my decision is made, the show goes on and my ambition remains to complete the entire circumnavigation if I possibly can. However, it also remains the case that It ain’t half hot Mum!