Into the Clipper-sphere
A few years earlier, a colleague at EastSail applied for the Clipper race, which kind of planted the idea in my head. Now, the time was right for me to apply. But I didn’t expect it to be as tough as it turned out.
The first part of the process was to go to the UK and do a three-day trial sail. It was in unfamiliar water and they would do tests like throw a dummy overboard and see how you reacted.
I got through but, at the time, you needed a UK work visa to take part. I had one from when I was married and thought I could renew it, but I was mistaken and missed out on the job. I was devastated. I’d missed Hobart that year because I thought I’d be doing the Clipper. It’s the only time I’ve missed a Hobart since I started. The upside was that it was the first time I’d spent Christmas with my family in years.
The next year I was at a crossroad. I was working on ferries and wondering what to do next. Out of the blue I got an email from the Clipper race director saying, ‘I told you we wouldn’t forget you. If we sponsor you, would you be interested in skippering a yacht in the next race?’ I don’t think I’ve ever replied to an email so quickly!
It’s a really tough race, but I loved it so much, regardless of our near-miss in the North Pacific. But it’s so tiring that I decided once is enough.
Soon enough, again, I was at a loose end. I put up a post on Facebook saying, ‘I need another adventure. Any ideas?’ A friend of mine said I should do a second Clipper Round The World. I said, ‘Bugger off. Once is enough, thank you’.
I was actually working for Clipper at the stage, as head of training in Sydney and I offered them that I could skipper a yacht for one leg, if they needed. They said, ‘How about doing the whole thing?’
I talked to my family and friends and asked for their thoughts. They all said I should do it again. Only one person, Geoff Lavis, the owner of UBS Wild Thing – who I’d been sailing with for 15 years – said, ‘You are a f…… idiot’.
Like nothing else
I was a much better skipper the second time around. I knew what to expect and was a lot more forgiving of myself. You’re always going to make a bad call or two in a race like that. In the first race I’d beat myself up about it. But the second time I had a much better attitude.
I had more experienced people in the team and we had good results early, which helped. Even though we claimed a little piece of history, there was so much more to the race than just winning.
It’s the funny stories that tend to stay with me the most. When we were making that horrible crossing to Seattle, I had a conversation with a Chinese skipper of a large container ship. Big ships are meant to try to keep out of your way, so you often talk to captains, give your position and ask them to change their directions a bit.
As we were coming out of the South China Sea, I told the captain we were heading to Seattle and he couldn’t believe we were going to be sailing overnight. ‘There’s a storm coming!’ he said. ‘Where are you staying tonight?’ I said, ‘I know there’s a storm coming’.
He couldn’t comprehend that we were going to charge on into it. My crew was laughing because they could hear the conversation up on deck. He was really concerned for us, no matter how many times I told him we’d be OK.
What a race it has been!After eleven months, six ocean crossings, and over 40,000 nautical miles, the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race has come to a thrilling finish where it all began – Liverpool.History was made as Australian Sailor Wendy Tuck became the first woman to ever win a round the world yacht race after clinching the overall victory with team Sanya Serenity Coast.And in an additional win for women’s sport, second place went to British Sailor Skipper Nikki Henderson, 25, the Skipper of Visit Seattle.Qingdao finished third overall after winning Race 13 ahead of Liverpool 2018 and Garmin, who also won the exciting final sprint up the Mersey to finish fourth overall.Congratualtions to every single person who took part in the eleventh edition of the race – you are all champions!
Posted by Clipper Round the World Yacht Race on Monday, 6 August 2018
In my first race, going across the equator down to Rio, we hadn’t seen a ship or anything out on the water for several days. Then we saw a big private powerboat and we got a call from the skipper. ‘Hey Wendo, is that you?’ It turned out to be an old friend of mine from Sydney. There we were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and I’ve run into an old friend from home.
What also stays in my mind is the sheer beauty. Once, in the Southern Ocean, we had these two beautiful great albatrosses following us for about 10 days. It was just extraordinary.
Sailing around the world makes you environmentally aware in a way you can never gain from being onshore. When you see the state of some of the oceans, it’s incredibly sad and scary. There are times when it’s dirty and disgusting out there, but others when it’s pristine and wildlife everywhere. The world is an amazing place.
Sailing has given me so much. And I really like what the Clipper Race stands for – that anyone is capable of doing great things. We nearly met with disaster out there in the North Pacific. But, my attitude is, if one person got off that boat and gained a passion for sailing anything like mine, then it’s been worth it.