“We were travelling at high speed in pursuit, it was raining, and visibility was poor. The adrenaline was pumping, you're fearful of making a mistake, a mistake that will incur damage or an unimaginable outcome.”
As round the world crew member Conor O’Byrne, 39, hung onto the foredeck of Derry~Londonderry~Doire fighting to hank on a headsail with wave after wave crashing over him, he was reminded of the high speed car chase he was involved in as a Garda Police Officer through the streets of Dublin shortly before setting off.
At the time, the yacht was perched on top of an eight to ten metre wave ‘like a slalom skier waiting for the gate to open’.
As the bow dipped, the boat picked up speed and the waves from the bow were rising higher than the deck.
“You hold on for dear life, afraid to make that mistake,” says Conor. “One wrong turn of the wheel could cause serious damage. The adrenaline flows with a boat speed of 26 knots. This is a very similar feeling to a car pursuit and thankfully, both had gratifying outcomes.”
Watch leader Conor has learnt many new skills on the Clipper Race that will be very beneficial when he returns to his job as a Garda in inner city Dublin, often working in hostile environments like riots.
He says conditions on the ground are often dangerous, unpredictable and stressful, very similar to life on a 70-foot racing yacht. Quick thinking, adrenaline, conflict resolution and team work are all essential, all of which have occurred on his sailing adventure.
“In riot situations that I have been involved as a Garda, where you're in front of a hostile crowd with anger and venom being thrown at you while you stand firm with your colleagues, you work together to prevent them moving forward.
“You work as a team, you watch each other to ensure each other's safety. You work as a team dragging the sail forward, watching each other to ensure each other's safety. Then as a team you hank on the sail, as a wave crashes over you, you slip or fall, an arm grabs you picks you up and asks if you are ok. Then you get back to it standing tall facing the venom of either the crowd or a wave, working together until the job is done.”
Conor says he is more confident in his leadership, communication and team skills, which in turn will help him to work under difficult situations, be more respectful of others and physically and psychologically fit when he returns to work.
Conor is now starring in the new crew recruitment campaign, with the poster representing him in both his everyday life and his circumnavigation. The international campaign calls on people to sign up to the next edition of the race and ‘achieve something remarkable’.
Applications for the 2015/16 race are now open. With two more boats for the 10th anniversary edition, it will be the biggest race ever.