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"In order to stand on the podium, first you must stand on the edge"

28 FEB 2014

"In order to stand on the podium, first you must stand on the edge"

Mental and physical exhaustion, sleep deprivation, foregoing a social life in port and keeping a constant focus on actively performing, not just surviving. 

What sacrifices need to be made to be victorious in the Clipper Race? 

Olly Cotterell, skipper of OneDLL, currently in first place in the race, says you will need to push yourself well beyond your preconceived limits and often be very uncomfortable. 

"In order to stand on the podium first you must stand on the edge," Olly says. 

“Tactically you need to keep the yacht on the edge of its ability all the time, a bit like a Formula 1 car going around a corner. However if you push too hard you will break equipment. Huge amounts of time and effort need to be put in even before the yacht leaves the pontoon, and continues well after you get in. Preparation is at the top of OneDLL’s performance pyramid. 

“This is to make sure that the yacht is on as good a standing when the race starts as it possibly can be. This can be hard when all you really want to do is go have a beer or see friends and family, but you must make sacrifices. 

“In bad conditions everyday life is a challenge, but scars are souvenirs you never lose.”

Olly adds that if you want to win a Clipper Round the World Yacht Race you must be prepared to be truly physically exhausted, bruised and battered, mentally fatigued, sleep deprived, too hot and too cold. 

“It is relatively easy to sail the yachts at 95 per cent speed, but to then get that extra 4 per cent and then an extra 1 per cent on top of that is exceedingly challenging. It is an exponential test. It requires team work, concentration, consistency, hard graft, determination, persistence and resilience.” 

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was the first man to sail solo non-stop round the world in 1968/69. He said winning is about always putting the boat before personal convenience, which can mean missing out on rest.

 “You must maintain a constant focus on getting the maximum power from the sails. That takes a lot of practice, patience, persistence and training. That means removing any shoreside distractions.” 

When he is racing, Sir Robin restricts emails sent to him to only the most important ones, and won’t read news.

“You must also accept a loss of privacy and that having a social life is hard,” Sir Robin adds.

Eric Holden, skipper of Henri Lloyd, in second position, says that if you have a desire to achieve something great, and are actively looking for ways of doing so, then the choices you make are not sacrifices.

“We are not doing anything special that others couldn't duplicate, but we do start with the mindset of asking what else we can do.” 

Race director Justin Taylor, who was a skipper in the 2002-03 and 2009-10 editions, added: “It takes total dedication to achieve the best results. For example, not speaking to your teammates when you are on the helm to remain totally focused, and accepting that certain sacrifices must be made in port too, if you want to be the most prepared.”