Race 6 - Day 21
Crew Diary - Am I brave or am I mad?
14 February

Fiona Mitchell (Chapman)
Fiona Mitchell (Chapman)
Team Punta del Este
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We are nearing Subic Bay – so many days or nights at sea and yet now they seem to have passed all too quickly. When I told my family and friends that I had signed up to the Clipper Race they reacted in one of two ways. ‘Are you mad?’ or ‘You are brave’. Having had time, lots of time courtesy of windholes, to reflect on this, I have decided I am neither mad nor brave. I think that (like all my crew) I am prepared to suffer more discomfort and some deprivation to go to places that most people will never go – the remote seas and oceans of the world.

We’ve struggled with the heat, sleeping in oven-like conditions, with heat rash and in my case, swollen feet and with muscle weariness. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer physicality of moving about the boat when it is heeled right over, of pushing myself uphill to get to the heads, and conversely, trying not to fly down into the wetlocker and its potential rib-breaking bar on the return journey. And the heads, not the easiest to use, but functional and clean. No showers for over three weeks, thank goodness, I can’t see myself!

For me, the rewards are worth it. The beauty of being surrounded by the ever-changing sea, mesmerised as the waves break, dark blue flashing to glacial blue for a moment under the foamy white crest. A moving Japanese painting; dark black seas, waves coming at us from every direction, breaking over the bow of the boat; watching the sun makes its way into the day whilst the still bright moon sits in a dark sky on the other side of the boat; skies pink as sun, an orange ball, sets; a deep orange harvest moon rising slowly over the black line of the horizon.

Watching the moon appearing and disappearing behind black clouds ringed with haloes of moonlight, rays of moonbeams reaching out to the sea; moonlight sparkling across the sea forming a pathway to our boat; a lone small bird landing on Ryan’s outstretched hand at the back of the boat, resting a few moments and then setting off to continue its journey. Dolphins leaping alongside the boat; leaning out after Ryan had flashed the torch into the ocean, switching it off, the surprise of hundreds of luminous squid glittering like Christmas lights.

The sheer exhilaration as the boat surfs down waves, feeling like a ‘real’ ocean race; the quiet times on deck, chatting or simply looking at the sea, such a contrast to my everyday, rather hectic (of my own making, I admit) life; the busy times changing headsails, when we don’t stop moving from the start to the finish of our watch, collapsing into bed; the banter, the ‘rivalry’ between the Mignons and the Gladiators; the sharing of stories, the constant laughter.

The corny jokes, the singing, the dancing, the highlight of Happy Hour, the consideration and respect shown towards each other, the sharing of knowledge, and the teaching and encouragement; the inventiveness and delicious meals provided by all the mothers, the morale-boosting afternoon teas of chocolate cake, and yesterday rice pudding with almonds with frozen fruit compote, the deliciousness of tasting something cold.

All of this I would have missed if I wasn’t ‘brave or mad’! I believe we can all be brave or mad if we are prepared to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Signing up to the Clipper Race has been one of the best experiences of my life so far, I have to add the ‘so far’ as that is what Sir Robin would say. I am glad that this leg is not over yet and we have another race or two to go. I’m not ready to leave Punta del Este yet. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a cold beer for breakfast and a shower!

Sending much love to my family and friends, Wild Women and yogis. I hope you’ve enjoyed the race as much as I have. And to my crew, to Jeronimo and Ryan, you are the best! (and Andres, you are the best bunk buddy – he told me to write that!). Thank you for making memories that will make me laugh and smile whenever I think back to our time together.