Race 15 - Day 4
Crew Diary - The Final Countdown
30 July

John Dawson
John Dawson
Team Unicef
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Don’t know the singer, but it’s ringing in my ears as I realise with some emotion that I’ve done my last heads clean, last clean of the accommodation and last bilges clean and that the end of my Clipper Race odyssey is very close to its end.

It’s been a tremendous journey enabled by a very supportive wife to whom I say a very big thank you.

About three months in I had the revelation that a year is a very long time. It’s even longer when split into two halves separated by two years of the pandemic. But here we are at last, approaching London whence we set sail three years ago. Yesterday evening we passed through the Pentland Firth, which is a narrow passage separating the top of Scotland from the Orkney Isles, and is iconic with sailors as the North Atlantic meets the North Sea and tides usually rip through at ten to twelve knots and have even been recorded as high as sixteen. Fortunately we caught it with the flow in our favour and I hope that is a good omen for all sorts of things. We are now close to Aberdeen and within the next 24 hours should be off Newcastle where I was born and was brought up as a child of the fifties and sixties, before heading south to start my working life in 1970.

The fabulous memories of the great sailing days, the sunsets, sunrises, the ocean wildlife, the great banter and camaraderie with my crew mates, the arrivals at the eleven stopovers by sea, which gives a far better revelation of a place than being driven through one street after another, the hard won podium positions and their after-parties are all deeply ingrained in my mind and far too many to list out in detail.

A real tangential benefit has been living cheek by jowl with people of all sorts of backgrounds, ages and approaches to life, but galvanised by the one mission of doing everything demanded to sail Unicef CV31 across the world’s great oceans, through some extreme climates and sea conditions, not to mention the challenges of day to day living on a racing yacht being put through its paces. A most revealing lesson for me has been the power of many to achieve what at first sight seemed impossible. How half a dozen people can manhandle a sail weighing hundreds of kilos up through a narrow hatch from the sail locker and onto the deck. How a complex manoeuvre such as putting a reef in the mainsail that was daunting to even think through in all its stages and sequences, especially in the early days, becomes possible when everyone has their own simple job to do.

So, in three days time it’s Hello to the new reality and to Clipper Race 19-20 it’s a fine Farewell, but with stacks of great memories that will no doubt surface for many a year to come, and with loads of new friends that I hope to see many times again.

Cheers for now,


Until Race Start : The Asia-Pacific Challenge