How to celebrate your 60th Birthday in the Southern Ocean

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Terezia Koczka joined a very select group of people when she completed a circumnavigation of the globe during the Clipper 2013-14 Race.

This weekend, the 61-year-old Hungarian shares some of her favorite moments:

Best Moment:
Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge has been my dream since I signed up for the race. The bridge itself is an iconic object of engineering, I have always been fascinated by the grace of it as it spans the entrance of San Francisco Bay.

I have seen it many times earlier, but nothing can be compared to the sight we experienced when approaching: stunning sunset west and arising full moon east – I was speechless. And still am…

Most Challenging Moment:
Being on mother watch mostly at the beginning of the legs, being seasick and trying not to give up, failing despite my best intention.  Knowing that somebody else needed to step in and do the job instead of me. Feeling that I am not proud of myself.

Best Wildlife Moment:
I once saw a National Geographic’s photo of a seabird sitting on the shell of a turtle – I thought it is quite surrealistic situation, it couldn’t be true. But one day on Leg 1 the same was seen: a bird (I do not know what type) that was using a giant turtle for its adventure on the Atlantic.

Most Unique moment:
There were many for me, some are related to sailing some are different (although they can hardly happen anywhere else, than a sailing boat).

I might highlight those moments when our team was able to work in such a harmony that was a real ‘flow’ (as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychology professor defines the optimal experience of happiness): we achieved something extraordinary and did it working in a nice harmony as a team. They weren’t big things: I remember three of us wooling a spinnaker in a hot and humid sail locker within a record small time or reefing the main below our time benchmark – I am happy to know that these moments became countless by the end of the race.

To mention a moment which is not sailing-action-related: the beauty of the ocean, the sunsets never get boring and full moons in the middle of nowhere stay with me forever.

Biggest achievement:
Shortly: I came back home in one piece at the end, and have a feeling of passion with sailing. Despite some of small injuries I did not give it up. Additionally my biggest hope that I am on the way of become a competent sailor one day.

NB: I hadn’t step on the deck of a sailing yacht before my Level 1 training.

‘Why am I doing this?’ moment:
There were few (fortunately not too much and not very serious) for me: I was terrible seasick in the first half of the race – and which was really awful: no medication was useful for me, except sleeping enough. Enough to sleep in my case meant to have at least 24 hours, sometimes more. I was not popular – it’s the least that I can say. My greatest thank you for Jamaica Get All Right crew retrospectively.

‘This is why I’m doing this!’ moment:
I had three objectives in entering the Clipper Race:  I wanted to celebrate my 60th birthday and wanted the show that age is not a disadvantage to run after your dream. I wanted to draw a line in my life at this point and create and open a new second chapter which I convinced will be as exciting and happy as the first 60 was.

I was curious about of the sort of person I would become by the end of this adventure. My personal development goal was being able to live in the moment: do not think too much of the past, and not to be anxious about the future.

Finally I wanted to inspire the older and younger generation (including my three sons) go for their dream and know that nothing is impossible to achieve if they really want to reach it.

Looking back I can tell that celebrating my first birthday (I mean in the second half of my life) with the crew on the Southern Ocean was a real gift. I’ve made a life-changing decision regarding my profession. As far as I know I lived every moments on the yacht and at the stopover to their fullest whether they were happy or scary or painful or solitude or magnificent or hated (because of the sunsets, the full moon, the dolphins or the whales, the crew or the skipper, the spinnaker or the Yankee or the myriad of shooting stars that we saw) – I had soooo many feelings – thank you for them, I am grateful to have the opportunity of having this odd experience. I was always conscious why I was doing it.

And finally what I liked best about sailing was the sense of freedom.

Funniest moment:
Not very long after we left Qingdao we needed to head to Japan to have a stop due to a medevac. The closest opportunity happened to be a small, remote fishing port with nobody speaking in proper English. Our skipper somehow managed to make the situation understandable for the Japanese Coast Guard but it seemed to take a great deal of waiting to sort out everything with the situation.

One of our very sociable watch leaders  - making our life happier – he did everything to manage a sushi delivery to the yacht, based on our positive experience to have a pizza delivery earlier on Taiwan (at the similar remote port, far from any human inhibited place). And he managed – by the time the sushi arrived (accompanied with strawberries and wine, I had enough time to bake my mom’s excellent apple pie, which we offered to the cost guard and the delivery guy in exchange for their hostility and kindness at the end of the world.

Craziest moment:
Inevitable the 120 knots of storm on Southern Ocean before Albany – I was off watch but I did not sound well even below the deck.

Feeling inspired to try the Clipper Race for yourself? We are now interviewing for the 2015-16 and 2017-18 races. Click here to find out more about experiencing the Race of Your Life.