Meet the 2017-18 race crew: Jeremy Hilton

18 November 2016

The Clipper Race is an infectious affair, there is no doubt about it. If you’ve had a brother, sister, parent, friend or work colleague take part in a previous edition, you can’t escape the want or need to do it yourself as they share inspirational stories from their epic adventure. If someone you know is about to take part in the race then watch out – it might be you next!

Jeremy Hilton is one of many an innocent family member who has caught the race bug. His daughter, Tamsin, took part in Legs 5-8 of the 2015-16 edition having never sailed before and upon greeting her in port during the fleet’s visit to Derry-Londonderry, Jeremy knew he wanted to be a part of it too.

Describing it as a late gap year, Jeremy has since signed up to take part in the 2017-18 race. Not wanting to be outdone by his daughter, Jeremy has opted for the full circumnavigation. We caught up with him on board the final training course to run out of the UK this year, to find how he is preparing for his ultimate sailing challenge.

Name: Jeremy Hilton
Age: 60
Nationality: British
Occupation: University Lecturer

How did you hear about the Clipper Race? What led you to sign up?
I remember when my daughter Tamsin signed up to take part in the race in 2015 having never really sailed before. She told me she wanted a challenge and something to talk about, so I thought this was quite an amazing step in itself. To then greet her and the team in Derry-Londonderry at the end of the race was great, and I knew then that I wanted to be part of the Clipper Race family too.

Why did you choose the full circumnavigation?
Aside from it being the ultimate sailing challenge, I couldn’t exactly be outdone by my daughter. No question about it, I just had to go for the full circumnavigation!

To sail a boat this size to such iconic locations like Rio and Cape Town is something that you can only dream about. I just could not miss out on this opportunity so I’ve decided it is finally time to take my ‘gap year’.

How did you find your Level 3 training? What was the highlight and why?
There were several highlights on the Level 3 training, all for different reasons!

I have a lot of sailing experience but I really loved the collaborative effort involved in sailing these boats. This is something that really stood out for me during the Level 3 training, you really can’t do it without the rest of your team.

For me, hoisting and trimming the medium weight was quite a proud moment, just to discover that you had actually done it correctly and the sail was flying above you was an accomplishment in itself.

Another huge relief during this training course was discovering that if a man was to go overboard, we knew exactly how to retrieve them as quickly and safely as possible. We were all a bit apprehensive about this aspect of the training but it was explained so well and we slowed the boat, dropped the kite and got Bob back in less than eighteen minutes.

Jeremy and his fellow crew on board Level 3 training

What would you say was the most challenging and why?
From sweaty hoists, lots of grinding and very achy hands, it was an exhausting few days! Squatting, sitting, kneeling, crawling – it was physically demanding at times and I will definitely be doing a bit of leg work before the big race, although I aren’t sure how to train for achy hands?

How was it different to your Level 1 and Level 2 training?
The Level 1 course was all about the sailing basics; how you load the winch, how sails work and how to tie knots. I found it really interesting as although I have a lot of sailing experience, I quickly discovered that the way I tend to operate on the smaller boats won’t necessarily work on a boat of this size.

It was also a really great opportunity to learn more about the boat, especially aspects such as the snake pit which looked very complicated at first sight!

The Level 2 training proved interesting as we set sail for the week and were straight into watches, getting a true feel for it. Five out of eight crew members were seasick due to windy conditions and people quickly realised you cannot simply say you feel ill and go for a lie down, you have to preserve!

As previously mentioned, Level 3 gave us the confidence we needed to deal with situations such as man overboard. Everyone had fun playing around with the Spinnaker and getting a feel for how it works whilst also getting into the relentless routine of bringing it up and down to suit wind conditions. At this stage, we were really getting used to the boat and all the sailing was coming together nicely.

We are now all full of anticipation. I have booked onto my Level 4 course in July but I just want to do it all now!

Would you say you are competitive and why?
I am quite a competitive person I must admit! Whilst no one really wants to be at the back of the fleet, I know I will be happy as long as everyone is giving their best.

What are you hoping to achieve from your race experience?
Aside from the huge sense of achievement when I look back and say ‘I’ve done it’, the main thing for me is about growing as a person. I also want to help others grow too and I think it is amazing that everyone on that boat is on their own personal journey and adventure. We will all step off that boat a different person and that is the aspect I am really looking forward to.

I am also looking forward to make life-long friends. The training has also introduced me to a great mix of people, from a fine art dealer to a pilot and those that are totally new to sailing so I am looking forward to meeting many more people along the way.

What will be the most challenging?
I guess for me the hardest part will be the constant company as I like my own space sometimes. I want to remain positive throughout, especially as you have to remember people are joining at different stages of the race and they don’t want to step on board for a life changing experience with a grumpy man.

Your daughter Tamsin took part in the race recently, what was it like to follow her journey? Has she given you any words of advice?
It was amazing to follow Tamsin on her journey, especially to see her with all the new friends she had made when they arrived in Derry-Londonderry. The way they had all mutually looked out for each other during the race was what stuck out for me.

When she came back from the race it actually really helped our relationship as we both had so much to talk about and she had lots of invaluable advice to share. Her best bit of advice is probably around the clothing element; what to buy, how many pants to pack or any items that are simply a waste of space.

What does Tamsin, your other family members and friends think about you participating in the race?
Tamsin is such an advocate of the whole race so of course she is encouraging me to do it! My son, Adam, simply said ‘You’re going to do it aren’t you!’, he knows me well. He is currently training to be a lawyer but I wonder how long it will be until we have persuaded him to do it too.

If you would like to join Jeremy and race the world’s oceans, click here or call +44 (0) 2392 526 000

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