Taking themselves out of their comfort zone is a trait shared by all Clipper Race crew, and many find that the mental and physical challenge provided through ocean racing helps their professional and personal development after the race. This year, bursary schemes provided by Team Sponsor Derry City and Strabane District Council and Team Partner the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation are giving people from Northern Ireland and South Africa the chance to develop team and communication skills that will help shape their future by teaching them how to sail and form a relay team of ambassadors during the circumnavigation.

David Pollock, 31, from Eglinton, outside Host Port Derry-Londonderry and Thulisile Lekalake, 22, from Kwamhlanga, Mpumalanga were both ambassadors for their respective bursary schemes, who sailed in the All Australian Leg 4. Their journey has now come to end upon arrival into Airlie Beach and they’ve taken so much from the race that neither of them wants to get off.

David, who was unemployed this time last year when he applied for the council’s Your Next Chapter bursary scheme, says the race has given him a new perspective on life: “The whole experience has by far exceeded my expectations. It’s hard to explain because it’s been the most difficult but most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done. I would do it all over again at the drop of a hat.

“I’ll be keeping in touch with everyone on board Derry~Londonderry~Doire and crew from the other boats too. They’ll all be coming to Derry-Londonderry in July so it will be great to see them all when they sail in.

David admits that he lacked ambition before being awarded the bursary, but his can-do attitude has made him a popular character across the entire fleet and even resulted in him joining ClipperTelemed+ crew member Chris Ingram sailing with his family in Greece last summer. David adds: “When I get back I’ll hopefully get work quickly, but then really start to think about what career I want to do. The race has definitely given me belief in myself and motivation to step up and have a career instead of just a dead end job.”

After completing her matric in 2013 Thuli wanted to study journalism but because both parents were not working it was difficult for her to further her studies. She then started her small business in hospitality that in return assisted her to support her family. Thulisile has a desire to grow her business in future and create employment for her community.

Thuli, the fourth of nine Sapinda Rainbow Foundation ambassadors to sail in this tenth race edition, says: “I am very proud of myself. Being away from home during the festive season has been hard but I have enjoyed myself. This experience has made me stronger and I think I can do it again. In the first race from Albany I wasn’t sure because it was very challenging but I know I can do it again now.

“I was seasick on all of the races but I got used to it, I wasn’t worried. I had a great time, my IchorCoal crew and Skipper supported me and I will miss them all. I would love to do another leg of the race, maybe in two years’ time, if I was given another opportunity I would jump at it.

“I have learnt to work within a team, communicate and be brave," added Thuli pictured here with her IchorCoal team mates (front row, fourth from left). "I was shy before but now I feel I can take over the world. I’m going back to run my business and I hope I can make it a little bit bigger - that’s what I’m looking forward to, I hope to go global!”

The progress made by the ambassadors has not gone unnoticed by their fellow crew and it wasn’t long before both became valued members of their teams. While Thuli has found the race helped conquer her shyness, David’s overall attitude has had an overhaul, as his Derry~Londonderry~Doire teammate Murat Kece explains in this very honest account: “David really grasped his opportunity fully, with a lot of enthusiasm and I think his lessons and development will open many doors for his future.

“When I first met David in Northern Ireland during our team building in Derry-Londonderry, I have to say my first impressions were not great. His language was terrible and in my country, it causes great offence in Turkey to hear people swear like that. At first it made me think we could have a problem on board together."

Upon arrival into Airlie Beach, Murat (pictured here in the middle of the back row) added: “However when I joined the All-Australian Leg and met David again, four months later, I was immediately pleasantly surprised at how much he had changed his attitude. He was very positive and very engaging and his language and communication was far improved and very good. He wanted to help everybody all the time and I was immediately really impressed with his overall behaviour and engagement on the boat.

“David has many good attributes and strong dedication and if he is given the opportunity to use these skills back home by an employer, I believe he will go a long way and be very valued. It was great to witness first-hand how much he has benefitted and taken from his race experience. I really wish him the best and hope to be able to follow his progress once he returns home.”

Soon David and Thuli will welcome their fellow ambassadors Conor Shortland and Khulekani Ben Mahanya to Airlie Beach ahead of their race. Summing up the whole Clipper Race experience, Thuli says: “Whoever thought Thuli would sail and travel to different countries so soon? I never saw it coming. It is an opportunity of a life time. An opportunity that needs to be grabbed with both hands and never let it go because if you let it go you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

Join The Race