Crew Catchup: Janet Chatzis

23 February 2016

“Quite simply, I saw a picture in a magazine of a female crew member from a previous race and underneath it said 'No Experience Required'. Suddenly, it just grabbed me in my heart, I knew that I had to do it and I was going to do it. Simple as that.”

Meet Janet Chatzis, a multiple ‘legger’ on Derry~Londonderry~Doire who had originally signed up to race across the Pacific Ocean on Leg 6 only. However, before her four weeks of compulsory training had even begun, Jan started adding more legs to her adventure and is now sailing from Albany to Race Finish in London on 30 July this year.

Here, in her own words, the 53-year-old teacher and former nurse from Cambridge, UK, shares her Clipper Race adventure so far.

Name: Janet Chatzis
Age: 53
Occupation: Teaches English to doctors moving to the UK at the University of Cambridge
Team: Derry~Londonderry~Doire
Signed up for: Legs 4 – 8, from Albany to London

Originally I wanted to do Leg 6 across the Pacific Ocean because I saw that as the ultimate challenge and I am always looking for a challenge. I thought I couldn’t afford to do any more legs, however I worked out that I could manage it and that’s how I was able to extend my race.

I hadn’t even begun training when I started adding legs but I am an all-or-nothing person and I would’ve gone round the world but with work that just wasn’t possible. Having said that, I’m very happy with the legs I have chosen and wouldn’t change it.

I had sailed a tiny little bit in a very small boat, a cruising boat on a river, and it has absolutely nothing to do with a Clipper 70 racing yacht!

The race is just as I had expected. I have loved every single second of it, there has been no moment when I have thought I am not enjoying this, even when it has been incredibly challenging and difficult, when you’re cold, hungry, waves coming in and very tired. I’ve just loved every second of the experience so far.

In fact, the biggest challenge for me is using the heads when the boat is heeling. I’m thinking about it before, during and after. Then afterwards I’m thinking, well, at least that’s it until next time. Otherwise I just enjoy and embrace what happens. I have suffered some seasickness, however I was so supported and well looked after that it didn’t feel nearly as bad as it might have done.

The highlight has, without a doubt, been the crew, the camaraderie and support that I have felt. I have a very special family and they are my biggest highlight.

Coming into Da Nang was amazing! For me, it was the best port arrival so far. Right from outside the river, the green mountains, the fog descending down immediately made me think I want to visit this country, to see more. Then actually coming into port with the pilot vessels, we got our first taste of how friendly people were going to be. As we arrived actually in port on the pontoon, the welcome was just phenomenal.

On arrival my immediate thought was of the Athens Olympic Games 2004, when during the Opening Ceremony all the athletes paraded around the arena. What I remembered was the athletes were going round walking, being applauded by the crowd as superstars, but the athletes themselves were taking photographs of the experience. They were enjoying it as much as the audience. So it prompted me unusually to make sure I had my camera. So while we were walking to the stage, I was taking photographs of what was happening around me and I was thinking about that moment in the Olympics. It was amazing!

When I saw that some photographers had to be held back from getting on the podium with us, just ordinary people with ordinary backgrounds, nothing special, and yet they were so interested in us, it was very moving.

The win this race has been a long time coming, especially for round the worlders who have been disappointed. I have been telling the crew from the minute I got on the boat that we can do it, we have it in us. So firstly I think that it was a relief that we have got that win, and secondly, it just made everything alright, all the difficulties we had endured, all the sail changes, the push-push-pushing from our Skipper because yes, even if it is 0.004 knots quicker, it will make a difference. At the time you think “no, it won’t” but actually our work paid off.

We are heading for Qingdao next and I am very curious to see what the Pacific crossing is all about. That was the race I had signed up for. I’ve heard and read so much about the Pacific Ocean and sailors who have crossed it. It’s going to be the big one and I want to see what makes it so special if that’s the right word… probably not, probably more of a challenge.

My friends and family think it is amazing, they’re all very proud. They also think that it wasn’t a surprise that was doing it because I’m always looking for the next challenge. However I think they are all hoping that this will be the last challenge and I should settle down a bit when I get back. I never seem to be settled for very long and I get bored very easily. There is absolutely no time whatsoever to get bored on the Clipper Race. If you suffer from boredom, do the Clipper Race, it will sort you out.

Race 8, The Sailing City – Qingdao Cup starts in Da Nang on Saturday 27 February.

If you think you have what it takes to sail the world’s oceans like Jan is doing, then click here for details on how to speak to our recruitment team.

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