Crew Catchup: Meet St Katharine Docks Neighbours and Teammates Tom and Marta

22 June 2016

As the teams compete in this final, Atlantic Homecoming Leg of the race, some crew be headed a little closer to home than others. Once back in London, many will still have to take a plane, train or automobile before they can really say they are home, but for our two St Katharine Docks residents it will be little more than a short stroll for their sea legs to handle.

We caught up with Leg 3, 4, 7 and 8 crew member Tom Fisher, and Leg 4 and 8 crew member Marta Michalska before they headed out of New York. Not only are they neighbours in St Katharine Docks, central London's only marina, they also compete on board the same Unicef team.

First up meet Tom.

Tom recently ended a 42 year career in banking but says his greatest job in life was having two sons, and now two Grandsons. Originally from New York, Tom has lived in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong before settling in London for the past 12 years. Boating and sailing had been a casual interest all his life from scraping and painting fishing boats, to being crew delivering boats from Florida to New York. Tom signed up to the Clipper Race as saw it as a perfect way to build his skills and develop his keen on the water interest.

What emotions are going on right now as you start this final stage of the race?
I feel pretty excited. It’s been a long journey. As we get closer you feel a little more reminiscent about getting hoAs the teams begin this final, Homecoming Leg of the race, some crew be headed a little closer to home than others. Once back in London, many crew will still have to take a plane, train or automobile before they can really say they are home, but for our two St Katharine Docks resident crew members it will be little more than a short stroll for their sea legs to handle.

Has the Clipper Race lived up to your expectations?
I would say the experience has more than lived up to my expectations. It is a lot different to the training, which definitely gives you an idea of what it will be like but it is nothing like the actual race. As I’m sure everyone will tell you. But it is everything I was looking for. I have done the Southern Ocean which I’d always wanted to experience, and I also did the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race as part of the Australian Leg, which was fantastic, and a good result for us as well. It was pretty rough weather!

Sailing across my country in the US Coast to Coast Leg has been a highlight, from Seattle down to Panama and back up to New York, which is where I’m from plus I got to go to a Yankee’s baseball game which I have really missed. That was another good one. Now I am on my way home to London, and my family is originally from Ireland so with our stopover there next I have all my bases covered I think!

What have you found the biggest challenge about life on board?
I didn’t realise it would be this but probably the most challenging part of the trip was the heat heading down the south coast of Mexico to Panama. It was draining. I had thought some of the cold and the physical nature of doing the Southern Ocean was going to be tougher but it wasn’t that bad in comparison. The heat was tougher than I realised and I didn’t know how draining it would be.

This race marks your third ocean encounter of the race. What about sailing the Atlantic appealed?
We’re ticking another ocean crossing off the list next across the Atlantic so that’s great, and I’ve never been up that side of it. We’ll go up pretty close to Canada and some other interesting places which I’ve not seen before. I find it fun because I ride a motorcycle up and down the coast along California and we sail down the coast on the race so I’ve got to see it from the ocean and I’ve seen it from the road, so that’s pretty cool and an added thing that I’ve enjoyed doing.

Unicef has had some excellent results in this second half of the race. Have you noticed much change in your teamwork approach?
Our recent performances and winning podiums have really raised our morale on board. We’ve learnt a lot and our Skipper is a really good teacher. We do sailing locker lessons and stuff like that. If ever anything happens that isn’t quite right, he stops and goes through it which is really fantastic. That’s the kind hands on learning I like. Not yelling at you all the time. Just teaching you how to do it right next time which is fantastic.

What has been your standout experience of the whole race? The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race. I’ve got to do it again. It was such a rush of adrenaline from the start to the finish. I’ve already signed up to do the Australian Leg of the next race.

And how about sailing back home, is that going to feel extra special?
I live right there by Tower Bridge and I see it every day so it’s going to be so incredibly special to all sail under it to mark the end of our amazing journeys. That’s the key, and all my friends who live right there in the dock with me are going to having a massive party for me when I get home. They keep telling me about it already and I’m ready. Once in a while I like to party!

Next, meet Marta.

Marta is originally from Poland and moved to the UK when she was 17. The only female commodities broker at her company, she loves her job but also loves challenges. Marta first heard about the Clipper Race when she saw the 2013-14 fleet arrive back two years ago from her balcony. After making the short walk into the Race Village to take a closer look she got hooked after talking with some crew and signed up the very same day. Previous to joining the Clipper Race Marta had some brief sailing experience on a 44 footer.

You are re-joining your team for the first time since completing the All Australian Leg. How does it feel to be getting back on board, about to sail home to London?

I feel super excited really! Although I've done the All Australian Leg 4 and sailed the Southern Ocean, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean will be the first time I’ll actually cross one. So I’m looking forward to adding that to my accomplishments, and being able to look back and say yeah I've done it, I had a full range of sailing experiences.

You saw the boats come in two years ago but what about the Clipper Race really inspired you to try it for yourself?
I get bored easily and like to live life to the full, always plotting the next adventure. I love the adrenaline rush and having already done quite a lot of mountaineering and cycling, I saw the Clipper Race as a great new challenge.

What do you most enjoy about what the Clipper Race offers you?
I feed on competition and overcoming hurdles. The bar goes up every time. I’m enjoying being part of something truly extraordinary and also that I get to help raise money for Unicef at the same time. Boredom is never an option!

How was your experience on the All Australian Leg? Any particular highlights?
It was amazing. Tough. Challenging at times of course, but all part of what I wanted and expected really. It definitely changed me and how I view things in life.

To be able to say one has sailed in the Southern Ocean and experienced one of the toughest Sydney Hobart Race’s in history, weather condition wise, is a pretty proud and special feeling that not many people can get to say in life. I would say my highlights were definitely the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and I’m predicting it as a highlight but I expect coming home will be up there too. We couldn’t sail much closer to my front door if we tried so that’s going to work out pretty well!

Two years ago you were sat on your balcony watching the boats come in. Two years later you will be sailing in. Have you got any idea how it will feel?
Obviously I’ve seen the crowds and the excitement on the other side which is great as I know a little about what to expect. I also had a tiny sample of it when I was part of the Unicef team which delivered the boat to St Kats last July ahead of the Race Start, but I can only imagine how it will actually feel to be on the water, sailing under Tower Bridge as it opens, and seeing all the crowds waiting.

It's electric and I can't wait to sail home, quite literally. My neighbours, friends and the friends of St Kats are all amazing and with Thom and I both living and both sailing on the Unicef team, it will be even more incredible to get to share the experience together.

Our neighbours are so supportive and they came out in great numbers for the leaving party we organised for the team at Race Start. I can't wait to say we’re all back home but it’s been an incredible experience.

The Clipper Race teams will arrive to St Katharine Docks on Saturday 30 July, following a spectacular Thames Parade and victory lap through Tower Bridge and back to mark their return to the capital.

Click here to view the full Race Finish timings for the big return, and find out how to get spectator boat tickets.

Unicef is the Official Clipper Race Charity for the 2015-16 and 2017-18 race editions. Since the teams left last August, Clipper Race crew, supporters and staff have raised more than £224,000 of their £300,000 target.

Click here to donate to and help save children in danger around the world.

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