From Recovery to Racing: Meet Ana Downer-Duprey

10 July 2015

“It’s my life so it doesn’t seem that interesting to me. When I found out that I was accepted on the race and my injuries would not stand in the way, it made me feel normal. It’s nice to just be normal.”

There is nothing normal about sailing around the world which is exactly what Ana Downer-Duprey is about to do with Visit Seattle, but at 22 years old she has already faced even tougher challenges. In her own words, Ana explains her journey so far and why she has signed up for the circumnavigation: “I had a rugby accident when I was 18 when I fell in training, twisted my body and hit my head. The doctors said that I may have inflamed my lower spine because my left leg was paralysed for six weeks.

“A short time later everything started to fall apart - I couldn’t remember things and was struggling with school work; I couldn’t get out of bed and every hour I had to go to sleep. That’s when they diagnosed a minor brain injury and I left college. I lost a lot of confidence and went into a period of depression for six months.

“I’m half English and half Trinidadian so when I began to feel better I went over to Trinidad for trauma therapy and to spend time with my dad and family over there. Just as I was finishing my therapy I was in a bad car accident: I had multiple fractures to my hip, broke my pubis, shattered my shoulder and I hit my head again. I went back to forgetting things and was in a state of confusion; my confidence went again.

“So the Clipper Race is really important to me. I believe that things happen for a reason and that everything works out so I don’t regret the accidents and don’t wish I didn’t have them because my life has completely changed in the last four years. One day, taking the London underground to work on a line I travelled everyday, I randomly saw a Race of Your Life poster and it sparked something, an inspiration, a passion within me, and that’s continued to grow.”

Without any previous sailing experience, Ana left her job working in the bar of a Michelin Star restaurant in London and decided to do her first three levels of training back-to-back at our headquarters in Gosport. Ana commented: “When I signed up I was thinking about the physical aspect and sailing around the world. Now I realise that it’s really about the people I will spend the next eleven months with. I’m meeting some amazing people. It will be awesome coming back with friends all over the world. I can’t really comprehend what it’s all going to be like.

“During my Level 2 debrief with Paul the training skipper we were going over things and I explained to him that because the brain injuries had originally resulted in short term memory loss I haven’t really been able to trust myself since. But he told me that maybe it is time to start trusting myself and I thought ‘actually, maybe I should’.

“That’s why I’m doing this. It’s really a big thing for me, mainly for confidence building as well as developing a skill that I don’t know anything about. Hopefully by the time I come back I will be quite a competent sailor and it will really give me a sense of self-worth.

“My family is really supportive and it’s a good time for me because I’ve got the time. A lot of people have careers and I’ve not gone down that route yet. That’s why I’ve signed up for the whole year because it will change my life and I will be a better person afterwards. The experience it will give me will be priceless.”

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