‘I’m so happy to have been part of such an incredible event’

15 September 2014

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GREAT Britain crew member Allison Bradley raced from Brisbane to Qingdao via Singapore during Leg 5 of the Clipper 2013-14 Race.

Looking back on her experience Ally details:

Best Moment:

The race finish into Qingdao has to be my ultimate highlight. Such an incredible mixture of emotions, knowing it was the end of my Clipper Race experience, whilst the unbelievable welcome just blew me (and the rest of the crew!) away.

So many people turned out to see us, and the sound of the drummers as we were approaching the dock was just magical - real hairs on the back of the neck standing on end stuff. Being on the stage to see that incredible welcome in front of us and to hear Simon thank all of his crew for being incredible was such a touching moment, and will be a very special memory for a very long time to come.

Most Challenging Moment:

A few days after our knockdown we were hit by a squall during watch changeover on a night shift. We needed to get up to the foredeck to drop the staysail to help stabilise us and due to the previous squall we had gone through containing a rather unfortunate water spout that knocked us down, I was paralysed with fear.

Luckily one of my crewmates saw I was struggling, stepped up and was up on the foredeck before I even really had time to think about it. I was so mad at myself for allowing the fear to take over in that moment, and pushed myself harder the next time I was in that situation.

Best Wildlife Moment:

Seeing dolphins leave a phosphorescent trail as they swam across the bow at night. Such a beautiful sight! I never got tired of seeing dolphins, such incredible creatures.

Most Unique moment:

As we were nearing China the number of fishing vessels increased which made life a little more challenging for us -particularly at night when few of them had lights to help us spot them in the darkness. One really dark night we had been keeping watch for these, when suddenly one seemed to appear almost out of nowhere on the starboard bow, and we were almost on top of him before we realised just what it was.

One man, on his own, in what looked like a giant wooden salad bowl! Fishing in a coracle. We nearly frightened the poor man to death by shining a bright light at him, and we were all hollering to the helm at that moment to turn to port to try and avoid him so we must have been quite the sight (and sound) to him! We were all joking about what the “mothership” for such a boat must look like – as we were far too far away from the coast for him to have got out there on his own. Jokes about all the bowls stacked up on the back of another larger boat followed. You can imagine our surprise when the next day we saw that very thing! The mothership of the salad bowl fishermen – with all their little coracles upturned and stacked on top of one another. A really unique sight! That was a very funny day.

Biggest achievement:

I think I’d had to say my biggest achievement was not only getting to the end in one piece, but coming home with a first and a second place under my belt was such an incredible feeling. I had never stepped foot on a sail boat before day one of the Clipper Race training, so learning how to sail was a huge achievement for me too.

‘Why am I doing this?’ moment:

I can truthfully say I’m not sure I ever had one of these moments. There were times when the conditions were tough, when relations between crew were challenging, or when I couldn’t sleep as we were beating into the wind. Every time we hit a wave, I hit my head on the ceiling above my bunk. There was also the time when I fell from the high side to the low side trying to put my foulies on, or when we went through almost every sail possible during one night watch, but I knew what I was signing up for.

This was part of the challenge, part of the excitement and part of the reason why I wanted to do this so badly. There were times when people would ask “why are we putting ourselves through this” (usually around the 2.30am wake up call for the 3:00am watch). Then you would look up to the sky and see five shooting stars fly across a sky that was full of more stars than you have ever seen before, and that’s when you think “this is why I’m doing this”.

It’s like nothing else you will ever experience – and that thought was in my mind every day. I felt so lucky to be able to experience every moment of the race.

‘This is why I’m doing this!’ moment:

I was lucky (or unlucky depending how you look at it) enough to be able to be number one on the bow, on a night watch, to hank on the heavy weight kite 3 I think. I got soaked and it was intense, but as the boat hit each wave and I had to hang on whilst trying to hank on the sail as quickly as possible, I felt so exhilarated. Every time we executed a particular slick tack or gybe it was the same feeling. That feeling of achievement and team unity.

The team spirit really made me smile every day and I got everything I wanted out of the race and much, much more. I'm so happy to have been part of such an incredible event.

Funniest moment:

I don’t know if I could describe one singular funny moment that was particularly outstanding as each and every day we found something funny. When you’re at sea for so long even the most ridiculous things become hilarious, and it’s only when you get home and try to describe them to someone else that you realise they really weren’t that funny after all – it was just that the madness was setting in.

I was so lucky to be part of a crew that had a great sense of humour and laughed for a huge amount of our journey.

Craziest moment:

It has to be the waterspout knock down. I was on deck for this, and it was one of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced. The knock down itself wasn’t necessarily the scary or crazy thing though, it was seeing crewmates going into the water, and their lifejackets going off, knowing I couldn’t get to them to help. That was the scary thing.

Having one crew mate look me in the eye and she shot past, shouting “I’m not clipped on,” as she had just unclipped to reposition herself at the mast as we were hit, was just the most horrible moment. The recovery from this really cemented us as a team, but it really was the most unbelievable experience. Not one I’d like to go through again particularly but it taught me a lot about what it takes to get back up again and keep going. If I can survive that, I can survive anything right?!

Click here to watch the knockdown on board GREAT Britain.

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