Introducing Nicky Miller, the New Race Crew Supporters Coordinator

07 February 2022

The support of family and friends is priceless for our Race Crew as they spend up to a year away from home racing around the world through some of the most remote and extreme expanses of ocean. Equally as invaluable is the support available to friends and family of crew members - making the Clipper Race experience extra special for those at sea and on land.

Whether visiting loved ones in stopover ports, following via the Clipper Race social media channels, or meeting fellow friends and family of crew, the Race Crew Supporter network is a bustling hub of activity of almost 2000 members, overseen by the Race Crew Supporters Coordinator, for friends and family of crew members.

Having been part of the Clipper Race family for many years, and a supporter herself, Nicky Miller has taken on the Race Crew Supporters Coordinator role within the Race Office team. Nicky knows first-hand just how important it is to have a familiar, friendly face that understands both the practical and emotional elements that come with being a supporter.

Image: Nicky with fellow Race Crew Supporters

Nicky, a keen sailor, has witnessed the adventures the Clipper Race brings from many shores around the world. Whilst her husband Mike took on the 2017-18 edition, she was jetting from port to port to welcome him, and cheering on from the UK in between - always with one eye on the Race Viewer. Nicky’s insider knowledge of the race has also seen her supporting the team on various stopovers by working in the big red Clipper Race dome, enthusiastically speaking to visitors interested in the race.

In the current race, armed with professional qualifications and an expanding enthusiasm for the race, Mike took on the role of an AQP (Additionally Qualified Person) on board Unicef until the race was paused in March 2020. The race will resume with Mike having taken on a new role as the Skipper of Visit Sanya, China, and Nicky will continue her unwavering support for fellow supporters in her new office team position, throughout the race.

Image: Nicky supporting Sanya Serenity Coast

We caught up with Nicky as she prepares to welcome the Race Crew Supporters ahead of the race restart in March.

Welcome to the Clipper Race family as part of the team! Let’s recap, how did you get involved with the Clipper Race?

I got involved when my husband, who was a keen amateur sailor, had a dream to sail around the world and found out about the Clipper Race. We agreed it was a fantastic opportunity. I said, “You can fulfil your dream and sail around the world with lots of other people that want the adventure and I will cheer you on from the comfort of the land”. So he signed up as a circumnavigator with the team Sanya Serenity Coast which actually won the race just to add to the excitement.

I had a fantastic year flying back and forth, meeting the boats at pretty much every stopover on the race - flying over 100,000 miles! I really felt involved in the race - helping the crew, pitching in with collecting supplies…whatever was needed really. It was a great adventure not only for my husband but for me as well. Mike decided not to return to his previous career, upgraded his sailing qualifications and joined the current race as an AQP, while I resumed my enthusiastic supporters role. And I will do so again when Mike joins the race restart as a Skipper, it’s so exciting that we will both be involved in different ways.

Tell us a little bit about what your role as Race Crew Supporters Coordinator entails?

In a nutshell, I am the point of contact for all supporters of the crew; be it parents, children, spouses, siblings, friends - really anyone who knows someone who is taking part in the race. It’s a huge commitment for everyone in a family and I am the person they can come to with any queries. They can contact me anytime with questions about the race, and I will let them know what's happening as well as giving them ideas of ways to support their loved one from home.

When the race comes into port, I will be there to welcome any supporters who have been able to make it out in person. I will introduce fellow supporters and host several social events, so that people can meet each other. When the boats have gone, we also get together as there’s always a feeling of loss once you have waved off your loved one, so it’s nice to regroup and make plans for keeping in touch while the boats are racing.

Part of my role in supporting friends and family at home is to give them ideas of how they can feel involved. For example, they could help their team’s fundraising for the chosen race charity Unicef UK, by holding a bake sale, knitting beanies in team colours and selling them to crew and other supporters, to name a few.

Image: Nicky supporting Unicef

How about the younger supporters, how do they get involved?

We have a Junior Crew Supporters group, predominantly aimed at 5-12 year olds. I will send them ideas for activities related to the race and the sea while the race is on; it might be wordsearches, designing a boat, quizzes, or drawing challenges. Before each leg starts, they are sent a new activity to do whilst the race is happening to give them a focus to follow the race and help them engage with it. There’s a prize for one lucky winner who completes the activity from each leg. They also get their own Junior Crew Supporters wristband. It’s about getting all the family members involved in the race no matter what age they are. A great way for the Junior Crew Supporters to feel involved with the race is to have a world map on the wall, and a little paper boat (in their Race Team’s colours!) with Blu Tac on the back, which they can move each day, to track the progress of the boat they are cheering on. They can spend time finding out about the country the boats have sailed from and are sailing to, which will make the race come alive for them.

Beyond the children supporting Race Crew, we have children world-wide following the race, especially from the areas that the race stops. We had some super activity at the beginning of this race where local children in Punta del Este were heavily involved; holding a press conference for Crew, making maps and eagerly following every step of the race. We hope to further engage with local children when the race restarts, depending on the Covid-19 regulations, and have the Skipper or Race Crew visit schools to talk about the race and answer questions.

Image: Nicky with fellow Race Crew Supporters

What experience are you bringing to the role?

Having been a supporter of the race right around the world, I feel I bring an awareness of what people at home need to help cope with the race. It is a big deal, for say your spouse, to leave the family to go and join the Clipper Race and potentially be away for several months or even the best part of a year. So rather than sitting at home feeling bereft about it (having been in that position myself), I hope I can help Supporters feel they have someone to talk to and resources to access, to be more involved and connected with the race.

With that in mind, what is most important for people who are supporting from home?

People at home need to know what is going on with the race, and feel included, from watching the Race Viewer (watch out though, it becomes very addictive, checking where your crew’s boat is many times a day) to getting information about the stopover locations so they can learn about them and see what the crew are up to.

There are also ways to keep in contact with loved ones on board - via email accounts and even a phone system, but obviously crew are busy and on a different schedule at sea, so that is my responsibility - to share what is going on and reassure people at home. Perhaps they are worried about their loved one, particularly on a big ocean crossing, or when bad weather is forecast. It’s comforting to be in touch with someone that communicates with the fleet every day.

There’s not long to go now, how do you feel everyone is preparing?

Race Crew will hopefully be focussed on getting fit and healthy after relaxing at Christmas, as it’s really important to be fit on board. Supporters will be receiving a welcome email shortly to see how they can get involved; we also have a Facebook group, and there are various Whatsapp groups with other Supporters.

So, is there a good community of supporters?

There is, particularly once the race is underway. Supporters of each team get their own Whatsapp group going and one of my roles is to ensure no one is isolated - I can put supporters in touch with other supporters and help them to be part of the Clipper Race family.

With your vast experience in following the race, what one piece of advice would you give a supporter?

I’d say the more engaged with the Clipper Race you are, for example by regularly checking the Race vWewer and reading the skipper and crew blogs from your boat, the more you will enjoy the race.

In your opinion, what is the best tool available for supporters?

The best tool when you’re at home is communicating with other supporters – by joining the wider supporters Facebook page or a team Whatsapp group - it’s a great support network and a good way to feel engaged with the race.

During a stopover, wearing something identifying you as a supporter for both the Clipper Race and for your team is always a great idea, as it helps you feel part of the race - your blue Race Supporters wristband, a team shirt or a beanie in your team colours for example. It also helps you to spot and meet up with other supporters as you wander around!

It’s great to hear your enthusiasm for being a supporter - what would you say is the best thing about it?

One really great thing about being a Clipper Race Supporter is that you tend to meet people from all the different boats which is a real bonus.

Lastly, have you ever been tempted to race as a crew member yourself?

You know what, I love sailing - I started sailing in a home-built mirror dinghy as a child on Lake Ullswater, where my overriding memories are being rather cold and wet! Marrying a very keen sailor means I have been sailing regularly in various boats of ours for the last 30 years. I am, however, very much a fair weather, social sailor, preferably in warmer climates. I leave the adrenalin-fuelled racing to the rest of my family.

I have spent several nights on board a Clipper 70, which I really enjoyed - all the camaraderie and challenge of working together as a team. As a supporter, whether you can travel or not, if you get very involved you really do feel part of the race and almost that you are on board racing yourself. Sometimes when I talk about the race I forget I haven’t actually done it!

Image: Nicky helping clean a Clipper70

Nicky will be at every stopover as a point of contact for both those supporting from home and those who make it out to visit friends and family. If you are a supporter and not yet involved with the Race Crew Supporter network, please register here and Nicky can be contacted via here.

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