Meet the Clipper 2017-18 Race Crew: Kathy Sheehan and Tony Barlow

26 May 2017

NAME: Kathy Sheehan

AGE: 46

NATIONALITY: Irish

OCCUPATION: Doctor

LEGS: The Atlantic Homecoming Leg 8

TEAM: Team Conall

NAME: Tony Barlow

AGE: 55

NATIONALITY: Irish

OCCUPATION: Occupational Therapist

LEGS: The Atlantic Homecoming Leg

TEAM: Team Conall

Kathy and Tony are proving that friends who sail together, stay together.

Meeting just ten months ago during an adult sailing course, Kathy and Tony are a double act from Dublin whose friendship bloomed over their shared passion for sailing.

“We first met last June in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin” says Tony.

Kathy added: “We were both reasonably new to sailing. I had done a little bit of sailing as a child and growing up I had done windsurfing, kitesurfing and that sort of thing. A little bit of sailing but not much so I joined the adult sailing course.”

Tony began sailing twelve years ago in toppers on inland lakes. After discovering his love of sailing, he began to graduate to round-the-can sailing on a 26ft yacht.

As an Occupational Therapist, it was hearing inspiring stories from previous generations that inspired Tony to reignite his sailing ambitions: “I work with elderly people and they tell me stories of what motivates them and keeps them going and it became a bucket list item to get back into sailing. So, I transferred to the Royal Irish which is closer to me and to get into it socially, I joined the adult sailing course and that’s where Kathy and I met.”

Reflecting on the chance meeting, Kathy says: “There were 24 of us on the course and we happened to be teamed up on the same boat. I thought ‘I am so glad I am with him’. We think in the same, very methodical, way.”Their course ran over three months, but it wasn’t enough for the duo who were left with large doses of sailing withdrawal.

Kathy during Clipper Race training

After signing up for more, and with their sailing ambitions skyrocketing, the friends decided to head to the London Boat Show in January to look for opportunities to keep their sailing going.

For both Kathy and Tony, it was the big red Clipper Race Dome that first caught their attention. Kathy explains: “We came across the big red Clipper Race dome and met some of the [Clipper Race] people there. We tried out the virtual reality headset and took some brochures away but instantly loved it.

“On the plane on the way home I was looking at the brochure and said ‘I am doing this’. I just knew.”

Shortly after arriving back in Ireland, the duo from Dublin had signed up for Leg 8, the Atlantic Homecoming Leg.

Image: Kathy Sheehan

In preparation for the upcoming Clipper Race, the friends have even done their Clipper Race kit list shopping together: “We have done all of our shopping for kit together. We would go for a coffee on a Saturday and then go to the shops to try things on and we normally end up laying in the middle of the store trying out sleeping bags and similar things. It does mean we have matching everything – wash bags, sleeping bags, jackets, the lot!” Kathy adds.

During Clipper Race Crew Allocation Day, which took place on 20 May, the friends found out that they have by chance been allocation to the same team: Team Conall.

Speaking about what they hope to achieve during their biggest sailing challenge to date, Kathy and Tony said: “A shared sense of achievement through teamwork. Throughout, we expect to enjoy fun, laughter, camaraderie, and new friendships amid hard work, interspersed with moments of hair raising tension courtesy of mother nature. Oh yes, we nearly forgot... sailing skills ought to improve along the way!”

On plans for after their Clipper Race experiences, the friends added: “We hope that we will continue to inspire and to motivate each other as we already do but also hope to inspire others to awaken their inner giants and to ignore "the mustn’t".

“Post Clipper 2017-18 Race, inevitably our thoughts turn towards building on our Clipper Race experiences. More specifically, a return for one or more legs or even other Clipper Race related events while locally continuing to race around the cans in Dublin Bay and enjoying the associated festivities and social scene. Essentially, we'll live life to the full with an adventurous spirit among friends old and new!”

Think you have what it takes? There is still time to join nearly 700 Clipper Race crew like Kathy and Tony. No experience required, full training provided. To apply, click here.

Image credit: Kathy Sheehan

Apply now