Meet the crew – Jennifer Burgis

14 January 2016

After more than a year of preparation, Garmin crew member Jennifer Burgis is soaking up the sun in the idyllic setting of Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays in anticipation of joining her team for crew changeover tomorrow and the start of Race 7: Da Nang New Discovery of Asia Race.

Jennifer, who had no previous sailing experience before signing up for the race, is swapping her background in television for the high seas to race some 25,633 nautical miles from Australia back into the Northern Hemisphere to an emotional homecoming in London, UK on 30 July.

Find out why Jennifer thinks the biggest challenge will be not having her own space in today’s Meet the Crew.

Name: Jennifer Burgis
Age: 36
Nationality: British
Occupation: Business Development Manager, TV production
Team: Garmin
Signed up for: Legs 5 to 8

What led you to sign up for the Clipper Race?
My father passed away two years ago. He died of Asbestos cancer and it really made me take stock of my life. Up to that point I had been one of those people who just worked 24/7, would always talk about doing things, going to places and never actually following it through. One of the last things Dad said to me was, “Stop always talking about it, get up and go do it. I wish I had done that more.” It is a conversation that will always stay with me.

A year after he died, I was out for a drink with my friend, and we started talking about the Clipper Race. She said, “Just do it, what have you got to lose?” So after a couple bottles of wine, I filled in the application form and here I am. It’s the best thing I have ever done (so far).

Why did you choose Legs 5 to 8?
I originally signed up for Legs 7 and 8 as I thought these looked like the easiest and meant I still get a “glory leg” home into the UK and all the excitement of finishing. After my Level 1 I totally fell in love with sailing and the feeling of being out on the sea. I thought to myself, come on, let’s make this a proper challenge, and so decided to add Legs 5 and 6. The more I sailed, the more I wanted to learn, push myself and really see what I can achieve.

Also Leg 6 is special. That moment of when you are in the middle of the Pacific and closer to people in the space station than on earth. That’s pretty mind blowing. If I’m honest I would love to do the full circumnavigation, but my mother would kill me! (Although I am already thinking about doing Legs 1 to 4 in the next race, sorry Mum!)

What is a normal day in the life of Jennifer?
A normal day…well as I live in London and work across three offices, it involves a lot of travel on the tube. I don’t have a desk as such, so I move around the offices - sometimes all three in one day. There is a lot of talking to clients, new and old, about their latest programme and what they have coming up, umber crunching and sorting out problems. I'm normally out in the evening, at least twice a week for work and then it’s dinner, cinema, drinks, quiz nights, all sorts with friends. I have been going to the gym three times a week with my friend who is a personal trainer to get physically fit for the Clipper Race. I live on my own and at weekends I become a total hermit; I close the door and don’t speak to another person. Bliss!

The Clipper Race could not be more different to my every day life. Instead of the tube, it’s the open ocean. The one challenge for me will be not having my own space. I’ve been so used to living on my own for five years that I think I’ll find this tough, but so far I have found my own way of getting “me” time; lying on my bunk, headphones in and just focusing out the noise for 30 minutes, or 3:00am baking!

What have you found the most challenging of your experience so far?
The most challenging has been everything. I had never sailed or even stepped foot on a sail boat until my Level 1, so everything was alien. The terminology was like a foreign language. The first time I got sea sickness on my Level 3 was interesting but it only stayed for 24 hours.

What has been the highlight so far?
Wow, there are just so many highlights and I haven’t even started my race yet! The first time helming on my Level 1 on the 68s and thinking to myself “oh my god, I am sailing a boat and a big one at that!” Having our Team Sponsor Garmin announced to us and getting on the bow during my Level 4 training to help unhank the Yankee and bring it down to be packed away. That was just exhilarating! I found my new favourite place on the boat. I can’t wait to get on board and join my team.

What do you hope to achieve from the race?
I hope to learn to sail and come out the other side with a skill that will stay with me forever. Also I hope to leave the Clipper Race with friends for life, but in all honesty I’m going into the race totally open minded and I can’t wait to see where this amazing adventure will take me. I already know that the memories will last forever.

What do your friends and family think about your upcoming adventure?
My family are 100% behind me and just as excited as I am. My sister has made friends with all the other “Clipper WAGs” as they call themselves and meets them for drinks. My mother was worried to start with, but the more I have shown her of the training, she has calmed down and is now excited.

My friends are split down the middle. Half of them just don’t understand why on earth I would want to do this and that I should really think about finding a husband and having kids. The other half think it’s just an amazing thing that I’m doing, are one hundred percent behind me and not really surprised. I’ve never done the “normal or expected.” But hey, what is normal? Everyone is different and you only live once.

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