Meet the Crew: Mark Pollard

14 January 2020

Name: Mark Pollard
Age: 30
Occupation: Engineer
Nationality: Australian
Leg: 1 and 3
Team: Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam

An innate sense of adventure and discovery was always present for Mark Pollard when he first learned about the Clipper Race. Having sailed since the age of five alongside his parents Mark purchased a powerboat following a relocation to Airlie Beach, where he worked as an engineer, but it was his part-time deckhand work for a maxi yacht company, that re-ignited a sense of intrigue and desire to learn more about ocean sailing.

It was amid the Clipper 2017-18 Race that Mark first set foot aboard a Clipper 70 yacht, during an open boat event happening whilst the boats were on stopover at Coral Sea Marina Resort, Airlie Beach. Impressed by what he saw and following further provocation by way of a Facebook advert, Mark decided he was ready for a challenge: “I decided that I wanted to cross an ocean and do so competitively, so I signed up for a couple of legs. I moved to the UK, partly to complete the Clipper Race training and then after the first training session I realised that sailing was definitely my thing!”

Driven by a reinvigorated passion for sailing, Mark signed up to complete Leg 1 The Atlantic Trade Winds and Leg 3 The Southern Ocean and was soon embarking on the four levels of compulsory and intensive training: “I did the first week in November 2018 in Gosport. At first, you're not sure what to expect but the training Skipper I had was brilliant! The second week I did in Sydney, we spent a few days at sea in the open ocean. We had a fantastic crew and excellent skipper and mate with really challenging conditions. The third week was back in Gosport, and took place upon the Clipper 70 which turned out to be my eventual boat Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. The fourth week was when met our Skipper, Josh Stickland and first mate, Hugo Picard. It was a fantastic start to the Clipper Race.”

Mark and the crew of Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam sailed from St. Katharine Docks, London on 1 September and we spoke with him after he’d completed both Legs 1 and 3 he had signed up for. He enthused: “Each leg had its own challenges; Leg 1 had many different conditions from cold and windy up wind beats down the English Channel, downwind kitesurfing across the Bay of Biscay, to sweltering doldrums across the equator and finally sail tearing electrical storms on the approach to Uruguay. Leg 3 was much colder, wetter and windier with bigger swells and shorter tethers. The amount of work in a typical shift would depend mainly on how much the wind had changed or stayed the same. For example in light fickle winds we managed to raise, drop and unpack three different Spinnakers in a single watch at one point then other times during the race.”

Taking on the Clipper Race was the realisation of a dream to cross an ocean for Mark but the entire experience provided far more fulfilment: “I most looked forward to getting behind the helm with the kite flying with a good swell for the perfect surfing conditions and flying along at over 20knots! 'Swimming' on the foredeck was a thrill both because it's an adrenaline rush but also because once you've done that really hard sail change, while waves are crashing over the deck, you have a strong sense of accomplishment. In addition to that, I got to share the experience with such an amazing bunch of people. They were the right mix of competitive, organised, hardworking but also, laid back, sarcastic, quirky, and full of banter.”

Speaking reflectively having completed both Legs, Mark now feels that his journey has only just begun in his passion for sailing and he has increased his ambitions further, when asked if he’d like to complete another Leg he said: “I would love to do the Clipper Race again but if I go back, I would like to try it as an AQP or Race Skipper.”

Crew take part it the Clipper Race for many and varying reasons, sometimes, as in Mark’s case, it provides the opportunity to cross an ocean for an already interested sailor, in other cases it can provide the platform for everyday people to take part in something truly remarkable. Visit the Clipper Race website to learn more about the current crew racing in the 2019-20 Clipper Race and for further details on how you can apply.

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