“My challenge will reach its pinnacle racing to New York”

26 April 2016

Picking up the Derry~Londonderry~Doire bursary baton in Seattle is Jilly St John, a singer and writer from the Northern Irish city who was awarded her Clipper Race berth through the ‘Your Next Chapter’ scheme.

Jilly is the fourth bursary candidate to take part in the race thanks to the three-time race partner Derry City and Strabane District Council. Having already overcome many challenges in her personal life, not least recovering from anorexia, Jilly says she is more ready than ever for the excitement and thrill of life on board as she prepares to sail from Seattle to New York through the Panama Canal.

Here Jilly shares with us her story.

Name: Jilly St John
Age: 33
Occupation: Performer and song writer
Team: Derry~Londonderry~Doire
Signed up for: Leg 7

I feel good about this because I’m doing this for myself. I’ve lived independently since I was 15 years of age and I’ve led a very eventful life. As well as overcoming an eating disorder, I have achieved great things in my life personally and in my career.

This is another step forward for me in realising who I am and what I have achieved. This is the next step in the dawn of my new self of endless opportunities. I feel grounded, strong and happy in my life. Taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race will be the next step in this nonstop eventful journey.

I think it’s incredible to think where I’ve come from. From being housebound with panic and anxiety, suffering from anorexia to my new-found health, where I am grabbing life in the biggest way possible. It’s hard to believe that in just a few days’ time my challenge will reach its pinnacle in racing from Seattle to New York on a yacht. It still shocks me!

I really enjoyed the training – I felt comfortable with it all. It was phenomenal. It feels great being out in the water with the wind in your face. It makes my heart happy – it’s where I feel most content and calm. You feel really free out at sea. It takes a lot of patience and practice but I loved every minute of the training. Being part of the team was hugely beneficial for me. It has been life changing and I’m determined to make a job of this.

All of the bursary recipients are so grateful for this fantastic opportunity. I walked along the Quay and watched the Clipper Race yachts sail out of Derry a few years ago and thought I’m gonna be on that boat. I just can’t believe that two years on and I’m joining the crew and representing the city in the race. It both scares me and amazes me.

Some people are like, “Are you crazy?! How you going to cope out there?” But most people are like – “Yeah, that’s amazing”. They want me to do well and know that it’s a huge thing for me to do. Let’s hope I can live up to the challenge. I think I can.

Yoga gives me the ability to adjust my attitude. It allows me to reaffirm in the hope of believing. It calls for me to stand strong, tall, centred and focused. Yoga is my medicine, my friend, my earth and something that will guide me through this next challenge in my life. It allows me to remain calm, balanced, and rooted in my belief in myself and my journey.

It’s taken lot of work, mentally, physically and emotionally for me to get myself prepared for this. I’ve gained a new body and an ability to like myself. It's still work in progress but I am getting there and that’s a good thing. I really love how much my life has changed over the last year or two. I am doing things I never imagined. So who is to know what happens next.

The race will set off from Seattle on Thursday 28 April for the start of the American Cost-to-Coast leg. Entertainment gets underway at 1330 with the official departure ceremony and crews taking to their yachts in a spectacular ceremony.

The fleet will perform a Parade of Sail in front of the boardwalk with the backdrop of the iconic Seattle skyline in the Puget Sound between 1500-1730.

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