Round the World Crew Catch Up: Ruth Charles

13 January 2016

As we've reached the midway point in terms of Clipper Race legs, we caught up with Derry~Londonderry~Doire round the world crew member Ruth Charles, 30, Wymondham-born youth worker (pictured front left in main image) in the Whitsundays' Airlie Beach to find out how her circumnavigation is going.

Q. We are over four months into the race now and you've completed half the legs. How has it been for you so far?

A. It’s going really well I can’t quite believe that four legs have gone by already. In some ways it feels like we left London years and years ago but at other times it feels like yesterday, depending on the day and how tired I am feeling I’m sure!

I feel happy that we’ve got to the end of the Australian Leg now as in my mind there are two big momentous parts of the journey. One, getting to Australia and the next one is getting to Seattle as after crossing the Pacific I’ll feel like we’re on the home streak despite there still being two legs remaining. I’m glad the Southern Ocean is now out of the way as it was one I was slightly worried about.

Q. What have been your highlights on board?
A. I surfed a wave in the Southern Ocean and reached 22.5 knots which was pretty cool. There have been some spectacular sunrises, sunsets and starry nights, and of course the podium moments have been pretty special. Although we haven’t had one since Albany but they make the hard work and the pain feel a lot easier and worth it in the end. I guess I feel a little downhearted when we don’t get on the podium but equally there is far more to this than the winning.

When we left Cape Town we were surrounded by whales which was pretty incredible to see. Our helm actually thought we would hit one at one point as they were so close. We’ve also seen lots of dolphins and seals. We even saw penguins in the Southern Ocean. No one believed us but they were definitely penguins, We’ve seen a lot of albatrosses and we still don’t know if the plural is albatari or albatrosses?!

We haven’t seen many flying fish since the first leg through the Atlantic to Rio, which is good as I got attacked by them at one stage. They hurt a bit and they stink. I got hit by four or five. One got me in the face and a massive one hit me in the back and left a bruise. It’s funny but annoying too.

Q. Has your experience been anything like what you expected?
A. I don’t really know what I expected, which sounds like a silly thing to say, but I did know it was going to be tough. I was looking for a challenge, for something new. I had done some sailing before and it was the right point in my life to quit my job. It was now or never really as I had nothing tying me down. I had the determination to sign up and get around the world and it is a pretty cool thing to say you’ve achieved in your life.

Q. What aspects have you found the most challenging?
A. It’s not the sea that is most challenging, it is the people side of the life. Living on board with different people of different backgrounds and ideals of how people should live and work together can be a challenge, in positive ways though too of course. Also even after four months I have to say going to the toilet at 45 degrees is still a challenge, I still have to psych myself up for it!

I’m the Team Coordinator on board so that involves a lot of extra time dedication. It is the kind of role which people often don’t really realise goes on so can be a bit of a thankless task. If you do the job well, I don't think people realise what the TCs as it just appears to gets done and you might not even notice though also that makes it hard Ioften think people don’t really realise what you do. The role includes being responsible for the crew rotas, bunk allocations, stripping out the stopover schedules, updating the scheds on board and basically the jobs never stop! I do enjoy it though as I like to be organised.

Q. What have you learnt about yourself during the experience?

A. I’m better at the sailing than I thought I was although I guess we’ve had a lot of practice now! I have now learnt to embrace the not washing side of live on board, though I’m not sure that is a habit I will keep up for too long after the race!

I’m also tougher than I thought I was, and I bite my tongue a lot more than I used to, which I guess means I’m learning to be more tolerant of others, or at least know when to let things slide not create extra fuss over small details. Now I’ve got to the stage where I’ve lived on this boat for so long that it feels like home and I prefer to be on sea than on land.

The first time I really felt homesick was when we got to Australia and it was Christmas as lots of people had family coming to visit and I didn’t. Plus you realise you have just of much if not more of the journey to again to get home, though generally you don’t really have time to be homesick. You spend most of the time in a watch system and you basically just get up and sail, and eat and repeat. So it’s mostly on land that you miss home, and your friends. Though you do have your new Clipper Race friends and family to support you. I’m going to be Ellie’s (also a Derry~Londonderry~Doire round the world crew member) bridesmaid, I’m very excited as she is now like my sister!

It’s not just on board though, I feel like my Clipper family extends beyond the boat. There are a small group of us who are round the worlders on different boats and we make a point of getting together in each port just to have that friendship and family. I’ve also been adopted by lots of people so I have a few new Clipper Race Mums in various different parts of the world!

Q. With half the legs still left to come, what are you most looking forward to?
A. I’m looking forward to getting to Seattle as it means we’ll have done the Pacific. I’m looking forward to getting to Da Nang as it is a new race destination and we’re hearing all the time about all the stuff they have planned. They seem very excited to have us arrive so I think it will have a great energy. Also as it is the only place I have people visiting me.

I’m not looking forward to leaving the heat I must say! The Panama Canal will be awesome, and then of course Derry will be the best stopover ever, and that’s the next time I see my parents. We are all really excited for that one of course. I guess really I am looking forward to all of it still! Which is good.

Q. As a Brownie Leader you’ve been connecting with Brownie groups around the world. How is that adding to your experience?
A: It is adding to the experience in the sense that I have a big following of people on land of people sharing my journey through my blogs. I set my Brownies in the UK little challenges relating to my experience so meeting Brownie groups around the world helps my girls back home understand that they are part of a worldwide movement.

For me Guiding has given me lots of opportunities and I think one of the reasons I am adventurous is because of it and it’s important that young girls get a real chance to see what is possible for them and that they get inspired to follow their dreams. Sailing around the world was my dream and I’ve worked hard to achieve it so if I can inspire at least one other young person to believe that their dreams are possible then I think it’s been totally worthwhile.

You can follow Ruth’s experience via her blog

If Ruth’s story has inspired you to take on the Clipper Race we are now recruiting crew for the 2017-18 and 2019-20 race editions. Click here to find out more information and how to apply.

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