The adventurers return

16 March 2016

As the teams soak up the amazing hospitality and culture of our six-time Host Port, Qingdao, we hear from some familiar faces of Alumni crew members who have returned to take on the Asia Pacific Challenge and Mighty Pacific Legs, in aid of Unicef.

Sixteen Alumni crew members spanning six previous race editions have joined the 2015-16 race. Their return follows the incentive from the Clipper Race office that we would donate half the Alumni crew members’ race fees to our Official Race Charity, Unicef, and the group has raised more than £40,000 as a result, to help protect children in danger.

On top of raising money for a great cause, former circumnavigator Denise Oakley explains her motivation for returning to take part in the Asia Pacific Leg: “I had an amazing experience during the 2013-14 race so when I retired in September last year I decided I would do another race leg whilst considering what to do next with my life.

“Leg 5 has visited two new ports, Airlie Beach, Australia and Da Nang in Vietnam. During Leg 5 on the last race, as the sail repair crew member, I was in my apartment in Brisbane fixing the team’s heavyweight kite so I didn't get to see much of Australia. This time round I went to Uluru for a few days before heading up to the Whitsundays to join my new team, Mission Performance.

“There is strong bond and commitment amongst the circumnavigators on the race so as a legger this time I think fitting into an established team will provide the opposite perspective.”

Joining Garmin in Qingdao to take on the mighty North Pacific Ocean, Anna Root, who took part in Legs 2 and 7 of the 2011-12 race, is relishing the challenge ahead. “Leg 6 is the ultimate test to cross the world’s largest ocean and with my 40th fast approaching I wanted to complete this prior to my birthday!" she said. “My friends and family were all really positive and supportive when I told them I was doing the race again as they know how much I enjoyed the previous races I did.

“I think this race will be far more mentally challenging as not only is it a much longer race than I have competed in previously, but there will also be the freezing weather conditions to contend with. I hate being cold so this will be a true endurance test! I am looking forward to working as part of a team to get across the North Pacific as efficiently and safely as possible. Before arriving in Qingdao I didn't know anyone on board but I'm excited by the new, lifetime friendships I will make. The ultimate achievement will be when we arrive in Seattle having battled the mighty Pacific together!”

During the Pacific Leg the fleet will race to the American city of Seattle for the first time. Australian crew member Vesna Rendulic, competing on board Da Nang – Viet Nam is looking forward to sailing into the city having completed Leg 8 during the 2011-12 edition.

She says: “I selected this leg because of the vastness and remoteness of the North Pacific Ocean and lack of nearby land. I also recall fellow crew from my race saying how wet and cold and dreary the Pacific crossing was for them, and I guess that also influenced me to some extent as I’m used to Australia’s relentless heat and the challenge of the constant cold may possibly test me in a different way. Also to have bragging rights to say I’ve sailed from China to Seattle sounds rather exotic. I’ve never been to China before, nor Seattle, so I am just as excited to explore two new places on earth as I am to traverse the ocean between them. It will be very exciting arriving in Seattle as a new Host Port.

“I am looking forward to the camaraderie and team work on board and to being a useful cog in the overall wheel. The sense I get from reading the daily crew and Skipper reports is that Da Nang –Viet Nam is a fun crew and I really like their motto “drive it like you stole it” – that appeals to my sense of humour. I am looking forward to being a good contributor to the team, perhaps even putting my sail mending skills to the test again, and doing what I can to help us get from Qingdao to Seattle safely and smiling at the end. I am also looking forward to the elation upon reaching Seattle as it will be a remarkable achievement for me personally, and I’m sure for the entire crew," Vesna continues.

“I cannot imagine how the race may be different this time other than the endurance factor of spending far more time at sea in one race than I experienced across the North Atlantic. Although I guess I will be amongst a totally new group of people which will generate a different dynamic but the experience no doubt will still be a physical and emotional rollercoaster day to day. I know there will be the ‘fun bits’ when someone makes you smile or laugh, ‘hard bits’ when you’re tired and hanking on a sail in the cold sea spray, the ‘messy bits’ when a pot of porridge may cantilever off the stove or it’s a bilge cleaning moment…or simply the feeling of achievement of being able to get into your bunk without sustaining an extra bruise just to snatch an hour or two of sleep.”

Someone who does already know what it is like to cross the Pacific is 2013-14 race circumnavigator Craig Forsyth. Explaining his reason for taking on one of the longest legs for the second time, this time on board Mission Performance, Craig says: “If you want to test yourself then you need to put realistic challenges in front of you. For all the cold, wet, bumpy sailing I had last crossing, the Pacific leg gave my team third place, an iconic photo finish and a great buzz amongst the crew throughout the whole crossing. It ranks up there in my favourites.”

If you are keen to join the crew and take on the world’s oceans for yourself in the 2017-18 or 2019-20 editions, click here.

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