TIDEWAY PHILANTHROPY

Sailing the Race of My Life

There are easier ways to lose weight than sailing across the North Pacific Ocean, but there is no other diet that could be more fun, exhilarating, or challenging. I lost around two stone during my 7,500nm journey – but that was just a bonus. The real benefit was becoming part of a great team and experiencing the trust and camaraderie that comes with it. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a bit about the journey that led me to participate in a round-the-world sailing race. I first came across ‘Clipper’ when I saw a poster on the London underground many years ago for taking part in what was billed as ‘the race of your life.

I had always sailed, having grown up on the West coast of Scotland. But now, working and commuting to London meant that sailing was on hold. Like many of us, I had a wife, children, mortgage, and responsibilities. So the idea of taking months off for a sailing adventure like this was a dream.


I’m 61 now and retired around four years ago. Like many retired people, I needed a new challenge. So one rainy day last September, I decided to see if I could find Clipper online and there it was.


The Clipper Race was started over 20 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who in 1969 became the first person to sail single-handed non-stop around the world. He is still Chairman of Clipper and very much involved with the race. This is the only organization that allows amateur sailors to participate in such a fantastic event.


I trained for over three weeks last November in Gosport. This training was my first insight into the stark reality of a racing yacht, where I quickly learned there are no luxuries, not even a seat on the toilet.


In February, I flew out to the Philippines with over 200 crew and staff to join the fleet trapped in Subic Bay Marina for nearly two years due to the pandemic.


Generally, on the race, the next stop from Subic would be China before heading to the US. However, with covid still prevalent, we were not given permission to land in China. So the leg to Seattle would be done in a single race – the longest race in the history of Clipper.
You can experience waves of up to 18 metres in this part of the ocean. By the time we were off the coast of northern Japan, we were in temperatures well below freezing. I had plenty of layers on, and it was still colder than anything I had experienced.


There was not much rest, but to be able to crawl back into your sleeping bag after hours of working on deck in the cold and wet was a luxury I can’t explain. But, of course, the flip side was being woken four hours later for you to go on watch again. Getting dressed in a tiny corridor with the boat lurching and heaving, we bounced and fell about like clowns getting ready for a children’s party.


The food on board was basic, mainly pasta and rice-based dishes, but there was plenty of it. The weight loss comes from the energy you burn trying to stay warm. It sounds brutal, and it was.
You can experience waves of up to 18 metres in this part of the ocean. By the time we were off the coast of northern Japan, we were in temperatures well below freezing. I had plenty of layers on, and it was still colder than anything I had experienced.


There was not much rest, but to be able to crawl back into your sleeping bag after hours of working on deck in the cold and wet was a luxury I can’t explain. But, of course, the flip side was being woken four hours later for you to go on watch again. Getting dressed in a tiny corridor with the boat lurching and heaving, we bounced and fell about like clowns getting ready for a children’s party.


The food on board was basic, mainly pasta and rice-based dishes, but there was plenty of it. The weight loss comes from the energy you burn trying to stay warm. It sounds brutal, and it was.
At some point in the North Pacific, the closest humans to us were the astronauts in the space station. We were also told that many more people have scaled Everest than sailed the north Pacific.

– David Howie

After weeks at sea, much of it was spent at an angle of 45 degrees; we reached America and the finish line near Seattle. Finally, after all that time and thousands of miles, our boat crossed the line just one hour ahead of our closest competitor.


We had made it without any significant injuries or incidents. There were hugs all around and quite a few tears. Unfortunately, not every crew was as fortunate; there were broken ribs, dislocated shoulders, frostbite, hypothermia, and dehydration issues across the fleet. Luckily though, no one fell overboard, and everyone made it safely, even if some needed more rest than others at the end.


I mentioned at the start the camaraderie I felt on our boat, and I think that it was the major contributor to winning our race. We were a team who worked well together, laughed together, and made sure we kept each other safe.
The bond we developed was genuinely inspiring, and as much as the Pacific is mighty, I think our togetherness was mightier.

– David Howie

I carried on from Seattle on the next leg, sailing down the west coast of America, through the Panama Canal and up to Bermuda, where my family came to meet me in an emotional reunion.


Why did I do it? I lost one of my closest friends to suicide during the Covid lockdown, and it made me think about living my life and doing some things I had always just thought about.


It was also a chance to mark his passing by raising some money for a charity called CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). It’s a small charity dedicated to suicide prevention, particularly among young men, which is a significant issue in the UK.

When I shared my planned adventure with the Tideway team, they immediately empathised and donated £1000 to the cause. As a result, I raised £2322 when my original target had been just £500.

My project struck a chord with the team as James and other team members are avid sailors.  Sir Robin says all participants in Clipper achieve something remarkable. I will never forget the challenge or the friends I made in taking it on.


Ends, DAVID HOWIE
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