As a 67-year-old, overweight, but reasonably active retiree, I knew I had an ‘opportunity’ as soon as I signed my Clipper contract!

How to get fit?       (No, that’s not me in the picture!)

What I didn’t know is that there are three different types of fitness involved with my adventure….

  • Physical
  • Agility
  • Mental

My first step was to lose weight and I have to confess I found this really easy as I had a real objective. Yes, I ate sensibly, reduced my alcohol intake, stopped eating bread and snacking between meals – but I did not become a food hermit nor, I hope, a diet bore! Within 3 months I lost some 10kg – not bad even if I do say so myself!  (As I write 2 weeks prior to getting on the boat I am consciously building up my weight again as I need plenty of energy reserves from the start.  I understand it will come off again – quickly!)

Losing weight allowed me to seriously attack the gym and thanks to my good neighbours Lynda, Tony and Peter the four of us religiously went up to the Lightwater recreation centre twice a week. Sadly Tony passed away in June but I know he is still with us in spirit and hopefully, he will be urging me on when on the boat. Maybe he can get his new boss to give us a helping hand!

The gym has really helped but I have to admit that I failed at pilates and yoga – couldn’t get my brain around those!  I suspect that will be a mistake and I have not succeeded in improving my agility which could well be a limiting factor on the boat.

The third fitness element, mental, is a serious one. As I explain in another of my blogs, the training program provided by Clipper brings to you many of the aspects of the ‘real thing’ including, on level 2, working in watches and suddenly being confronted with sleep deprivation and its effects on the mind and body when trying to perform. Level 2 was hard, very hard.

I must be open about the effect this had on me – I wanted out.  As I unloaded my kit at the end of the week I was already making up excuses about why I was not going to go through with my trip.  However, by the time I had driven out of Gosport I had rationalised what the trainers had been doing – it was almost like a classic ‘beasting’ and, if I couldn’t take it in training, I certainly would not be able to deal with it when on the real thing!  Mentally, I have to be prepared for a serious change in life and I just have to get on with it.  Interestingly, when talking to others on my level 2, I learnt I was by no means the only one that went through such serious doubts.

This is not a funfair ride.  Putting it into perspective, 2 people died on it last time.  The average number of broken ribs is 30+ per boat over the 11 months and already this time around, we have had 3 medical emergency evacuations (one by helicopter) and one of the boats has run aground on rocks off the South African coast – they are out of the race but thankfully all are safe and sound.

Please do not get me wrong, yes, I changed my mind and am really looking forward to it now, but I certainly realise this is going to be tough and I will be having many highs and lows on this one.  Let’s just hope the highs outweigh the lows!

I have written in another blog about our ‘supporters’ and the role they will play – being a normal macho man I do not find it easy to talk to anyone about what I might experience over the coming months but I am very pleased Mary is coming to meet me at Hobart and Airlie Beach.

For anyone interested in understanding the really positive and essential role of ‘the supporter’ may I suggest you read “The Crossing”, the story of Ben Fogle & James Cracknell’s  Atlantic Rowing Race.

For anyone wanting to get a better understanding of ‘blue water’ ocean racing then I would recommend “A Journey for Madmen”.  This is the story of the first solo, non-stop, sailing circumnavigation of the world won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.  The title says it all!

I am currently reading “Into the Storm”, the story of the disastrous 1998 Hobart race.  As I will be doing the Hobart on Boxing Day I am beginning to wish I had not started this book!

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