10 ocean racing yachts
One champion team
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is the longest and most gruelling ocean race in the world. Those who have participated say it’s a life-changer; a character multiplier; a physical, mental, emotional supercharger.
This past December, High River’s Kevin Wiebe (husband of Routes publisher, Sandra Wiebe), along with his high school friend and colleague, Brian Vogelaar from Airdrie, entered the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The pair, along with 10 other thrill-seekers from around the world, sailed for 30 consecutive days on Clipper’s New York New York, racing from Gold Coast, Australia to Qingdoa, China.
What inspires a person to do this? Was the obvious question friends and strangers asked the two landlocked Albertans.
Vogelaar summed it up as an exercise in building autonomy. “We are not self sufficient in our everyday lives, we are safe – well protected. When you leave your cocoon, leave your safety net behind, you become strong – you are self sufficient.”
Wiebe concurred, adding, “If you are never uncomfortable, how do you know what comfort is? I think you have to get outside your comfort zone to grow.”
I spoke to Wiebe upon his return in January and learned that though the experience was difficult at times, he’s glad he did it. “The variety of conditions we sailed in was great!” He explained. “My sailing skills are vastly improved.”
Challenges were pretty much as expected: bad food, limited bathing, hard physical labour, unpredictable seas, and being cooped up with 10 others in a stifling hot confined space for multiple days – plenty of discomfort, but according to Wiebe, “part of the growing.”
Wiebe also alluded to the fact that he could have done without the race component. “Several times we ended up stuck in a wind hole (no wind) in perfect view of a totally awesome secluded beach – but we couldn’t go there!” he said, adding, “If I do another long sailing trip, I would do it cruising where you can stop and check out the local culture and geography.”
To qualify for a Clipper Yacht Race you need a strong will, sound mind, some basic physical capabilities, time away for training and racing, and the financial wherewithal to cover race fees, mandatory insurance, and travel. “In total it cost about $18,000 for this one leg of the race,” said Wiebe.
Clipper boats are equipped with satellite phones, internet (sketchy and costly), and GPS navigation, though the helmsmen mainly use tools like sextons, and moment-by-moment compass. Below deck there is a U-shaped couch that holds eight to 10, a cramped cooking area, one or two basic toilets (no door just a curtain), and 18 berths.
Each boat has a crew of 12 to 18 including a skipper, and in some cases a member of the media (i.e. National Geographic photographer). Crews are divided in two and take turns manning the boat and sleeping in four or six hour shifts. Members also rotate through the ‘motherwatch’ role, which entails cooking, doing dishes and cleaning toilets for a day.
A race like this, no doubt calls for a hearty appetite for risk, although both Wiebe and Vogelaar downplayed this aspect of the adventure.
“Driving on the Deerfoot is risky. Flying in an airplane is risky. Life is risky,” said Wiebe. “This type of risk barely gets on my radar.”
To read more and to follow the remainder of the 2011/2012 Clipper Yacht Races go to www.clipperroundtheworld.com.