Dealing with isolation
Yachting Monthly|June 2020
Dealing with isolation
Solo yachtsman Conrad Humphreys shares the lessons he learned while competing in the 2004-05 Vendée Globe
Conrad Humphreys

That first night it really hit me. I’d made a great start, rounded the final turning mark off Les Sables d’Olonne inside the top 10 and was now reaching at high speed towards Cape Finisterre. I was suddenly in floods of tears, sobbing irrationally, feeling overwhelmed from the day’s earlier activities. You see, I’d just said goodbye to my family and loved ones before being towed out of the harbour where thousands of people had lined the pier to say ‘au revoir’. Now, cocooned in my little boat, I suddenly felt very alone. Ahead of me lay three months of isolation. From here on, I would only have one phone call each day to my team ashore and Vikki, my wife. The rules of the Vendée Globe, offshore racing’s premier sailing event, are stark – no outside assistance, no stopping, alone.

When asked if I enjoy the isolation of single-handed sailing, I always reply yes, but only if I have a good team of people behind me. We are not solitary beings; most people can’t imagine a period of their lives without daily contact and nor can solo sailors. That’s probably why there are only 11 British sailors that have completed the Vendée Globe.

A lot of people think solo sailors must have incredible mental strength but if you compare us to our amazing NHS workers today, they are the ones with incredible mental resilience. This comes from working in team environments where everyone plays their part and each draws strength from the other.

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June 2020