With little previous sailing experience, Colleen Carstens participated in the 2015-16 Clipper Round the World Race, the world’s toughest ocean racing challenge. It was, she says, the experience of a lifetime.
I’ve always been interested in sailing. It looks glamorous, fun and exciting. I pictured sunsets, dolphins jumping… I’d been on a boat a couple of times – sunset cruises,and things like that; and I love the sea.
So when my boss’s wife, Sue, who had participated in the first leg told me it was a life-changing experience, I was sold. The company I work for owns Stormhoek Wines, the official wine sponsor of that year’s race; and I grabbed the opportunity. I signed up for the second leg of the race, known as the South Atlantic Challenge Leg, from Rio to Cape Town.
It’s a lot of time away from work – you have to do four weeks of training on top of the time you spend racing. It was because of the company connection that I was able to take the time.
We could choose where to do the training, so I started off in Sydney. My brother lives there with his family, and I was able to score cool aunt points. For the final two weeks’ training we had to train on the actual Clipper boats, in the UK. For the first half of this, we learnt about cooking, cleaning toilets, cleaning the bilges, how the engine and generator work… The sailing training only comes after all that! You learn about the sails, trimming, which sail to put up in each wind, and helming. There was a big focus on safety – useful stuff, like how to avoid falling off the boat! You very quickly realise that racing has none of the glamour usually associated with yachts. No sundowners on the deck here. It’s very much an endurance sport.
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