It’s not unfair to say that after witnessing the start of the 2017-18 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and being on the Mersey shoreline as the teams left Liverpool for their circumnavigation adventure, I became obsessed with following the race. I would check the Clipper website each morning to see how the yacht positions were changing, taking note of the various tactics – who was leading, who had fallen back, who had broken away and taken a different route. When combined reading with the daily skipper reports and crew diaries, it was almost a full-time job absorbing all the highs and lows. I couldn’t help but imagine myself being on one of those yachts with my own team and how it would feel.
Whilst not giving it a conscious thought, I naturally assumed that immersing myself in all things Clipper would reinforce the excitement I felt at the race start weekend in Liverpool. That it would build not only my motivation and enthusiasm, but also as I shared the teams’ progress with Nicki, her excitement too. Yes of course it wouldn’t be easy being apart for so long. We are undoubtedly soulmates – both second relationships which often means a more considered and deeper one, at the same time this was an opportunity for a year-long adventure for us both with Nicki travelling to as many of the stop overs as we could arrange and afford! And yet for me, that certainly wasn’t the case. As the first few months of the race went by, I found myself increasingly anxious and unsettled. I couldn’t really put my finger on what or why, but I was definitely out of sorts. Was it just natural nerves as the reality of what I was doing became clearer, or was it something deeper and more significant? For a while I reassured myself it was the former and pushed any deeper concerns to the back of my mind.
As 2017 drew to a close and Christmas approached, I became aware that I wasn’t the only one who had developed Clipper anxiety. Nicki had become more open about her concerns and worries. Not just about my safety (there have been three deaths over the previous two Clipper races, several medical evacuations and one yacht running aground!!) but also about the implications for us, the family, income and home life whilst I was away for so long. All very important, valid and reasonable concerns, which I had neglected to think about, let discuss properly up until that point. What followed was a few evenings of open, honest and, at times, emotional sharing of thoughts, feelings, concerns, hopes and aspirations. It was long overdue. Nicki was clear and absolute in her support for my Clipper adventure, equally, she was honest about not really wanting me to be away for nearly year and understandably, a degree of almost resentment that she was left to deal with work, home and family whilst I was away having the “Race of My Life”.
Nicki’s comments struck many chords with me – one of the reasons I took so long to commit to the Clipper race in the first place was that I felt it was a very selfish aspiration, an abandonment of my responsibilities – I was already carrying a degree of guilt for putting my wants first. I appreciated I was asking a lot of many people by taking on this challenge, but unfortunately my initial response to Nicki’s honesty was, I’m ashamed to say, not that of a mature well-rounded individual. My response was to spit out my dummy and in act of childish, self-pity stated that clearly the only option was for me to abandon the race all together and stay at home where I clearly belonged and resign myself to an old age of missed chances and regret. All very melodramatic!! “If I can’t do the whole thing, what’s the point of doing any of it?” I recall were my exact words.
As Nicki gently pointed out, that was quite a disparaging view of all those courageous folk who were at this very moment battling the Southern Ocean, but for personal reasons were unable to complete the whole race. Nicki’s next question, however, was the killer “So, Pete, why exactly do you want to do the whole race?” You’d have thought with over three years of planning the answer to that question would have been clear, succinct, even inspirational rather than the garbled, non-specific clichés that I came out with. The reality was that despite knowing the principles of goal setting, I’d overlooked the most important step.
Step 1 – be crystal clear about your “why” and the emotional attachment.
Over the next few weeks I took the time to really consider for the first time why I wanted to do the Clipper race – what exactly I was hoping to get out of it, what I wanted to experience and more importantly, what was I prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve those things and what was I not prepared to miss out on? I also considered the real impact of being away from home for almost a year. Did I really not want to be at home for that long, miss out on time and memories with Nicki, Mum, the kids and other family and friends? Nicki is a strong independent Yorkshire woman, but we work well as a team – so who would be around to help Nicki with pets, the garden, day-to-day household stuff, finances and the whole range of things we do without thinking of it, not to mention the impact on the wide family and especially my mum and two sisters. So I came up with a shortlist that excited me, that really meant something to me – I wanted to experience the UK race start, I wanted to cross at least one ocean, I wanted to travel to places I’d never been to and I wanted to experience back-to-back legs and a race stopover. But, more importantly, I recognised that I did not want to miss out on 11 months of home life and time with Nicki and the family.
The realisation that by cherry picking three of the longest Clipper legs, I could achieve all my objectives without significantly compromising my family values, responsibilities and commitments, was a revelation. I suddenly knew why I had been so unsettled and so out of sorts – not only had I never been clear about my “why”, I also knew that organising our lives to minimise the disruption to the family was more overwhelming and scary than the thought of sailing around the world. I now had a plan, my personal Clipper plan, that would allow me to commit fully to the race whilst having a more manageable impact on home, family and work. For the first time since our weekend in Liverpool I felt real excitement but with a sense of balance and relief. The butterflies were back and now they were flying in formation.
You can follow the race and learn more about the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race at www.clipperroundtheworld.com but be warned – you might find yourself signing up for a leg or two!
Thank you for reading my blog. If you are able to support and encourage me on my way by sharing my adventure or contributing to my fund raising for UNICEF UK, it was be a great help and much appreciated.
Look out for the next episode – Autumn Harvest.