Aligra MD, Mark Neilson has just returned after completing one of sailings biggest challenges, racing a 75t yacht across the Southern Ocean with a crew of amateur sailors. The Clipper Race is one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and an endurance test like no other.
Mark, with no previous sailing experience, sailed just under 5,000 miles from Cape Town, South Africa to Western Australia.
The brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, the event is now on its eleventh edition.
Normally the domain of seasoned pros, this supreme challenge is taken on by ordinary, everyday people. Having completed a rigorous training course, participants are suited and booted in the latest extreme protection gear to commence the race of their lives.
Mark said, it certainly was a test of endurance and was pretty hairy at times. We saw 80 foot swells, boat speeds of well over 30 knots and wind speeds up to 60 mph. We we’re in a watch system that was 4-hours on/4-hours off/24 hours per day for 27 days. On a personal level, I have had a brilliant experience. I cannot honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every minute but it has been character building and has left some moments imprinted in my memory that will last a lifetime.
The beautiful stars of the unpolluted night sky, the phosphorescence in the dark ocean that makes me think of my daughter Gracie who’s still at the age where she loves anything that sparkles.
The fantastic sunrises and sunsets that my wife would love. The physical and mental challenges of beating upwind for days on end and living at 45 degrees.
The camaraderie of my starboard watch. A diverse mixture of individuals who are thrown into a pot and develop into an efficient team who work together with a united goal, the bond that develops is testament to the human spirit.
They call it the Race of Your Life, it certainly has been for me and apart from missing my family terribly, I don’t regret a single minute of it.