Charlie was one of two finalists and winners of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation Clipper Race Competition that took place in 2015.
Charlie, who was nominated for the competition by Steve Mitchell, RYA Regional Development Officer for the Thames Valley and London region’s Sport Development Department, spoke on the return of his epic advernture
“To have all the drums and everyone waving us off from Qingdao, China was fantastic. We were mid-fleet on departure so there were other teams still alongside cheering us on too which was wonderful. We were doing well to start with and the fleet was tightly bunched together, we were in the top half of the fleet but then we started to drop back and struggled to hold our boat speed, then the pack started to split.
At the beginning of the race the weather was lovely and then it turned and the waves got bigger and bigger and the storms grew and the temperature dropped. We experienced all different types of weather going from all the sails up to the storm jib and the smallest part of the sail, we used all the sails in our sail wardrobe at some point during the race.
Being in a small place with lots of people, it’s a real learning curve but I have enjoyed it. I did my two mother watches and on one of the watches we were the fastest boat the next day so I think that had something to do with my cooking! Mother watch is hard, I don’t do much cooking day to day back home on an even surface, let alone when the boats heeled over! Everyone is good at different things and we really gelled well as a team.
The different conditions were testing but enjoyable at the same time, from sweating and grinding on the sails to all of the different workings of the boat. Some of the crew on the other teams have their set roles but as a team, everyone got a chance to do something on board which is great. I enjoyed helming downwind, most of the race was downwind and then from two weeks in it changed from being slammed and not sleeping very well to fast downwind sailing. I have never seen waves that big before, they were huge and unbelievably big, my fastest speed was 18.7 knots I think the fastest on the boat was 27 knots which was fun. In the daytime you can see the wave behind you which is pretty cool and it’s what you expect the Pacific to be, but the way the weather changes out there is unbelievable.
Sarah was an invaluable member of the crew and she was also the victualler so she kept everyone well fed. She was a really nice lady and always ready to help anyone that needed it. I was on deck at the time when she went overboard, it was hard but the training automatically kicks in and from doing dinghy sailing before the procedure is very similar. The conditions were relentless and it was really windy in the middle of the night. It was hard but we have come together as a team and we can talk to one another about her loss and I am proud that we pulled through and got to Seattle.
It was a long race but worth putting yourself through to experience it. This is the most challenging thing I have done in life so far and not just from the sailing side of it but living on the boat and being in that environment with people you wouldn’t normally socialise with. It has been good, you make lifelong friends and especially following the experiences we have been through together. I learnt a lot more about navigation and the navigation that you wouldn’t necessarily do on a day sail, I was thinking about doing my yachtmasters as it is something I would like to pursue and I was always in the nav room on board. I learnt a lot about living in an environment in close proximity and being young, social media is a big thing and not having a phone was hard work but you get used it! I have learnt to interact with people differently, everyone has an individual personality on the boat and I have learnt how to approach and handle people in different situations – you have to adapt. Everyone helped me and we all helped each other. I tried to set myself an achievable goal to enjoy it and I have. The racing I enjoyed from doing a lot of dinghy sailing and we were racing well until the wind got up quite strong and I liked the tactical competition side of it. I hope to do my yachtmasters and some more dinghy sailing to and incorporate the two together and see where it takes me. Thanks to the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation and Clipper Race I never would have had this opportunity.”