Heather Thomas

Heather Thomas is one of two Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation Clipper Race finalists that is taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. On her arrival into Seattle we received an update from her journey so far.

“I loved the race, not every second but I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed not seeing land and living on the boat – helming was great too, the whole experience has just been mind-blowing and really amazing.

It’s quite nerve racking when you first set off but then you get into the watch system and sailing –  your mind is taken away from it and you are concentrated on getting your boat going fast. It was nice at the start to see so much of the fleet tightly bunched together in close-match racing because it gives you something to focus on how to get past them or hold them off if you were in front, it’s exciting to see other boats around you because it doesn’t happen very often in the vastness of the ocean and it brought out my competitive side even more.

We work really well together as a team trying to get one another to trim, trim, trim! We encountered really big waves and lots of wind it was quite bumpy and hard at times to get around the boat and anything was difficult but that is sailing and you have to get on with it. Helming was quite difficult but I am now I am a member of the heavy helming club which was fun, I like helming in heavy weather and I also like being at the bow. I found it difficult emotionally missing people at home and getting out of bed, I am still a teenager! Once you are out of bed its fine but being tired all the time and getting into wet kit was challenging.

When we had theincludent on board, we worked really well as a team to get everyone below deck and get the people and the boat in a safe position. I am proud that our entire team worked so well, it was really scary but at the same time I think it brought us all together as a team.

I wanted to see if I want to do racing as a career and if it’s for me and I now know that it definitely is. I think I have a taste of it and I think I have battled a lot of fears, going up on the bow when there are lots of waves crashing around but when you get on with it and achieve it, it’s very satisfying. I feel like I have grown as a person and I am more independent I know I was mothered a lot on the boat but I feel I can look after myself. It nice to see my helming has developed and on the bow now I can just go and do it with no hesitation.

We had quite a female heavy team this race with 11 women which was fantastic, I have made some great friends on this race and they are all very strong, independent and brave women, they are tough as nails and can handle it just as well as the guys can.

I want to get more into yacht racing and I’m considering a degree in meteorology at uni but I don’t know, I want to go and do some more travelling to and teach somewhere too.

After Leg 6 and everything that happened on the race I enjoyed it so much I decided that I wanted to stay on. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I just need to grab it and go for it I had a feeling that I needed to stay and continue sailing.

I decided that I really wanted to do Leg 8 and so because I am here I may as well sail all the way to the end of the race and experience the Panama Canal. Coming back into London will be unique too with all my family and friends coming to see me and sailing in waters that I know because I have sailed a lot in the Irish and North Sea.

The crew are excited I am coming back and it will be fun to sail with them again and get to know the new people joining our team. I want to continue to improve on sail trim and pit management and get better at sailing with more responsibility whilst having lots of fun and maybe win a race, I would quite like to win! My friends, family and the Otley Sailing Club are quite shocked that I am not coming back just yet.  I think some of them know I would do it and that once I was out there I would not want to come back until I wanted to they are all very supportive and it’s nice to know that they are there for me.”

To track Heather’s progress during the race visit www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

Photo Credit: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race