I was three when I started sailing. My parents got me into the sport – we always sailed as a family and my brothers and I grew up around boats. I love the fact that no two days on a boat are ever the same. And I still get a big thrill from watching the land disappear until I have the ocean all to myself.

I’m currently preparing for the 2018 Golden Globe Race. This means sailing non-stop, solo, around the world, without outside assistance, against 29 competitors. I’ve always enjoyed the physical and emotional challenge of sailing, but the hardest part of this race will be spending nine months on my own at sea. I’ve never been on a boat for that long before. 

The rules of the race mean that I have to sail in a yacht designed before 1988, and without using modern technology such as autopilot and a Global Positioning System (GPS). Sailing with GPS is hard enough! Without it... well... there will be times when I simply won’t know where I am. I’ll have a good idea, hopefully; but I’ll be guided by the stars, so if I can’t get a celestial fix because of cloud, there could be days or weeks when there’s not much that I can do. I can’t tell you how daunting that seems! 

Sleep will also be difficult. If I’m near the coast, I’ll jump on deck, scan the horizon and if there’s nothing around I’ll go to sleep for 20 minutes. Offshore and away from shipping, I‘ll go to sleep until, say, the wind picks up and the boat wakes me. Even then, I’ll never be asleep for more than an hour and a half at a time.

I’m being sponsored by DHL, so my boat – a Rustler 36 class yacht – is sure to feature some red and yellow! I’ve also got to stow 10 months’ worth of food and supplies on board, which will be packed and shipped by DHL. 

I’ve got mixed emotions as the start of the race approaches. My family and friends have been so supportive and I know they’re all behind me, which is a massive boost; but I’m dreading saying goodbye to them all and I’m expecting the first week at sea to be tough. 

Then again, I’m also really excited to be going. During the race, I know there will be scary moments. The trick is thinking about the worst-case scenarios – losing the boat or the rig coming down, for example – and having a strategy to deal with anything. It’s better to be prepared in this sport. That said, I usually find the frightening part of any difficult situation is afterwards, when you realize what you’ve just been through! But, scary or not, this was an unmissable opportunity for me because I’ve always wanted to sail solo around the world. When I get back, I’ll be able to tick that one off my list...

About the race

To mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s historic 1968-69 world first solo non-stop circumnavigation in the Golden Globe Yacht Race, a new Golden Globe Race is being staged on 30 June, 2018. It starts from Plymouth, U.K. down the Atlantic, past the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania and back up the Atlantic again, past the Falklands and back up to Plymouth. 

Published: June 2017

Images: SusieGoodall/Instagram, Richard Kirby