If there is one thing I know about myself it’s that I thrive on challenge; I constantly need to be questioning and testing the limits of my own abilities both physically and mentally. I love to learn, to better myself and then ultimately to put it all to the test.
The last couple of years have been more focused on mental challenges than the physical. Last year after seven years of study I finally gained my undergraduate degree with the Open University and since 2013 I have enjoyed a job working with the innovative Community Safety team at the RNLI thinking up new ways to save lives around our coasts. But in the middle of last year I realised the challenge had gone from my life; I was starting to feel at a physical and intellectual standstill and so it was time for a change.
So here we are in 2017 and I have got challenge in spades.
Firstly at the end of last year I was asked to skipper the 3rd generation Class 40 ‘PHOR-TY’ and I jumped at the chance to get back into competing at international level, offshore racing. The purchase of the yacht went through in early December and then saw me hightailing it from France to the Caribbean over Christmas and New Year so we could attend our first race of the year, the Caribbean 600 last month.
Despite having to learn on the job and only just getting to know the boat the team were lucky enough to be joined by the super talented Sam Goodchild for this race and after four days of battling it out in unusually light winds managed to win our first race by a 40 minute lead against stiff competition.
At the end of this month I will head back out to the Caribbean with a delivery crew to deliver PHORTY back across the Atlantic for a full programme of double handed offshore and ocean racing in Europe – all finishing with my second attempt at the Transat-Jacques Vabre from France to Brazil, one of Ocean Racing’s most prestigious events. I am really looking forward to the amazing competition the Class 40 fleet will offer and to immense amount of learning and adaption that will be required to race this boat at the level of which it is capable.
You find out more about team PHORTY here.
I suppose you might think a full programme of Ocean racing would give my brain, my heart and my body the fix they are looking for but there is another project which has really got under my skin and has also come to fruition this year.
Since doing the amazing 3 Peaks Yacht Race for the first time in 2013 I have upheld this event to be one of the toughest endurance challenges I’ve ever come across – and it’s exciting and fun. Last year I was lucky enough to, for a second time, win Line honours in the event with the incredible bunch of female athletes that made up team Aparito. In both of these events I was struck by how similar I felt in mentality to the runners and subsequently listening to an interview with Lowri Morgan on the Tough Girl podcast I felt it could have been me talking about sailing.
In 2014 I had a crack at running an ultra-marathon, finishing but in a disappointing time due to injury and this led to the creeping, sneaking feeling that I fancied running in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race.
At some point between 2014 and 2016 I decided that just running wasn’t going to be tough enough and started to wonder if it would be possible to do both. The race has always required a crew of five with two runners for each mountain, this gives the runners time to rest and recover while the sailors race between legs. I started to think about the practicalities of taking on this course with a crew of two – it would be possible but would absolutely push the limits of human endurance – and so the idea took form. I just needed a co-skipper and a water tight proposal to put in front of the committee.
From June 2016 this crazy idea grew in stature, I found my co-skipper in the hard core fell runner Charles Hill who ran for our entry in 2013 and is also an accomplished sailor. At the beginning of this year we submitted a proposal for a double handed entry to the Three peaks yacht race committee and I am delighted/terrified to say they accepted our entry.
Now every spare minute I can find is being spent training for the big one, trying to run as much as possible, to practice on hills, to recce the courses and of course not to injure myself in the process. Just thinking about the race gives me butterflies; I know it can be done but I also know this is going to be the hardest event I have attempted to date.
As an added bonus Charles and I have decided to use the event to raise money for a project being set up by my sister to create a much needed outdoor space for children to play, relax and just be safely outside in an area deprived of any such facilities. You can find out more and donate to The Big Playground Adventure appeal here.
I must admit to wondering at what point this monster inside me that craves pushing to the limits will be satisfied. I have always been a big dreamer and inevitably when a dream becomes big enough I will put it out into the world and then chase it down until it becomes a reality. It is this thing that makes me feel most alive.
One thing is for sure, the Three Peaks Yacht Race double handed has never been attempted before, and is my biggest challenge to date; this is definitely enough to feed the monster and more.