We understand from the organisers that the Vendee will go ahead as planned this November?
The interesting thing about our sporting event is that we don’t rely on ticket sales. The start is the big thing for the Vendee, but the race itself is actually uniquely tailored to our environment at the moment. We go off in isolation and stream the race online. We don’t know what the start will look like but we will adapt.
We want to deliver a strong message that the Vendee is not at risk and will go ahead. It’s been pretty impressive how the race committee have proactively grabbed this and so much positive work is going on to ensure this happens. We may even be one of the few major international sporting events to go ahead this year. It’s something unique which oddly enough a lot of people will now be able to relate to.
You will spend three months on your own during the Vendee. How do you cope with self isolation?
I think you need to grow into spending that much time on your own. My first ever solo trip was 58 days long. The first two weeks were really tough and I really was in isolation because I didn’t have comms so I had no way of speaking to another human being. At least with the Vendee we have satellite phones. In the first weeks I did a lot of soul-searching to really understand why I wanted to do this. People have a romantic idea of solo sailing but the reality is not that pleasant.
I get a lot of satisfaction out of being self-reliant. I like to problem solve. I like to put everything I have, physical and mental, into a challenge and see the result. A lot of the time we get problems taken away, or you naturally turn to others because it’s easier. I really enjoy the self-reliance it gives me and a lot of personal satisfaction.
Do you ever feel lonely?
In terms of being on my own, I don’t ever feel loneliness because I am never on my own. I am so secure in my relationships and friendships and the love from the people in my life. They know I am doing the thing that makes me happy. When you have that sort of confidence and care and love around you then you don’t feel lonely.
There are two forms of isolation. One is geographical – that’s the one I choose – to be isolated and then there’s social or emotional isolation which people end up in but not out of choice. The important thing, and the advice a lot of us are giving, is you don’t have to be isolated. You can find a community and build a community virtually around you.
What do you love about being on your own?
I spend a lot of time looking at the sky and listening to the birds. It’s amazing what you can hear when there aren’t any cars around. What I really love about being on my own in the middle of the ocean is the opportunity to be utterly focussed on one thing. My life doesn’t get interrupted and I am doing exactly what I want to – competing in a sport I love. It’s unbelievably pure as an experience.
From your own experience, what will we notice afterwards, once lockdown is lifted?
When you do step back into life after a period of no background noise or demands for your attention it can be overwhelming with people wanting a slice of you 24/7! That, of course is good for me, but it can be a bit of a jolt chopping life into tiny pieces to service all the needs and directions. It’s like going from a really quiet room to a full on rave!
I love going back out to sea and focusing on sailing. I’m lucky because I have found that thing in my life I am passionate about but there is a flip side. Even though I like to spend time on my own, I am a social person. My flat mate gets fed up with me bringing 12 people back for a dinner party out of the blue! I love a noisy dinner table. We have done a lot of Skype drinks over the last two weeks and recreated that atmosphere of personal interaction. When I get back from sailing the thing I miss most is fresh fruit and vegetables and then I want to sit down and have a meal with friends!