A transformative experience
Few of the skippers who set out on 1st July had any real idea how they will contend with nine or ten months with virtually no contact from other people.
As the youngest skipper, Susie Goodall, born in 1990, will never have known life without the internet, email or text messages. It’s likely that music on cassette tapes is as alien to her as the Super 8 cine film supplied to each boat.
Goodall seemed brittle with nerves before the start, but it was hard to judge if she was nervous about the upcoming voyage, or more likely struggling to contend with the hundreds of people wanting to talk to her about the event in the final few days.
Mark Slatts thrives on utter isolation. Two days into his cross-atlantic row he cut the wires on this GPS because he found the ‘miles to go’ countdown so intrusive.
Mark Sinclair, who has sailed thousands of miles solo, was also looking forward to it.
“Moby Dick’s got 600 pages, if I read two pages a day I’ll just get through it,” he jokes.
“I spend most of my time sitting up in the cockpit watching the water go by, I find it hypnotic.
“Sometimes I have to make a radio sched and it’s so invasive, I feel like it’s invading my space.”
But not everyone can cope: within a week of starting, Ertan Beskardes withdrew from the race. He explained on Facebook: “Not talking to my family regularly to share the daily experiences has sadly taken the joy and happiness from this experience. These feelings gradually got worse until nothing else mattered except to talk to them. This wasn’t an experience I was prepared for.”
Before the start Kevin Farebrother admitted he was nervous about his lack of experience. “And to be honest, the solitude for nine months. It could be too much, I don’t know – if I only last two weeks we’ll know it’s a problem?” he said presciently.
In fact he retired after exactly two weeks, unable to adapt to sleep below decks. “For me it is like getting into the back seat of a moving car to sleep when no-one is at the wheel,” he said, as he retired from the race.
Abhilash Tomy is another looking forward to the isolation. For him the bigger challenge is rejoining the modern world.“it’s always the return, coming back that’s harder. It’s painful integrating back into society.
“I found it very amusing last time. You see people having conversations – they’re talking a lot but they’re not communicating what they want to say.”
Tomy believes the race will be transformative for all the skippers. “They all will be changed, but to what degree, to what extent and in what direction is something that will be decided by their expectations of this race, and what experiences they have.”
We will have to wait some 300 days to find out.