United Kingdom

It was a New Year’s Eve that we knew we would never forget. The Southern Cross sparkled above us like a diamond necklace among a backdrop of billions of stars. Nine hundred miles to the south of us, above the landmass of Antarctica, the Aurora Australis danced, stirring a primal sense of awe.

Yet amid this I felt an increasing sense of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty. It was 2001 and I was the skipper of a 22-metre racing yacht and, along with the crew of seventeen, on the third leg of a round-the-world-race called the BT Global Challenge. This section of the race would take us from Buenos Aires to Wellington and, at over six thousand miles, would mean being at sea over a thousand miles from land, for around forty days.

We were now about eighteen days into this mammoth leg and had not even reached the halfway point; we’d already faced two major storms, temperatures now regularly dipped below freezing and, with a sea temperature of between 3℃ and 5℃, should anyone have fallen overboard they would almost certainly have lost their lives. Social media didn’t exist, we were a long way from our loved ones and we felt it. The weight of responsibility sat heavily on my 27-year-old shoulders.

Through this uncertainty and isolation we slowly evolved and developed our own coping strategies. Some of these strategies were new and others were as old as the ships that had plied these routes hundreds of years ago. 

And so too will this day end.

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