Bristol executive leaves it all behind to set sail on round-the-world adventure
David Clensy meets the “ordinary” Bristol woman who is to spend 11 extraordinary months sailing around the globe
STANDING on the platform of Bristol Parkway station ahead of another ordinary sort of working day, Caroline Marrow’s eyes settled upon a poster – an all-action picture of a yacht cutting its way through an Atlantic wave, while chisel-jawed men and wind-swept women beamed towards the camera.
The words “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” stood out to her. Approaching 40, with a successful career in marketing, the time felt right for Caroline to do something “extraordinary”.
“I looked at the poster and thought, you know what, I could do that,” she recalls.
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A couple of years later, and the 42-year-old from Cotham is about to embark on her dream adventure – to sail around the world in an all-action yacht race.
The Clipper Round the World yacht race is an 11-month, 40,000 mile epic – with participants sailing to Brazil, before re-crossing the Atlantic to round the Cape of Good Hope, venturing around the south of Australia, before heading north to Singapore and China, crossing the Pacific to San Francisco, before nipping through the Panama canal and making one more crossing of the Atlantic to get home in time for tea.
For amateur yachtswoman Caroline, who by her own admission had never sailed further than the Isle of Wight, it looks set to be a life-changing experience.
After saving up the £43,000 required to join the race, and handing in her notice on her marketing job with Lloyds, Caroline devoted herself to the challenge.
“It’s a big commitment,” she says. “But I can’t wait. I’m not so worried about the inevitable storms and high seas, I think I’ll cope with that well enough. The greater worry is coping with the day-to-day living – a crew of 24 people plus a skipper on a 70ft boat, doesn’t leave much room. You essentially just have a hammock.
“You do shifts of four hours on watch, followed by four hours sleep, and I think that’s going to take a bit of getting used to – having to drag yourself out of your hammock after just four hours sleep won’t be easy, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it after a few days.”
The race sets off in mid-August, from a yet to be confirmed UK port, and in May Caroline will discover which of the 12 boats she will be placed on.
“They put you through months of training courses, which have been brilliant,” she says. “So I will probably know some of the crew members of my yacht from one of the courses. But the majority of them will be strangers when we set sail – though I’m sure we’ll get to know each other well over the 11 months.
“There is a real age range – last year’s race had crew members from 18 to 79-year-olds, with a real mix of backgrounds and sailing experience, so I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone on board.”
Caroline has also just completed a course that would allow her to take charge of the yacht in the event of anything happening to the skipper at sea.
“There can be a lot of injuries – plenty of broken ribs, because the crew can get seriously thrown about on the deck in a storm,” she says.
“Last year there were two crew members who had to be taken off by helicopter after suffering serious injuries. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get through the 11 months without any major injuries.”
Luckily Caroline is not an absolute beginner when it comes to sailing. Born and raised in the Lake District, she spent much of her childhood sailing dinghies, but only got into sailing properly after settling in Bristol six years ago.
“I have friends who sailed on the Solent, they invited me along a few times, and I just really took to it,” she says. “Two of them had done the round-the-world race themselves, so talked about it a lot – so I suppose the idea of signing up to it was already there when I saw that poster on the platform at Bristol Parkway back in 2011.”
Caroline is keeping a record of her race experience and preparation with a “countdown” blog, at www.bigstepsolutions.co.uk, where people can also sponsor her efforts in aid of the Prince’s Trust initiative to get young, unemployed people into the sailing industry.
“It seemed like a good charity to raise some money for as part of the process of taking part in the race myself,” she says.
With just a few more weeks training, before she leaves her job in June, Caroline is already starting to plan the process of putting her life on hold for the year.
“There is so much to organise – selling my car, renting out my home for the year, as well as preparing for the race itself,” she says. “But I can’t wait to get going with it now. It should be a true adventure, and I imagine I won’t be quite the same person when I get home as I was when I set sail.”
For more information about race, visit www.clipperroundtheworld.com and to read Caroline’s blog visit www.big stepsolutions.co.uk