Work life effectiveness: Vicky Anderson on sailing in the Clipper World Race
As part of our work life effectiveness program, the firm supported Vicky Anderson to take a month of unpaid leave to take part in the Clipper Round the World Race in memory of her sister, who sadly passed away last year. Read her amazing story.
Vicky Anderson, SVP in Investigations, Risk & Disputes group in London, took part in the Clipper Round the World Race, sailing the New York to Liverpool leg of the race. She was three weeks on the water, on top of a lot of pre-training and preparation – particularly for someone who had only sunbathed on a catamaran previously! Below is her story.
Before I set off, I was in slight disbelief that I was about to do this but mainly excited about the adventure ahead. It was six months since I finished the training, but I felt like it would come back quickly.
When I arrived in New York, I met the rest of the team for the first time. There was a vast range of people, ages ranged from 19-68 across multiple nationalities and about a third of the crew were women (including the skipper). Nine of the crew were circumnavigators, six people were new to the race like me, and the remaining people did previous legs but not the whole race.
Heading into the final leg, we were leading the circumnavigation so despite not signing up for the racing element, it didn’t take long for my competitive nature to come out! Around 60 people had been involved in the race across the year and we had an incredible group of supporters who had come to various ports. As such, the crew was desperate to stay ahead and get the win for everyone involved.
Leaving New York – 2 weeks until we saw land again.
My leg started with a "le Mans" start, which is all boats lining up in a row on the same course with just the mainsail up. Once the race starts you get the headsails up and then after ten minutes can choose your own course.
That’s when the whales came out to play. Dozens of them! On a previous race, a boat hit a whale and damaged a rudder, so we knew to avoid them as much as possible.
A pod of whales were the only spectators at race start!
At the end of week one, we hit an area of high pressure and there was hardly any wind. Our main rivals were in front as they had chosen a different course and had hit an ocean current, but frustratingly we couldn’t do anything about it. The wind is a fickle mistress!
As we approached Ireland, we had the scariest moment of the race. I was working with another novice sailor and we were trying to hoist a kite (which is the large billowing sail at the front of the boat).
My crewmate was suddenly lifted with the sail while still attached to the boat. One of the circumnavigators very quickly cut the tether and pulled him inboard but he momentarily lurched over the side of the boat and my stomach went! Luckily, he was okay, as the survival rate of an untethered man overboard in the history of the race is pretty low.
In the middle of week three, we were coming down the west coast of Ireland and had been sailing up wind for 3 days, causing the boat to be at a 45-degree angle and bouncing off waves.
Life on the bow – very wet and bumpy!
I was "mother" for the day which meant doing all the cooking for everyone on board – not a great job to have in those conditions. The pans were bouncing on the stove, the fresh water ran out (we got the generator on but it meant lunch was late and that did not go down well!) and I lost the ham to the floor (limited protein on a boat with no fridge). After that, my fellow “mother” slowly sat down on the floor and had a moment to herself.
I’m proud to say that in the end, we won the race.
The Sanya leg 8 crew – friends for life.
The boat was 70-feet-long and housed a crew of over twenty people. Each crew was split into two watches, 6 hours on and off in a day and 4 hours at night.
I shared a single bed and was constantly packing and unpacking my stuff. Not to mention that before attempting to sleep, I had to adjust the bed according to the heel of the boat (how far it’s leaning over and to which side) so I didn't fall off!
You have zero personal space while on board, but the crew was amazing and I got to know everyone very quickly and very well!
On a clear night the sky was incredible, you can see all the stars. You see the phosphorescence in the water and one night we had dolphins swimming alongside us!
Stunning sunsets were often a prelude to incredible night skies.
The final thing to include is that our skipper was the first female skipper ever to win a round the world race, not just Clipper! She was tough and ran a tight ship but it was vindicated as we had the best safety record (only one injury) and of course, won the overall race. And, when she’s not racing, she is a great laugh.
What I have taken back to work
The core values we have at AlixPartners helped me immensely on board, and this race helped me see them in a new light:
- Commitment: you want everyone to be all hands when needed – you may be off watch, but if the other watch needs help, you get up, get dressed and get on deck as soon as possible.
- Teamwork: you have such a variety of experience on board. I learned so much from the more experienced sailors, and that’s what made it more enjoyable for me. We improved over the course of the race due to the time invested in teaching each other.
- Communication: you often can’t hear instructions from the helm when you are at the bow of the boat, so you use a relay system and hand signals to get the messages across.
Skipper checking the hull – boat maintenance is crucial.
My sister passed away last year, and my managing director, Steve Ambort, was very supportive in allowing me to take the time to do this amazing adventure in memory of my sister.