I recently sailed from London to Rio de Janeiro in the first leg of the Clipper Round the World yacht race. Since getting back, everyone I've talked to has asked me the same question - "What was the best bit?" It's a difficult one to answer because there isn't just one thing that stands out in my mind as being the best.
There's the friendships for one. I spent every waking hour of my 31 days aboard with the same group of people, and while that might seem like a nightmare to some, the relationships we built are unlike any I've had in my life. There's nothing like throwing 22 people in a boat together in pretty challenging conditions to form a tight bond!
Then there's the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounded us. Trust me, you haven't seen a sunrise or sunset until you've seen one at sea. And I can't even begin to describe to you the pure joy I felt when I was at the helm and in the distance I saw a pod of about 40 dolphins heading our way. It was like I could read their minds and they were all shouting "Look there's a boat we can go and play with". For the next 30 mins we were treated to acrobatics from the exuberant younger dolphins as they backflipped, somersaulted and splashed about in the water while the older dolphins were content to just race along next to us, delighting in our wake.
And of course there was the sailing. Part of the reason I did the race was so that I could learn to sail properly and what better way to learn than out in the middle of the ocean at the mercy of Mother Nature. We had a couple of storms which meant we had to put into practice everything we had been taught in our training. It was at times like those when we not only needed to think and act quickly but we needed to do it with a calm head. It wasn’t all rough seas though, we had times where there was no wind and the sea was like a mirror – those were the times that really tested our skills as we had to make sure the sails were trimmed so that we were getting every knot of speed possible.
It was both physically and mentally exhausting at times and there were moments when I wondered why I'd been crazy enough to sign up. But sailing across the finish line with Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance and coming into port to see my parents standing on the dock proudly waving at me, I felt an amazing feeling of accomplishment that I've never felt before. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!