Care home owner Simon Spiller is sailing in one of the sport's most challenging races in what he admits is “something of a mid life crisis.”
The Clipper Round The World race has been described as one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and an endurance test “like no other.”
Simon, who runs The Croft Residential Home in College Road, Newton Abbot, will be at sea for two months sailing 7250 miles from Portsmouth to Puerto Sherry in Spain, then on to Punta del Este in Uruguay, South America.
Sailing with 21 other crew, he will endure 15-metre swells, the Atlantic Trade Winds and crossing the Equator aboard a boat that he admits is “devoid of all creature comforts.”
“Hygiene will be a challenge in such a confined space,” he said, "and it's quite intimate."
“We will only have fresh food for the first 3 or 4 days, then it will be tinned and dried stuff. Some people say the race is a very expensive way to lose weight!” he joked.
The yacht is so small that the crew sleeps in shifts, sharing bunk beds with mattresses less than 4cm thick.
Simon is sailing with the Bekezela Community Foundation (BCF) team. Bekezela in South African dialect means patience, perseverance, resilience and endurance, and the work of BCF fosters the spirit of Bekezela by creating opportunities for youths in rural and underrepresented parts of South Africa.
The Clipper Round the World race was the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world. The first Clipper Race took place in 1996 and since then some 6,000 race crew from all walks of life and more than 60 nations have trained and raced.
The Clipper is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper and first mate to safely guide the crew. Crew complete four levels of intense ocean training before they compete.
Simon sets sail on September 3. His wife Caroline and daughter Emily will be there to see him off.
His training for the race included sailing in the English Channel when a storm hit.
“It was the first gale of the season with 60 knot winds. A lot of us were sea sick, “ said Simon.
“Caroline knows I need to do something like this. I used to work in London, in a corporate high-pressure job, and sometimes I do miss the buzz. I’ve been wanting to engage with a sense of adventure.”