Back on dry land after the adventure of a lifetime

Wendy Fail on her international Clipper sailing adventure
Wendy Fail on her international Clipper sailing adventure

LIFE on the ocean wave gave a Morpeth woman an experience of a lifetime.

Wendy Fail took part in the final leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht event from New York to Southampton, about 4,500 nautical miles.

She was among the crew on the stripped down 68ft racing boat sponsored by Welcome to Yorkshire.

Her tasks during the four races – New York to Nova Scotia, Canada; Nova Scotia to Derry, Northern Ireland; Derry to Den Helder, Holland; Den Helder to Southampton – included helming, changing sail whatever the weather, preparing food and cleaning the heads (toilets).

And even though there was a gruelling shift system of four hours on deck, four hours on standby and four hours off, she said she thoroughly enjoyed her time and would recommend the challenge to other adults.

Anyone can take part in the event, even if they have no sailing experience, and join a team of one of 10 identical racing yachts, each with a qualified skipper.

Four weeks of training is provided at Gosport.

Although she did a yachting course last year, Wendy was a ‘relative novice’ going into the programme.

“I wanted to do something completely different and memorable and after searching online for yacht races, this one appealed to me,” she said.

“The first race was mainly downwind, but a lot of the second was into a headwind, which meant the boat was often tilted at a 45-degree angle.

“It was tough and we even had to use some of the emergency rations, but it was worth it to see the fantastic reception we received in Derry and we were presented with pennants on a podium for finishing third in races one and two.

“After completing the journey I felt a deep sense of pride and achievement in having overcome great obstacles along the way and navigated one of the world’s oceans. I have so many memories from it that will last forever.

“There were plenty of fantastic sights and we spotted quite a few dolphins and fin whales.”

The Staithes Lane resident currently works as an Environmental and Energy Auditor for the Green Tourism Business Scheme and was granted two months unpaid leave in order to participate in the races.

The event was the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first person to sail non-stop around the world single-handed.

He led the parade of the boats when they reached the finish in Southampton and each crew was given a heroes’ welcome.

The ages of those taking part ranged from 18 to 73.

Wendy said: “I felt like a bit of a celebrity at the end of the final race because there were cheering crowds lined up as far as the eye could see. I was also thrilled to see my mum and dad who were out in a spectator boat.

“The best thing was the camaraderie on the boat. Meeting so many people from different backgrounds was amazing and I’ve made many friends for life.

“It was a life-changing experience and I hope that some of the people reading this will sign up for the event in the future.

“As for me, there’s always something else to try your hand at and I’m sure I’ll be thinking of other challenges.”