Jane inspires adventure with yacht race yarns

Morpeth Rotary Club

MEMBERS were inspired to take up active adventure when they heard the story of local mum Jane Bendelow.

She took part in an international yacht race in her 40s having never sailed in her life before. It started when she read an advert about a round-the-world yacht race that said ‘no experience needed’.

There would be two years to plan and she arranged to get the 12 weeks of unpaid leave needed from her work as a Morpeth district nurse.

The adventure was the idea of Robin Knox Johnson, Ralph Fiennes and Chris Bonington when they realised that more people had been to the top of Everest than had sailed round the world.

They set up an organisation to run the race using 68ft sailing yachts and this has now been going for 15 years.

Four progressively more difficult levels of training were required before Jane could join a crew and there were drop-outs at each stage.

They were as follows: introduction, consolidation, theory, navigation and chart work and finally training on the ship they would use and with the chosen crew of 18.

Only the Skipper was a professional seafarer. The crew was a mix of professions, nationalities, tolerances to seasickness, men and women, ages between 18 and 72, and a combination of people doing one of the eight legs of the journey or right round the world.

It went from Southampton to Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, San Francisco, New York, Ireland, Holland then back to the UK.

Jane did the ‘champagne leg’ of San Francisco to New York via the Panama Canal.

Each leg has one or two races. Different countries and cities helped to sponsor different boats, for example China sponsored one of the entries and so a number of Chinese nationals were in the crew.

Watches over 24 hours were structured as four hours, four hours and six hours. The maximum length of sleep between watches was three hours.

Each took a turn to manage a watch where you were responsible for the food and the cleaning for all of the crew. Participants were allowed a shower once a week.

They started at San Francisco in April. One of the attractions was the wildlife with turtles, whales and dolphins. Except for near Mexico they rarely saw land.

One crew member was a keen fisherman, but only managed to catch two fish on the whole round-the-world trip. They had to queue to get into the Panama Canal and were very close to an enormous tanker throughout the 30 miles.

Every ship had to have a pilot. They went on to dock in New Jersey before they could cross the river to New York where families, friends and businesses visited. Costs were £7,000 for one leg and £35,000 for round the world.