Race 14 - Day 2
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Crew Diary - THE FINALE: Den Helder, Netherlands, to London, UK
It's nearly a year now since I wrote about the lowest of lows and highest of highs, of all days being new and different, of all that really matters being so clear now. Although it has been a journey full of unimaginable happiness, love, unexpected and sometimes even scary situations, conversations and revelations, of true sorrow as well as endless longing, those first thoughts I put down in my first crew blog on leg one still hold true. Perhaps now even more so than before. But trying to somehow conclude all of which has happened and all that we have seen, achieved and felt seems impossible and is worthy of an epic rather than a (relatively) short blog post here. Nevertheless, the occasion does still need marking in every possible way because here is a group of people that dropped nearly everything to go and do something they dreamt of doing.
The people that have surrounded me this year have inspired me, changed me, challenged me, supported me, loved me, told me off, made me cry, made me kinder, opened my eyes, helped me breathe, taught me to be braver and stronger and better. And all of them have, repeatedly, over and over again, shown me how to go through even the most horrible conditions with so so so much laughter and still manage to say 'chicken no bone' when the main sail has finally been lashed down and storm sails are up and it is mother nature controlling and running the boat, rather than us.
I did not get to choose my team but through some insane and divine stroke of luck I ended with a completely insane and extraordinary group of people.
Men and women, boys and girls, who are all remarkable. Women who I'd one day like my daughters to grow up to be like, men who epitomize gentlemanliness, boys and girls with enough youth and energy and ideas and beauty to actually change the world.
Each and every one of them has worked their ass off to sail better, faster, more smoothly, more safely. We have taken care of each other and though I had yet to meet most of them just over a year ago, they are by now my family, my heart, my blood and my home. As are all those they hold dear, regardless of whether they have ever set foot on board CV23 / Visit Seattle or not.
It has not been one happy family, day in day out, of course. At times we have been tired to the point of breaking or hurt because of things out of our control taking place thousands of miles away at home. So sometimes we argued, sometimes bickered, even the occasional shouting has happened. And there have been days when staying as a single unit, as one team, has needed effort from each and every one of us.
Quietly, without any obvious interference but always keeping an eye on us from the background it has been Huw that has watched over us and taught us to do and be what we are right now right here. Ultimately, he has and always will be the glue holding this unit together.
Before I ever met him while already knowing he'd be my skipper, I asked Kate (the infamous 'F*ck Off Bitch, I'm Famous' Kate) about what he's like.
Her answer: 'Huw is a wonderful space cadet'. And yes, he
is. He is Bowie's Major Tom and Hemingway's old man at sea. Sometimes with his
head in the clouds, sometimes dreaming of things perhaps a tiny bit above the
reach and capability of his amateur crew, sometimes overly rational, sometimes
incredibly stubborn, sometimes quietly grumpy, sometimes just quiet, sometimes
so very exhausted, sometimes definitely needing a break from us, sometimes
definitely needing to change his socks and shirt, sometimes dancing by himself.
But always, always, always looking out for us, wanting us to want to be better
and to be safe and healthy. A great teacher but never forceful. And never, ever
shouting or losing control. Open-minded yet almost conservative in his own way.
A complete and utter nerd but a sweet and much-loved nerd. Huw did not turn
this race into a campaign of fulfilling his own personal ambitions, though he
so easily could have.
He has, from day one, ensured that this is our race and giving us the opportunity to learn and try whatever we wanted to. This could have gone differently, I could have spent the year only trimming sails or sweating halyards and with everyone so specialised perhaps we would have been a permanent fixture on that podium. But everything I wanted to try and learn I could and that is what I signed up for. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with agreeing to do everything to win while agreeing on the appropriate compromises. But for the Visit Seattle team, the everyday at sea, the 11 months of continuous learning and working, experimenting and trying, leading to being proud of ourselves always, making sure that each of us gets the same experience and no-one is ever left out or held back from doing what they wish to do has mattered more than the 10 minutes of podium at the end of a race. The fact that all of the round-the-worlders that started on Visit Seattle have remained in the team and are proud of that, speaks for itself. And Huw is responsible for a lot of that.
This team is so much bigger than the total number of our green jackets however. Every friend, family member, colleague and partner that has cheered us on, worried about us and put up with our continuous absence has contributed to our race. At our lowest moments we were cared for via emails and little acts of kindness from home. Friends sorting our lives out (from wedding dresses, to new houses to taxes to emergency care packages) to our parents sometimes refraining to tell us about things that have been going on in their lives so as not to make us worry during the race, to our partners waiting for us truthfully and loyally for a year without ever making us feel guilty. There has been enough love and kindness sent our way, so many smaller and bigger acts of self-sacrifice and heroism, to change the mind of any cynic.
Part of that family are our sponsor team in Seattle. Led by Ralph, this wonderful and warm group of individuals have always been there for us, urging us on with supportive messages, an incredible welcome and stay at our home port Seattle (which is consequently one of the most beautiful and cosiest cities in the world!), and surprising us with their presence in various ports around the world. They have never felt like some distant corporate entity but rather as part of this crew and as much as we have wanted to do well for ourselves, we have wanted to be better for them, always.
Last but not least, this experience would have been something entirely different without all the school-children taking part of the Jan Op Zee project. This is a thank you to all of you brilliant kids for making us laugh, making us feel like we are part of something bigger than our own adventure, for showing us and letting us be part of how you see the world.
Every member of this unbelievable extended on-shore family of ours has made us feel like we are standing with our backs against your backs, that we have you and you have us, no matter what happens, that we can do this and we can be and feel even more. That we are always home. You are the heroes and rock-stars of this race, you really are. Thank You!
Each person that signed up for this race did so for their own private reasons but, ultimately, we are all here for the same purpose and working towards the same goal- to achieve something as individuals and as a team, to NOT let every year of our lives be the same as the last, to see the world from another perspective, to live, to put our very tired heads on our pillows at the end of the day knowing that we gave it our best shot, our absolute all, regardless of whether we are on a boat or elsewhere.
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