OCCUPATION: Medical website manager
HOMETOWN: Cape Town, South Africa (now lives in London Colney, Hertfordshire, UK).
LEGS: The Southern Ocean Leg 3, The All Australia Leg 4, and The Asia Pacific Leg 5.
Race start might still be a few months away, but Clipper 2017-18 Race Crew Member Shona Davies already describes it as the experience of her life. This is an extraordinary statement for the 39-year-old South African to make, given the catalyst for her signing up.
“After years of struggling with anxiety and depression, I had a devastating breakdown at the end of 2015,” says Shona.
“It was not my first encounter but it was by far the worst. Decades of only dealing with the symptoms of my illness but not the cause, led to a complete split. I lost my identity. I felt like my life was over.
“Then one day, I walked along a beach in Norfolk. I was crying (something I did rather a lot at the time) at a seagull spreading its wings and flying away. It was so free and I was not. I was this sad, pitiful excuse for a human being. I looked at the sky and I shouted, ‘what am I going to do with my life?!’
“I looked down and saw, nestled into the rocks on the “beach”, something shiny and white blinking at me amongst the pebbles. I scratched around and unearthed a message from the universe. I can’t describe it any other way! It was a tiny, ceramic sailboat. It was battered and worn…paint chipped, colours faded and definitely having fallen off something bigger. It looked like the physical representation of the way I was feeling.
“There was no slap in the face moment. There were no fireworks. Very quietly, on a windy beach in February, I realised that I had lost my love and I needed to find it again. My love life. The part of my life that has nothing to do with ambition or goals or other’s expectations of me. This was the part of me that was purely and solely about love…and I love sailing.”
Shona will be taking part in three legs of the race which will see her travel some 15,000 nautical miles half way round the world from Cape Town to China.
“I started with the idea of only doing Leg 5, the Asia Pacific Leg, but swiftly realised that it would not be enough for me. I signed on for the Australian leg as that is where I learned to sail.
“Then my darling Popsie game me the best gift in the world by helping me to add the Southern Ocean Leg 3. Now I can leave from home [Cape Town, South Africa] and just after my 40th birthday at that!”
Despite having plenty of dinghy racing and nearshore sailing experience, Shona approached her Level 1 Training with plenty of nerves.
“I was terrified! I wasn’t sure I’d remember any of my sailing background, if I’d packed right, how I was going to get on with everyone.
“Happily, the reality was so much better. Everyone was so welcoming and the Level 1 crew were just the most wonderful group of people. The knowledge, patience, and support of our skipper and mates really helped us to forget our fears and get into the learning.”
Shona’s confidence has only continued to grow with each level of training, and she can’t believe how much she has learnt over the three weeks.
“The real highlight has been being able to lead evolutions without needing to reference my wet notes and get it right! What a boost to know something has sunk in and that maybe I’ll be a useful member to the team.”
Now she has three levels of training under her belt, the next big moment will be Crew Allocation on May 20 at the Portsmouth Guildhall. A day Shona says will bring home the reality of the adventure she is about to embark on.
“Having signed up over a year ago, it’s been easy to slip into a reverie that put the race off to some point in the future. The more milestones we hit in announcing the ports, the skippers, the more real it gets.
“It’s so exciting. Terrifying too, but mainly exciting.”
If you would like to join Shona and experience all Mother Nature has to offer at sea, then you too can be a Clipper 2017-18 Race Crew Member. There are limited berths available for both the full circumnavigation and individual legs but spots are filling up fast. If you think you have what it takes, apply here.