I’m not a huge one for armchair sport, much preferring to participate or watch live. However, I have been gripped for the last 61 days by the Vendee Globe single handed yacht race. The retirement relatively early on of Alex Thompson, the great British hopeful, has allowed me instead to focus a little more widely on the journeys of the other 27 other sailors still in the race. I’ve come to see that the race could, in many ways, be seen as a metaphor for our experience through the pandemic. For day after grinding day, each skipper must remain motivated and overcome the regular and relentless problems that they experience. They are isolated, they are anxious and they don’t know what obstacle will be thrown up next, but they keep pointing East and ticking off the miles and days towards Les Sables D’Olonne.
And how do they do this? A recent article in Yachting Monthly by round the world veteran, Pete Goss, suggested that success comes down to careful resource management and acceptance. On a round the world voyage you must carry everything with you that you will require to complete the 80-100 day journey. Take too much, and you will be weighed down and uncompetitive, take too little and you will not be able to sustain yourself and deal with problems as they arise. In his experience, acceptance releases positive energy to deal with the present reality. He suggests that it simply doesn’t help to worry too much about the whys and wherefores, instead, save your energy and channel it into the tasks you have to complete today.
Pete proposes that a routine is good, be kind, but firm with yourself. Get up early, make your bed, iron your clothes and you will achieve much. Fail to create a routine and you will soon be reduced to watching daytime TV. Allow the occasional treat, but keep treats special otherwise you will erode their benefit. Break things down. Pete describes how he never saw his journey as sailing around the world, instead he sailed to the equator, sailed to Cape of Good Hope, sailed to Cape Leeuwin, sailed to Cape Horn and sailed the Atlantic….he even ticked off the days on the cabin bulkhead. He describes sleep as being the one resource which you have the power to easily control, too little and your efficiency drops and your drive is undermined.
Lastly Pete described how he has always found time to relax, be creative and maintain contact with friends and family. He chose to read books to relax and woodcarve to be creative. I’m sure many other things would fit the bill and, in a world where technology and free airtime proliferates, staying in touch is not hard.
And why am I sharing this with you? Well, partly it is to remind myself of what will help me navigate the tricky waters that we find ourselves in. But also, I know that some of you reading will be engaged with your own difficult journey. If just one thing that I’ve mentioned here helps one person reading, it will have been worth it.
John F Gilmour