Teenager set to join around the world race

Published on November 5th, 2013

AMBermudian Amber Farrow has one big motivation to succeed in an upcoming around the world sailing race – to prove all her naysayers wrong.

The 18-year-old is gearing up to be one of the youngest crew members to participate in the Clipper Round the World Sailing Race, from November 22 until March.

She will be taking part in two parts of the eight-leg journey on board a 70ft racing yacht called Invest Africa.

Although she is aiming to win both legs of her voyage through Australia and Asia, she’s most intent to prove how much she’s capable of. Miss Farrow said: “When I first signed up for the race I had lots of people say ‘You’re too young and you’re a girl, why don’t you do something nice like go backpacking?’.

“A lot of people said I wouldn’t make it, so for me the biggest reward will be finishing the race and knowing that both emotionally and physically I could handle the challenge.

“For me it’s more about pushing myself to see how far I can go. If I can make it four months living on a boat with 19 other people, I think I’ve done pretty well and can face other challenges as they come.”

Starting in Albany, Western Australia, Miss Farrow’s team will race towards Sydney for the prestigious Sydney-Hobart race, taking place the day after Christmas.

After setting sail for Brisbane, they will travel north up the Gold Coast, cross the equator and pass by remote communities of Papua New Guinea.

Then they will charge towards Singapore, heading onwards towards the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao, China and passing east of Taiwan, until they reach the United States.

When she passes the equator she is hoping to do “something weird and wacky” to mark the occasion and may shave off all her hair.

“I don’t know how my mom will take to it, but shaving off your hair is like becoming a new person,” she said. “This whole race is about me becoming a new version of myself and figuring out who I am and what I can do, so it makes sense to me.”

Miss Farrow isn’t new to sailing and actually got her start in the sport at age ten, while taking part the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s summer programmes.

She told The Royal Gazette: “Growing up in Bermuda, I always loved sitting on the boat all day and being out on the water.

“It’s an independent sport at times, but it’s also sociable because you are trying to work with others as part of a team and you have the same goal and everyone is working towards that.”

Miss Farrow decided to enter the race during her gap year after stumbling upon a small poster in London’s Underground about the Clipper Race.

She said: “I wanted to do something that no one else had done and I haven’t heard of anyone else doing this. It was just a challenge and gives me the chance to travel, see different cultures and meet new people.” In order to be selected as crew for the yacht, the teenager had to submit a short essay, go through an interview process and complete three and a half weeks of training.

“They put you under the same conditions in training that you will encounter on the boat,” she said. “What I found was when I was at sea, you think ‘I just want to go back to land’, but when you are on land you just want to be back on the boat.

“We do four hours on watch (manning the boat) and then have four hours off, so the work is constant throughout the day and you never get more than four hours sleep.

“During your break you have to eat and be as hygienic as possible, but there’s no showers and you basically have to use baby wipes and hand sanitiser. It’s also the only time you have to socialise, stay sane and just relax.”

She anticipates the biggest challenge will be living in close quarters with 19 other strangers, with few luxuries or technologies and very basic food. But one thing that being on a boat teaches you is selflessness and how to prioritise the boat and crew members above yourself, she said.

Miss Farrow is now preparing for the upcoming race by increasing her daily caloric intake “to fatten up” and doing lots of strength training at the gym each day. The exercises will help her with daily tasks like hoisting the sail, she explained.

“I think because I am 18 years old and a girl a lot of people look down on you. That’s the feeling I got, so I want to prove to myself that I have the strength to keep up with the rest of them, even the men,” she said.

The teenager will be bringing a sketchbook with her on the journey and plans to draw and paint something each day that sums up the sea experience. The artistic pursuit will help her one step closer to her goal of studying architecture at university next autumn.

Story courtesy of The Royal Gazette

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