Round the World Yacht Race 2000

Billed as the world’s toughest yacht race, twelve identical yachts crewed by amateur sailors sail the wrong way round the world against the prevailing winds and currents.

In September 2000 Rona set sail as a crew member on the yacht ‘Save the Children’ in the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race. The Race is organised by The Challenge Business International Ltd. which was started by Sir Chay Blyth in 1989. This is a Race where twelve identical 72-foot steel-hulled ocean racing yachts each crewed by a professional Skipper, fifteen core Crew (doing the entire Race) and two Leggers (participating in one or two legs) race each other around the world, battling through the most infamous oceans and round the three Capes. It is the world’s toughest yacht race where the fleet circumnavigate the globe the ‘wrong way’, against the prevailing winds and currents.

The race ethos is one of a ‘level playing field’ where all the yachts are created equal in terms of design and all the crews are evenly matched. The seamanship, teamwork, stamina and sheer determination demonstrated by the people taking part are all that make the difference between winning and losing.

Leaving Southampton the fleet raced across the North Atlantic to Boston. After a short stopover, they departed for Buenos Aires, Argentina crossing the equator en route. From there, they set sail for the infamous Cape Horn, encountering the winds and waves of the Roaring Forties as they push on to the next port of call Wellington, New Zealand. Nicknamed the Directors leg as many of the Sponsoring Companies senior executives take part, Leg 4 was a week’s sprint to Sydney. The fleet then entered the Southern ocean once more on to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Town. The crews then headed back to the UK, with a short stop in La Rochelle, France to complete their journey arriving back in Southampton in June 2001 to a triumphant welcome.

The fleet encountered the extreme conditions of the world’s oceans, from the unpredictable calm of the Doldrums to the huge seas, icebergs and gale force winds of the Southern Ocean. Each port of call provides the Skipper and Crew Volunteers with the chance to repair, and prepare their yacht for the continuing contest. Although it was not all hard work – there was the chance to enjoy the sights and experiences of each new country and continent.

It is a voyage of achievement and discovery, taking 10 months and covering 32,000 miles. All sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds have trained for and undertaken this challenge of a lifetime. Most have never set foot on board a boat before signing on for their race. They were the lucky applicants who passed their interview with Sir Chay Blyth and completed the training programme where safety is the key focus at all times. Between 4000 and 5000 apply for 180 places but are unable  to secure even a provisional berth – such is the demand for places.

Whilst on the Race Rona’s job on deck was to run the ‘snake pit’, one of the busiest areas of the boat and she was one of the two sail makers. However, she made time to contribute to Ocean Challenge, Inc.’s website at which produces educational programmes for American schools based on real life adventures. Rona was also one of two crew who kept a log of the wildlife and weather conditions throughout the Race. Despite being able to only snatch two to three hours sleep at a time Rona kept a journal which became the basis of her first book, ‘A Challenge Too Far?’ about her experiences on the Race.

Copy for this page has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Challenge Business.