Jamaica racing again

Just five weeks after returning the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Race Jamaica is racing once again with skipper Simon Bradley at the helm, assisted by first mate Juan Coetzer, one of the Clipper Training skippers, and a crew of non-professional sailors on board. The 68-foot ocean racing yacht is competing in the Cowes to Madeira Yacht Race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

The race began on Monday morning (11 August) on the historic Royal Yacht Squadron Line at Cowes and it is expected that the fleet will take approximately ten days to reach the sun soaked Atlantic island of Madeira.

Entries have come from all over Europe and there is a wide variety of yachts competing in three classes. The smallest yacht in the fleet is Matthias Kracht’s JPK 9.6 Ultreia!

The weather forecast predicts a stiff southwesterly breeze for the start of the race with the chance of the wind direction backing to the north. If this is the case it could be a spectacular sleigh ride in the Atlantic and the variety of conditions should make this an exciting race.

You can follow Jamaica’s progress on the RORC Cowes to Madeira Race viewer at by clicking here

Simon Bradley is one of an elite group of yachtsmen and women who have not only circumnavigated the globe under sail but has done it twice – once as a watch leader on Bristol Clipper in the Times 2000 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and again as skipper of Jamaica in Clipper 07-08.

The search is on for the ten skippers who will lead the crews in the Clipper 09-10 Race when it sets sail from the Humber on 13 September 2009. So what does it take to lead a team of non-professional sailors on a 35,000-mile race? Simon reflects on his experiences as a Clipper Race skipper.

Why did you apply to be a skipper in the Clipper 07-08 Race?

I’ve been involved with Clipper Ventures since 1999 when I applied to be a crewmember in the Times 2000 Clipper Race. After completing the race as a round the worlder on Bristol Clipper I decided to try my hand at professional sailing. I already had my RYA Yachtmaster Offshore ticket, so getting my Instructor qualification was the step I decided to take next. After successfully doing this I started life as a sailing instructor which, after time, took me back to Clipper running Part A training for the Clipper 05-06 Race on the Clipper 60s. This led to involvement with the Clipper 68s and then one morning I decided that applying to be a Skipper in the Clipper 07-08 Race should be the next thing to do.

Looking back what was your biggest achievement?

Helping my crew to become safe, competent and knowledgeable sailors, seeing complete novices turn into ocean racers was fantastic. I’m also very pleased to have become a double circumnavigator

What did you find the most challenging?

Managing the crew; creating and running a team that could function under any conditions, good or bad. The ethos on Jamaica was that everyone would do everything, we would only specialise at race starts or if it became a matter of safety. This brought huge benefits but also some massive challenges as well.

From a skipper’s perspective what do you think the crews get out of the experience?

They learn about themselves and about sailing; it makes them start to think beyond their normal horizons. They begin to realise that a positive ‘can do’ attitude will allow them to change and shape their own lives. They also learn how to cook dinner and make tea and coffee for 18 people (well, some of them did).

What has it changed about you?

Lost about 20lbs in weight and have long hair (possibly not for much longer). I also realise that there is a lot more sailing that I want to do.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from taking part?

We didn’t get the race results that we so desperately wanted and we never stood on the podium. But success can be measured in different ways. We had a very strong team that stayed together throughout the race. We had highs and lows for sure but at the end of it all we were very proud to be the crew of Jamaica. A large compliment to the whole team was that several crew members from other yachts let it be known that they would like to be on board Jamaica even if we were in tenth place!

So, ‘Never Give Up’ on anything that you really want to happen or achieve… and of course ‘Don’t worry about a thing’.

What was your favourite moment on the race?

Hard to say, there were so many great moments – being closely followed by two Orca ‘Killer’ whales in the Southern Ocean, watching the albatross gliding effortlessly around the yacht, or seeing ‘Son of Krakatoa’ erupting as we sailed through the Sunda Strait. (The Guinness and Murphy’s in Cork were also very special.)

But sharing the whole experience of the race with my crew has to be the one for me.

What was your least favourite moment?

The times when I was exhausted both mentally and physically but luckily I’ve got youth on my side so recovery was never far away!

How do you think being a Clipper skipper and working for Sir Robin will enhance your career?

It can only be good. This is the only race of its kind. Any circumnavigation is a huge undertaking but racing round the world with a crew of ‘amateur’ sailors is a little different, it brings some quite unique challenges and rewards. Working for Sir Robin is a real privilege and one that I am very proud of. Now all I have to do is get a job!

What are your plans since finishing the Clipper Race? Have they changed from what you were planning going into the race?

I’m racing Jamaica from Cowes to Madeira and back in the next few weeks. After that I plan to have a rest… and then go sailing again.

Now you have completed the race what would you say are the necessary personality and people skills anyone applying to be a race skipper should have?

Be yourself, be strong and positive, and commit totally to the race and your crew. But most of all you have to understand how to get the best out of people (including yourself), particularly when the going gets tough, because it will.

If you had one word of advice to pass on to future Clipper Race skippers what would that be?

It has to be, ‘Enjoy it’ (that’s two words, sorry, if you say it quickly it sounds like one word). Life is too short not to enjoy something like this. It’s a great adventure and a very special opportunity, so do your best and enjoy it!

Sir Robin is recruiting now for skippers to lead the crews in the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race. For more information please email [email protected]

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