SAILING around the world is a dream many young adventure types have, but for Rick Whitehouse, it’s becoming a reality.
After learning to sail from his father at age 11, Rick held on to his childhood dream.
His competitive nature saw him compete in triathlons and competitions in his early 40s – both locally and abroad.
Graduating from triathlon to multi-sport, to multi-day events, Rick’s latest endurance endeavour will take him the best part of a year.
Competing with ‘Visit Sanya’ in the Clipper Round – The World Race, the team’s competing against 11 other Clipper 70-foot ocean yachts.
The international race will cover 40,000 miles in the next 11 months, travelling six oceans, six continents and stopping at 16 ports.
The event is the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world.
To participate, sailing experience isn’t crucial, though adventurers must front $70,000-plus for the trip.
Rick took part in his one-month pre-race sailing course in Sydney, with other participants between there and the departure location, near London.
The 19/20 Clipper race got underway a week following Rick’s 60th birthday – commencing with a formation start down the Thames.
From there the racing began, as they spent a number of days tacking against the wind with the body of the yacht at a stomach-turning 35 degrees.
Rick says the opening race was challenging, but his crew handled it well.
“We are captained by Seamus, a 26-year-old former participant from New Zealand,” Rick said.
Rick recalled a startling experience while on the helm with the cool-headed captain.
“At one moment the yacht is literally launched as a wave comes crashing down, everyone on deck is briefly in the air, one of the life raft mounts at the stern broke,” Rick said.
“Seamus commented, ‘I didn’t think we were a plane Rick.’”
Sailing against the wind is challenging in any sailing craft, but for the 70-foot ocean yacht, the procedure is testing.
“Living at 35 degrees is relentless, each time the yacht tacks you have to change sides of the boat,” he said.
Tacking, effectively zig-zagging to travel against the direction of the wind, puts a strain on even the most experienced sailors.
“Half the crew were sick, heads not functioning, cooking nearly impossible,” recalled Rick.
With eight crew members, a captain and a firsthand, sailors share the above and below board tasks.
The crew operate in eight-hour rotations, working one shift per day.
“There are 24 bunk beds onboard, but with all of the food, sails and equipment, only 12 bunks are available,” Rick said.
“We share a bunk with someone, swapping in and out when we change shifts.”
During the first race, the team made a move for sprint points. This requires passing through a nautical location for bonus points.
“Going for the scoring gate, we were surfing waves with Ollie on helm,” Rick recalled.
“I thought we were the only one and suddenly Qingdao pops up, crossing over it under white sails on a higher course.
“We were hitting speeds of 14-17 knots down waves, we were just pipped by them for the three points by 1.7 miles but we get the two bonus points.”
Following the sprint section, both yachts made for Portimao, in Portugal.
With a tight field, the finish became a “lottery”.
“Punta, who was several miles behind us, found an inshore breeze and sailed past the whole fleet to win,” Rick said.
“We finished at 3am in the morning with Unicef, who led most of the race, back in sixth.
“First nine yachts all finished within a few hours after almost 1500 miles of sailing.”
The second leg of the race will take participants towards South America to Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Rick Whitehouse sets sail around the world