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Hands on deck as Roseann McGlinchey closes in on dream

Donegal woman ready to take part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

The Clipper Round the World yachts return to London in a victory parade in 2014 after sailing 40,000 nautical miles in the world’s longest ocean race. Photograph by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

For the past six years Roseann McGlinchey had stood with thousands of others on the banks of the River Foyle admiring the 12-strong fleet from the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race as it sailed in from New York, before departing Derry for the final leg to London. The sight, she said, was breathtaking.

Last year, though, she decided she wanted to do a little more than stand and admire. After bidding adieu to the fleet, she went home, looked up the Race’s website, printed out an application form, filled it in, sent it away, completed a telephone interview soon after, and with that she was off to Gosport to begin her training for the 2017-18 race.

Dizzying. And it’s not as if the 23-year-old from Killea, Co Donegal had sailing in the blood.

“I’d never even been on a boat before. Well, apart from a ferry to England,” she laughs. “That was it.”

And it’s not, either, that life was dull. Quite the opposite, in fact. She’d graduated from Ulster University with a degree in advertising, had started a job as marketing manager with online betting company Mintbet.com, had got engaged to her beloved Frank McBride and had her March 2018 wedding to plan.

Now, if she can reach her fundraising target, she’ll be sailing somewhere between China and the United States come March 2018. But Frank, mercifully, won’t be left at the altar.

“He’s been fantastic. It was actually he who suggested we change the date of the wedding so I can do this, so we moved it to October of next year. The funny thing is, he hates water.”

So no chance of getting married at sea?

“Absolutely none.”

Her decision to attempt to become a crew member on one of the race’s 12 yachts, and spend 11 months at sea, wasn’t entirely spontaneous, though, the prospect of taking part in such an adventure had been on her mind for some time.

“It’s just something I’d been thinking about it since I first saw those yachts come in. Every year I said I was going to do it one day, but it’s just so expensive I was never brave enough to actually apply. But last year I just thought, I’m going to go for it and if it’s meant to be it’ll happen. I just wanted to learn something new and completely different. I finished university, I’d worked really hard there to get my degree and I needed a new challenge.”

Complete race

 Did your family and friends think you were nuts?  “I think they thought I was nuts before this any way,” she laughs.

“But they’ve been really supportive . . . while also telling me I’m completely crazy. They know it’s something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time, so they’ve all been trying their best to get me there. I’d travelled a lot before this – I Inter-railed around Europe for about two months, I went to India, Thailand, Iceland, Cuba, Norway, just everywhere – so I suppose I always had that spirit of adventure.”

Her original plan was just to take part in one of the race’s eight legs, but she enjoyed the training at Gosport so much she decided to aim for the complete race.  “The first few days I was thinking ‘what have I got myself in to?’ It was like learning a new language. The nautical terms – things aren’t just called what they are. It can’t just be a rope or a kitchen or a bathroom, they’ve all got sea names. I was so lost to start with.

“And I got really seasick for almost two days during my level two training, so just the thought of going through that for 11 months, that was the hardest thing for me. During those two days I really questioned my decision, ‘what am I doing?’ But that’s what you do, you remind yourself it will pass and that you will get to see some amazing things and you will make your family really proud. I think it will be demanding, but if you can get through this you’ll never again make excuses in your life.

“And I just loved the training. Level one was just about basic sailing, level two was about learning to live on the boat, living at 45 degree angles, coping with four hours of sleep, all that. Level three was learning to make the boat go as fast as possible.

“The best was flying the spinnaker on a beautiful day, perfect weather and perfect winds. And we worked so well as a crew, we could see that we could do it, that was amazing. And I’ve been lucky with the crews I’ve worked with, they were all really nice. Forty per cent of them had never sailed before either and all of them were amateurs. So you tend to find that everyone is like-minded, we’re all there for the same reason, we’re all willing to try something new, we’re all supportive of each other.” 

Pirates

And they’ve all been trained in how to respond if they see an unwelcome sight approaching – pirates.

What do you do?

“We have a mayday button that we press in all emergencies to get the attention of other boats in the area. So if pirates ever board our boat we can use it to get help. It’ll be fine,” she laughs, like it’ll be no trickier than swatting away a fly.

McGlinchey completes her training next week, level four focusing on “tactical sailing and racing other boats to get us ready”, but the greatest challenge of all, and one that could yet scupper her dream of taking part in the race, is the need to reach her fundraising target before the race leaves Liverpool on August 20th. And the target is a hefty one: £50,000.

“Between what I’ve raised myself and donations we have around £20,000 so far, and we’re working hard on getting the rest. My Mum and Dad have been amazing, helping me organise fundraising events, car boot sales, and things like that. We’re looking for business sponsors too, so we’re doing everything we can to make it happen. I feel like you have to stay positive and believe it will happen, you can’t think negatively, it would be a nightmare.”

“We’ll keep on going. This time next year the race will be heading for Derry, so to be on one of the yachts when it arrives and have my family there waiting for me would be …. ah, impossible to describe.”

Eight months at sea, 40,000 nautical miles, “getting hit by 30 foot waves in freezing cold weather”, not to mention the pirates.

Roseann McGlinchey dreams dreams like few others.