Earlier this week we woke to the news of a communications black out. An incident had occurred on one of the other Clipper Race boats and everything had been locked down until further notice.
Half way through this afternoon's shift and email came through to inform us of the loss of a crew member on the South African boat taking part in the race, IchorCoal. The sad news resonated with all of our crew members and suddenly the dangers of ocean racing became very real.
Only a couple of days ago I was up on the foredeck ready to lift a spinnaker sail from the rope locker below, when a Yankee sail suddenly caught the wind. The rope attached to the clew whipped up and hit me across the side of the neck. It knocked me clean off my feet and, had I not been clipped on - the importance of being clipped on is drilled into us in the Clipper Race training and thankfully now comes as second nature - I would have been thrown over the guard rail and into the inky black sea, disorientated and hurt.
At the speed our boat was moving I would have been a mile in its wake before the crew had time to react. All of a sudden the bruise across the right side of my neck was a far more serious reminder of how lucky I was.
Understandably the mood on the boat is solemn. We all have friends spread across the fleet and are very much feeling the loss. As much fun as we are having at times, this is a race vessel and we are in deep ocean. We have to stay focused and keep our wits about us.
One person that left London with us a week ago will not be returning home.
It's a harsh and sobering reminder that our lives are fragile and every moment is precious. Every soul on board each of the twelve boat fleet is doing this because they love the challenge of sailing across the world's most unforgiving oceans. Lest we forget, with great challenge comes serious risk and consequence. The harder the task at hand, the higher the stakes.
Our focus ultimately was always to make it to our destination in one piece and as a complete crew. Going forward every person on board will approach the daily jobs with a little more trepidation and mindfulness. I will be doing everything in my power to make sure that myself and my crew mates return home safely.
This is indeed the race of our lives. Let us hope and pray that it is a chapter for each of us though, and not a conclusion. There will be an extra squeeze in my hugs when I arrive home to my family. Not only for my own overwhelming gratitude for the ones I hold dear, and for the continuation of my own life, but also for the one we lost today.
Live to do the things you love. Don't be held back by fear and doubt. Take life by the helm and ride it until the sails fall off, but never forget how quickly it can be taken away. My thoughts go out to his family, and to all of those that don't make it home from their adventures. Death is the greatest one of all, for we know not what lies beyond. It is the ultimate unknown and only the brave put themselves in harm's way to experience life to its fullest. Respect and godspeed.