Amateur sailor from Leamington prepares for Atlantic adventure after two-year delay due to pandemic

The Clipper Race has been described as the “toughest endurance challenge on the planet"

A Leamington woman is preparing for the adventure of a lifetime as a crew member on the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race – two years after she was originally due to set sail.

Marie Riley will join a 20-strong crew for the final ‘Atlantic Homecoming’ leg from Bermuda on June 19, via New York back to the UK, arriving in London for race finish Saturday July 30.

Marie, 56, was due to sail across the Atlantic in the summer of 2020 until plans were suddenly halted by the Coronavirus.

Marie Riley during training for the race. Photo supplied

But this week, after two years being moored up in the Philippines, the 11 modern racing yachts were able to restart the race.

The Clipper Race was first established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Described as the “toughest endurance challenge on the planet, it is the only event of its type that enables non-professionals from every walk of life, regardless of previous sailing experience, to see Mother Nature in her raw and powerful glory as they compete through some of the most hostile conditions on the planet.”

Marie said: “I was visiting family in Liverpool in August 2017 and saw the start of the 2017-18 race. I started following it daily online and after a couple of months I decided I’d love to give it a go.

The Dare to Lead team on their boat. Photo supplied

"I applied and was offered a place so have spent the money for our new kitchen on a sailing adventure instead”.

Like almost half the people who sign up for the race, Marie had never sailed before.

She spent two years completing comprehensive training in all aspects of racing a 70-foot racing yacht including overcoming her fear of heights to ascent the 90-foot mast.

All participants must be able to undertake any of the tasks on board, with crews split into two watches, racing around the clock, day and night.

Marie Riley will join a 20-strong crew called Dare to Lead for the final ‘Atlantic Homecoming’ leg from Bermuda on June 19, via New York back to the UK, arriving in London for race finish Saturday July 30. Photo supplied

Each team has a professional Skipper and First Mate. The rest of the crew are amateurs with a third of the crew on each team sailing 40,000 nautical miles around the world while the rest join for one or two legs.

Covid-19 put all Marie’s work as a freelance Business Development Consultant on hold.

As a result, she worked part-time for Stratford-based care agency Welcombe Care as a Community Care Assistant for 18 months.

Marie said: “When I was younger, I used to do cycle touring and the experience of lightweight camping has stood me in good stead for living onboard a racing yacht.

Marie Riley at the helm. Photo supplied

"Conditions are very basic with only two toilets, no showers and hot bunking - where you buddy up with a crew member from the other watch and you sleep while they are on watch and vice versa.”

She added: “I’m really looking forward to joining my team Dare To Lead, however the world is a very different place from when I signed up for the race in January 2018.

“I’ve barely left Warwickshire for the last two years and I wonder how I’ll cope being away from my family for seven weeks.

"Spurring me on when times get tough is knowing that I’m doing it to raise money for UNICEF UK, the Charity partner for the race.

"Now more than ever they need help to support the world’s most vulnerable children especially with the current situation in Ukraine.”

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