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Airlie Beach engineer takes to the high seas

By Ray White Whitsunday

An Airlie Beach engineer turned round-the-world sailor who took part in two legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is now back on dry land after spending more than 50 days at sea.

Mark Pollard sailed in the first and third leg of the Clipper Race as part of the Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, team during which he crossed the Atlantic and Southern oceans.

The first leg commenced in August 2018 from London and ended in Punta del Este, South America.

After a few weeks’ rest, Mr Pollard then sailed from Cape Town in South Africa to Fremantle.

Mr Pollard sailed more than 11,000 nautical miles and having battled rough weather and extreme temperatures, he looked forward to finally having a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.

“The average day’s sail during the race can often feel like it is three days because you are woken up that many times in 24 hours due to the watch system,” he said.

“(During) leg one the heat was an obvious issue, however being from Airlie Beach I was used to it and used to loading up on sunscreen too.

“Then leg three was ridiculously cold to the point where I had chemical hand warmers stuffed in my sailing boots to keep my feet from going numb.

“I think the biggest challenge was the endurance of each leg, both being several weeks long, which on a normal blue water cruiser would be a piece of cake but on the Clipper 70 you don’t get a hot shower every day.

“You share a bunk with your opposite crew mate, when you are on watch they sleep and vice versa, you get very little sleep most of the time, you are constantly wet either from the ocean, sweat or condensation.”

Mr Pollard was no stranger to life on the sea having sailed on and off from the age of five.

He completed the Young Endeavour from Eden to Hobart when he was 16 years old and worked as a part-time deckhand on a maxi yacht when he moved to Airlie Beach in his mid-20s.

However, his interest in the Clipper Race was sparked when he saw the boats during a previous Clipper Race.

“I had seen the Clipper Race yachts in the marina in 2016 and 2018 and went down to see them up close,” he said.

“Finally, after a trip to Greece with some friends sailing the Cyclades I saw an ad on Facebook for the 2019-20 edition so I decided that I wanted to cross an ocean and do so competitively so I signed up for a couple of legs.”

Despite his previous experience, Mr Pollard said spending consecutive weeks on the boat was challenging.

Life on board was one element covered during Mr Pollard’s rigorous training for the race that started in November 2018 in Gosport on the south coast of the United Kingdom.

Mr Pollard said the training, which took place in four stages, started from the basics and led up to longer trips at sea.

“Some people sign up with zero boating experience so the first week is at a fairly slow pace,” he said.

“(It involved) learning the basics of good seamanship from simple knots to safety procedures and of course how to get the sails up, how to use them then, how to get them back down again, how to pack them, how to clean the boat and also because the training was in England, how to make tea for 15 people every hour.”

“The second week I did in Sydney and it was a little more fun as the main purpose is to get you used to race conditions, so we spent a few days at sea out off the coast in open ocean.

“It was nice and warm compared to England where it was absolutely freezing.

“The third week was all spinnaker work and was also on one of the Clipper 70s, which coincidently turned out to be my boat Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam.

“The fourth week was when I finally met our skipper Josh Stickland, additional qualified person Hugo Picard and a bunch of the team.

“It was a fantastic start to the Clipper Race as it was the last training time slot in August, so I then basically had a permanent residence on board for the next four months.”

While Mr Pollard finished his Clipper journey at the end of leg three in Freemantle, he hoped that his fellow crew, who he described as “full of banter” would make the most of their stop in the Whitsundays.

“They often say Airlie beach is a drinking town with a sailing problem so I can imagine some pretty late nights bar hopping from one end of town to the other may be a popular way to celebrate a hard-earned win,” he said.

“I also know how good a shower and big bed is after a few weeks at sea so I can imagine the super comfortable accommodation options Airlie has to offer will be well utilised.

“Being a ‘local’ I would definitely recommend a few trips out to the islands and the reef either by boat or air, it truly is a stunning place.

“If anyone leaves without seeing Whitehaven or the Great Barrier Reef they will be seriously kicking themselves.”

While he is currently living in the United Kingdom, Mr Pollard hoped to compete in the Clipper Race again as a skipper or additional qualified person.

The Clippers are due to arrive in the Whitsundays from Thursday.

A full list of events happening around the region to celebrate their arrival can be found here.

Source: Whitsunday Times

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