Somedays things go to plan, and some days they really don’t…
After the Fastnet race, I’ve been completely broken, dispirited, lost, and on a downward spiral; letting my depression and my feelings over loosing Bertie get me off track, as well as fighting my distinct lack of confidence and letting my doubts get the better of me.
Starting out on this journey, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, hell I even knew it was as close to impossible as you perhaps could get, but to me, that has also been one of the most positive parts of it- facing up to the fact that the odds are against me, challenging the perceptions of my capabilities and proving that anything is possible with a little self-belief.
For 16 years, I was part of a team, I’ve raced and been in a team all my life. The British Sailing team was more than a support network, it was a way of life, and moving into the solo offshore world meant not just solo sailing, but building my own support network and brand around that.
With that in mind back in 2016, my team and I created a robust step by step, safe plan that would make my ultimate goal achievable- to get to the start line of the Vendee Globe. It not only included mileage building, racing, testing and fundraising, but bearing in mind that at this point my offshore experience was limited to say the least.
It also included a factor of comfort for myself that would mean I would be in best mental and physical shape to take on the challenge when the time came. After all, I’m not planning to do the Vendée Globe just to make up the numbers- when I head out of that magical harbour in Les Sables d’Olonne, I want to know that I will complete the world’s toughest race in a way that only I can!
Our deadline to make the 2020 vendee was late 2019, and here we are…
I’ve had a really challenging 2019- but it hasn’t changed my mind about this journey that I started out on, and I am still sure that I can do it, I am more determined to see it through to the end.
It’s been a tough slog to get to where we are now, and the fundraising and sponsorship side of Hannah Stodel Racing has been by far the toughest part.
We were very lucky this year to welcome HFW Law to the Team. They have not only financially supported us which enabled us to enter the Round the Island Race and the Rolex Fastnet Race with the amazing charter of Normandie the Class 40, but they also helped out behind the scenes with HSR as a company, and not to mention the wonderful William who was at the finish of the Fastnet race itself to see us in!
Completing the Rolex Fastnet Race was definitely one of my highlights of this year, and whilst the race itself couldn’t have come at a worse time in my life, I tried to leave my feelings onshore and race to the best of my ability out there where it really matters. I was lucky to be racing with my amazing team who got me through the race and everything in the run up, and to me, that has been one of the greatest things about this challenge- the people behind the scenes who are so selfless, so enthusiastic, and who believe in me; without them I couldn’t keep moving forward.
I’ve also been so fortunate this year to find a competitive, welcoming and supportive home as helm on the King 40 “Cobra” to get me racing on the Solent, not only pushing my own boundaries, but also building my confidence along the way. I cannot thank Michael and Seb Blair enough for the opportunity to race with them, but also thank you to the guys onboard for really making me feel part of the team, accepting my limitations and for all the good natured banter.
A special thank you must go to my tactician onboard Cobra- Stevie. It’s been amazing working with such a calm, knowledgeable and all around great sailor. He has not only given me the time to get better, but has also supported me every step of the way, through all my doubts, helping me deal with some personal shortcomings, learning to fit Cobra into impossible spaces, and keeping me driving like I stole it, and has now become a truly close friend.
So…. Where does that leave me now?
Well, I’m still on the hunt for major sponsorship, I’m going to continue building my mileage and chartering Normandie whenever I can, I’m going to keep racing as much as possible and taking every opportunity that comes my way, and of course I’m still fighting to keep this dream alive, but sadly I won’t be on the start line of the 2020 Vendee Globe.
I am disappointed, actually, disappointed isn’t the right word- I’m extremely frustrated; after all, this challenge has been on my mind for over 20 years; the determination and passion I have to do the Vendee globe is there every day. I know I can do it, I just need to keep believing in myself, and continue hunting for those sponsors that also believe in me.
What this delay has allowed me to do however, is to really build on other aspects of my life like my speaking career, as well as being able to start coaching in different areas such as business, teamwork and leadership. It has allowed me to do other things that I have found that I not only love to do, but I’m actually quite good at!
I meet some incredible people through my talks and training and I also have a sneaking suspicion that I will meet my headline sponsor over the dining table, or in the audience at one of these events…
Moving into 2020, my Team and I have put together our ideal programme, with the major focus of course on fundraising to be able to get my own boat to enable more training, more racing, and above all more learning.
I know it would be easy to read all of this as some sort of acceptance piece, or perhaps even interpret is as myself giving up- you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only has this year been challenging, this year has also been eye opening, inspiring, and in places a total revelation- all reinforcing to myself that my self-belief and my determination can be some of my strongest assets. Don’t write me off just yet- I will get there, it’s just going to take me a little longer!!
So thank you to all of Hannah Stodel Racing; Alex, Hannah2, Adam, and Quentin, for sticking with me, for racing with me, for volunteering endless hours to get the boat ready, for random delivery trips, to eating chocolate pudding at 0300 and everything in between!
To my mentors; Adam and Annie thank you for all the support and coaching with my speaking and for bringing me into the Fieri family and giving me an amazing platform to share my journey with so many others.
To my coaches; Sean, Matt and James; thank you for your time and effort to make me the best version of myself, for helping me change my weaknesses to opportunities and helping me to believe in myself.
To my behind the scenes advisor and one of my greatest supporters- Murray- thank you for reading everything I write and listening to my doubts, and helping me push through them all!
Finally to my incredible sponsors and supporters; HFW, Helly Hansen, Learning and Skills Solutions, Marlow Ropes, Sungod, Tent Meals Expedition food, Fuse Media, Imray, and Munchy Seeds.
And like my Uncle Jamie always said; “Don’t give up”- don’t worry, I haven’t, and I wont!