Gerard has been sailing on the Ha Long Bay boat since March 2022 and says he’s having the experience of a lifetime.
“This race to Bermuda wasn’t as hard as before,” Gerard said. “The first trip across the Pacific was cold and wet but this one was so warm. But we got through it and survived it.
“We had two races in this part and we came first in the first race and eighth in the second. So we had a great result and a bad one but you don’t know where the wind will be when you get there. All in all, it was a great experience and we’re now in Bermuda, which is absolutely beautiful. I’m sitting on the veranda now looking out over the sea drinking my coffee. I am living the dream! That’s one of our sayings on the boat when you’re under pressure or up at 2am cleaning out toilets - we’re living the dream. There’s a lot of things that you don’t expect when you sign up but they’re all part of the experience.
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“I was looking at the programme last night for the Maritime Festival this year and God almighty - the Council have really pushed the boat out, pardon the pun! The other cities we’ve come into have been great and we’ve had plenty of people welcoming us but it’s nothing like we’ll see when we get to Derry. I was showing my teammates a clip of the 2018 Clipper Festival and they were amazed by the crowds and the excitement and the works. We’ll leave here now on Sunday morning and there will be a few people out to wave us away but in Derry thousands will see us come and thousands will see us go.
“I have enjoyed this experience so much. It’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be - I had a very romantic view of sailing the seas and that but really, there’s a lot of hard work involved. We have a watch system which means every two days, you’re woken up five times to work. The watchers will start at 6pm and work to 10pm, when they go to bed. They wake at 2am, then 6am for another six hour shift. You go to bed then to wake again that evening at 6pm. Over the two days, you wake five times. So you’re working 50 times over 20 days. Because you’re getting short sleeps rather than a big long one, you are nearly permanently tired. It is hard but the fun’s good and the people I’m with are fabulous. We all support each other and we’re all going through the same thing and it’s a great experience.
“We leave Bermuda now on Sunday and we have a four day race into New York, where we’ll stay for five days. My lovely wife and my beautiful daughters will be joining me in New York, which will be fabulous. One of the really hard things is not seeing your family. It makes you realise how much you take for granted. I’ve been doing this now for four months and I haven’t seen my daughters this whole time. I have my phone now but once you’re two miles off land, you have no contact with the outside world until you’re at your next port and I find that very hard. So I’m looking forward to seeing them in New York and again in Derry. I think this experience has taught me to really appreciate what I have.”