A Lancaster woman is taking on the challenge of a lifetime this summer when she joins a team aiming to sail around the world.
The arduous year-long Clipper Round the World Yacht Race sets off on September 1, and Mary Vaughan-Jones will be among the crew of one of the 11 boats taking part.
Mary has just completed her final week of training, and has been allocated a place on the Punta Del Este (Uruguay) boat.
The 24-year-old will be one of eight round the worlders on the boat, with a crew of about 67 in total.
Around 40 of the crew held a team building weekend in Sussex before Mary headed straight to her level 4 training with a full boat of 24 people.
The training involved six days at sea to give a taste of what it will be like for the race – including no showers and unusual sleeping patterns with watches of four hours at night and three hours in the day.
Part of the training included a race to France and back for the last two days, with the Punta Del Este finishing second.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston set up the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race with the ethos of bringing ocean racing within the reach of everyone.
It is now a major global event with an audience in excess of half a billion people in more than 200 countries.
The challenge, which runs from September 1 2019 to July 2020, is a race between 11 identical boats, all with a mix of sailing experience on board, some with no sailing experience apart from the clipper training.
The only professional sailors in a crew of up to 22 are the skipper and a mate.
Teams are not allowed to use their engine when racing; it is completed solely by sail. The route is not yet confirmed, but will start from somewhere in the UK – the previous race set off from Liverpool.
It then goes to South America and across to Cape Town.
From there it crosses the Southern Ocean (renowned for its high wind and waves) to West Australia, Fremantle, where teams will stay for around three weeks for Christmas and New Year.
They then continue to Sydney or New Zealand before going up to China.
This marks the start of one of the biggest ocean crossings, sailing the North Pacific to Seattle/San Francisco.
From there the race continues through the Panama Canal and back up to New York, from where it’s another big crossing back to the UK and the port they cast off from.
At each stopover crew will join or leave the boat, as most people don’t do the complete circumnavigation.
Mary will be one of around nine crew members per boat for the whole route, meaning she will become integral in the smooth transitioning of crew changeovers at each stopover.
The crew will have the majority of the responsibility in the running of the boat, navigating, sailing as fast as possible and also organising provisions and cooking on board.
The skipper and mate are there in case of emergency and to help guide the crew.
Mary has undergone a rigorous training regime to prepare for the event.
There are four levels of training, each one a week long, and to progress onto each level you have to pass an assessment from your skipper involving your physical capabilities and your seamanship.
No matter how much sailing you’ve previously done, everyone must complete the clipper training.
All the training is based in Gosport, Hampshire, where Clipper HQ is. They sail in the Solent and out into the English Channel to find the rougher waves and more wind.
Teams remain on the boat for the entire week, and in the cases of Level 2 and 4 don’t come in to harbour but continue sailing throughout the night.
Mary grew up in Scotforth, attending Scotforth St Paul’s Primary and Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School before going to Cardiff University to study English language and communication.
Her parents both worked at Dalton Square GP surgery for more than 20 years before leaving to live in Islay, Scotland, for a few years.
Mary’s two brothers and sister all played a lot of sport locally, and Mary herself played hockey from the age of seven for Lancaster Hockey Club and represented Lancashire consistently from age 13-17.
Mary now lives in Kuwait, where she works as a fitness instructor.
To find out more about how Mary is getting on, or to support her through fundraising or sponsorship, go to https://maryvaughanjones.wordpress.com/