It’s only a few weeks away before I begin my intrepid adventure to the Vendee region of France to work as one of three English journalists writing for the website vendeeglobe.org of the non-stop solo global ocean yacht race, The Vendee Globe – billed as the Everest of the High Seas.
Two weeks, childfree and without any domestic obligations – all I will have to do is concentrate on my work. Such a luxury. I will be leaving The Grenade and The Menace in the charge of their father, a team of auxillary support to cover all forseeable, and hopefully, even a few unforseeable eventualities. In the 9 years of parenting I guesstimate that I have probably spent the best part of two years, if not more, solo raising my children in support of Hagar’s excessive deployment to our nation’s war zones, so therefore, it’s not unreasonable that over the next 5 months it’s his turn to pick up the mantel and be duty parent. Hagar ruptured his Achilles tendon playing badminton in Afghanistan and so he is now keeping the home fires burning until he fully recovers and then it’s a new job for him, driving a desk, not a chopper, for the next few years. Finger’s crossed he won’t be seeing any battlefields for a while.
I will be deploying regularly to France to serve the audience and write about the fascinating, gripping and exciting; but perilous and pointless pursuit of solo non-stop ocean racing. ‘Perilous and pointless’ is how Ian Hislop described Captain Matthew Webb’s epic swim of the English Channel but yet argues that it is bonkers acts such as these that create heroes and capture the hearts, minds and imagination of the British and their enjoyment of watching silent suffering – also known as the ‘Stiff Upper Lip’!
The first ten days of the assignement will be tough. The nineteen men and one woman won’t want to talk to the media. Having worked inside a team I have seen the stress from the inside out. They skippers are like race horses in the stalls – really they don’t want to eek out the departure. Once they are ready they want to be underway. The last thing they want to do is answer trivial questions about which is their favourite cheese.
It can all get very emotional because there is danger ahead for them – the weather, ever unpredictable, the boats breakable and sinkable, the journey isolating and treacherous and for why? Because they are obsessed with the prize – to win the Vendee Globe – a race that creates legendary stories of human endeavour.
My brief is to reach out to an international female audience, outside of the traditional sailing fraternity and to write content that is interesting and yet not too technical but just technical enough to not alienate those in the know. No pressure.
In the meantime, I am getting ready at home to handover the parent baton to Hagar. I can’t wait to go and to work on a race that I love. Will I miss my kids? Sure, but, also not – I am going to relish the freedom. Guilt free. How many male parents feel guilty when they work away – really, truly, madly, honestly? I know the kids will be protected, warm and loved so that I can immerse myself in my temporary crazy world of French France with bonkers skippers, and French people everywhere for me to observe, and then decipher – how will I write what I see?