Safety adviser Sarah Davidson risks it all for Clipper race

Sarah Davidson on boat Sarah Davidson was seasick on a ferry crossing; now she's sailing the Southern Ocean

Sarah Davidson knows quite a lot about risk - it's her job. But this is not going to stop her from undertaking a dangerous journey across the Southern Ocean.

The safety adviser for productions such as Countryfile, Dragon's Den and Britain's Secret Seas will be forgoing comfort and risking injury for two legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race later this year.

Start Quote

I think I will learn more about me and my character. I think it will probably change my perspective on risk”

End Quote Sarah Davidson Safety adviser

The two legs, which will take her around Australia and up to China over three and a half months, are among the most arduous, with temperatures of extreme heat as well as cold of around -4 degrees Celsius.

So why does she want to do it?

'It has got under my skin,' she tells Ariel over a cup of tea. 'I just really want the challenge. I just think it's something for me, but it's also something I could learn from. Where else and when else can you get the opportunity to experience something like that?'

Selling up

But the experience of a lifetime comes with sacrifices. Davidson is selling her flat in Cumbria and some of her material possessions to come up with some of the £17,000 she'll need to take part; her first leg starts in November.

One of the hardest things she's had to do is sell items with sentimental value. She had to part with a television and DVD player, bought by her grandmother, who died last year. 'I was really upset about that,' the adviser says.

Sarah Davidson on boat Sarah (far right) during her training

For a moment she sounds vulnerable, but then she adopts a tone that hints at her steely determination: 'I think I've got to a stage where I'm like, "I'm doing this." I suppose I'm quite driven, I've got to succeed in it, it's got to happen.'

So far the novice sailor has only had one week's training in Portsmouth, sailing from Gosport, down to The Needles and back again - 'it was fantastic, but it made me appreciate how cold and wet I'm going to be.'

Real danger

Davidson also got a taste for the danger involved, as the boat was lifted up by the wind and onto its edge, with her legs left dangling over the side. 'It was at that point I thought, Oh my god, I can see how people fall straight through [the safety railings].'

A participant in last year's race had to be airlifted off a boat with a serious head injury - so the danger is real. Back injuries and bruised ribs are also common. But learning to put yourself in vulnerable situations is part of the experience, Davidson says.

She explains how the team of 10 novice sailors will have to lift sails of half a tonne each; there will be four-hour watches, turns cooking on board and a steep learning curve when it comes to the technical aspects of steering and manoeuvring a boat in changeable weather.

Sea legs

In total, Davidson will get three weeks' training and will take additional safety and skippers' courses. But it doesn't sound like much preparation for someone who admits to once being seasick on a ferry crossing as a child.

'I don't know how I'm going to cope with the seasickness,' she admits, 'but apparently you get used to it and you just get on with it.'

The safety adviser, who is planning to return to her BBC job when the adventure is over, says she doesn't yet know how much the race will change her.

'I think I will learn more about me and my character. I think it will probably change my perspective on risk,' she grins.

For now, she is focusing on her fundraising efforts. She's not too proud to admit that she needs a bit of financial help, with which she hopes to raise money for charities such as Children In Need. She's also looking for any practical advice from sailors and suitable hand-me downs.

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