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Portsmouth student takes on the North Atlantic in global yacht race

Sophie Quintin, a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, is about to embark on one of the world's most gruelling ocean events, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Sophie, who is studying International Relations focusing on African maritime security, had prepared to join the famous yacht race in March 2020. With the world shutting down due to the pandemic, the sailing adventure and plans to do field work in Senegal upon return came crashing down. Two years later, she is about to join the crew of the 70-footer Team Seattle to race in Leg 8, a 5,000 nautical miles adventure across the North Atlantic Ocean from Bermuda to New York, then onto Londonderry and finally London.

After two years of lockdowns and much uncertainty, the race restarted in March from the Philippines with the fleet now making its way to Bermuda for the start of the final leg across the North Pacific (19 June to 30 July). 

The prestigious yacht race, with its headquarters in Gosport, was founded by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who won the first single-handed race around the world in 1969. Uniquely, it takes amateur crews on one or more legs of a circumnavigation of the globe on 11 identical yachts designed to sustain the toughest sea and weather conditions in some of the most remote areas of the world’s oceans.

Sophie, a qualified skipper, had undertaken the four weeks of mandatory intensive race training in the summer of 2019.  Since then she has used every training opportunity in the Solent including taking part in two RORC classic races last summer (Round the Island and Cowes-Dinard). She said: “With plenty of sailing miles logged, my main concern when the race restarted was not remembering knots and points of sail. Getting myself fit after months of injuries at my age has been the real challenge in the last two months while keeping my thesis-writing on track. Patience, perseverance, effort and plenty of support from friends have thankfully got me fit for duty ready to be ‘activated’ as a crew on June 15.” 

Her passion for the sea and sailing have helped her to continue pursuing her aim to change her life by becoming a researcher in mid-life. As a research assistant and PhD student working for the University’s Centre for Blue Governance, she was involved in the launch of the centre in February 2020.  The award of UNESCO Chair on ocean governance in December 2020 has re-energised the team with objectives to develop exciting projects in ocean science and education with policy impact.

Sophie added: “I have been fortunate to be part of a fantastic team of researchers who are all passionate about the sea and think outside the box. It is a blessing to work with Professors Pierre Failler and Alex Ford. It pushes me to reach my goals and improve myself all the time.” 

Sophie intends to use her race to raise awareness about ocean health and governance.  By partnering with the charity Clean Sailors  she hopes to reach out to the sailing community world-wide and get other sailors to join in  ocean conservation. She said: “There have been very positive developments in offshore racing in the last decade with most major races now engaged in the sustainability debate and taking actions to improve ocean health. 

“We sailors must all become ‘ocean ambassadors’ in a way, not just ‘users’.” 

You can follow the Clipper Race fleet on the race tracker here. Leg 8 starts on June 19 and Seattle is the purple boat. 

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