Setting sail around the world

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
June 2023

Kate Chapman meets skipper Hannah Brewis as she prepares for her most demanding ocean challenge.

Sailor Hannah Brewis is preparing for the adventure of a lifetime after landing her dream job skippering a 70-foot yacht in the prestigious Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

She will lead a team of non-professional sailors on the epic journey, which is split into eight legs, featuring six ocean crossings and covering a total of 40,000 nautical miles.

Billed as one of the most difficult endurance challenges on the planet, the race which kicks off at the end of summer pits the crews against Mother Nature’s best and worst conditions – and Hannah, from Grantham, can’t wait to set sail.

She says: “This is my dream job! I found out about this particular race a few years ago and thought I would love to do that, and I’ve slowly been working up to it. I had to undergo an intense interview and a three-day trial on the water, where I was going against up to 30 other skippers, all vying for eleven positions.

“It’s going to be very challenging – but also very rewarding. Building a team is going to be exciting. I’ve got to focus on our goals. It’s not just about winning, but also what everyone else wants to get out of it – it’s an experience and a huge achievement to cross an ocean.

“It’s all so exciting and pretty incredible to be able to do this – I can’t wait for the race to start.”

Relishing the challenge
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is the only event of its type. It is open to anyone, even if they have never sailed before. As skipper of one of the eleven 70ft vessels taking part in the 2023/4 race, it is Hannah’s job to train her crew and then lead them on the journey of a lifetime as they circumnavigate the globe.

Competitors come from all walks of life and can complete the whole voyage, or individual or multiple legs. They must complete four levels of training ahead of the race, which is expected to take eleven months to complete.

Hannah is relishing the challenge. She has plenty of experience under her belt having been sailing since she was a child, logging more than 40,000 nautical miles through her career as an instructor and flotilla skipper.

She also completed the second half of the 2019/20 edition as an AQP (first mate) on board Seattle.
The Clipper race starts in the UK with stops in South America, South Africa, Australia, Asia and North America. Crews will cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as navigate the Panama Canal in South America.

“I think the biggest challenge will be looking after everyone – I’ll have a crew of 70 to 80 people over the course of the whole race, people from different places, different cultures, so I want to make sure they’re all getting what they want from the experience. I need to keep a happy team,” says Hannah.

“The weather will be fairly difficult too – but at the same time quite simple to deal with. If we start experiencing high winds, we’ll know what things to do, it’s not that different to how you would react in your car when it starts raining.

“As we sail from South Africa towards Australia, we’ll be into the Southern Ocean, there’ll be big seas and big weather, it can be pretty cold down there, so that will be tough and again crossing the Pacific to North America, it’s the biggest ocean in the world, there’ll be big seas and high winds.

“I’ve not sailed all of them – it will be my first time crossing the southern Atlantic, so that will be exciting.”

Sailing background
Hannah says it will be tough spending such a long time away from her family – parents George and Jo, her brother and friends, although they will be able to keep in contact via satellite emails and race followers can keep tabs on the boats via an online tracker.

“The Clipper 70 racing yacht is designed for ocean racing, it’s not the most luxurious of things to live in but it’s good at crossing the ocean quickly,” adds Hannah, who started sailing with her parents on activity holidays when she was a child and then progressed to racing dinghies, before moving on to bigger boats in her teens.

“I just really enjoyed sailing and because we didn’t live very far from Rutland Water, my parents sent me there for activity weeks in the summer holidays. I just kept going with it, all through school and then I started taking part in dinghy races.

“I spent most of my childhood sailing on Rutland Water, I even competed at other venues around the country.

“When I was 14, I went and raced on a bigger yacht through the Ocean Youth Trust Charity – it was a big, 60ft yacht, which we raced from Latvia to Poland. I loved it – and people suggested that I should get into a career with yachts, but I was completely against it and wanted to be a farmer!

“Slowly, over time, I realised that sailing is a lot of fun and something I was good at and perhaps I ought to play to my strengths – that’s when I realised I could make a career out of it.”

Sense of adventure
After leaving school Hannah worked as an instructor on small boats, before gaining her Yachtmaster Offshore qualification. She then followed this up by completing the Yachtmaster Ocean exam, which allows her to sail anywhere in the world.

“I’ve always found it’s down to mentality and hard work – you need to know how to sail, and you can learn that, although it can be hard. Sailing is a hard life, you don’t often get much sleep, conditions are wet and cold, but you just have to get on with it. A good sense of humour helps!

“There’s no great leveller than the sea and seeing people from all walks of life come together and [having] to work as one towards the goal is hugely gratifying.

“Personally, crossing oceans under sail, harnessing the power of the wind, and becoming totally self-reliant on your boat is what I love. The freedom, the adventure, the challenges, seeing Mother Nature at its finest, and the sense of achievement when you’ve completed it, that’s why I do it.”

For more information about the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and how to follow each yacht’s progress visit clipperroundtheworld.com

Photographs: clipperroundtheworld.com/Image Comms



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