Roseann McGlinchey: 'People think I'm mad to postpone my wedding for the race, but I had a pal die young and it taught me not to waste life'
Londonderry woman Roseann McGlinchey put off her big day to fulfil a long-held ambition to take part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in August. She tells Lee Henry how her husband-to-be supports her choice and what she's most frightened of as she prepares to live life at sea for 11 months.
It was on a sunny day in July last year that Londonderry's Roseann McGlinchey made the biggest, brashest decision of her life: to sail the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, an eight-stage challenge that takes in six continents and lasts a tortuous 11 months.
In previous years, she and her friends had stopped along the quay to appreciate the stunning fleet of 12 yachts - the fastest matched fleet in the world - moored along the River Foyle before their crews set sail for the final leg into London.
Sun glinting off the water, smiles plastered across the faces of the weather-beaten sailors, she glanced up at the sails, erect and buffeted by the breeze, and decided she would take the plunge. There was only one problem - the following year's competition clashed with her looming wedding.
"I had been watching the boats come and go from Derry over the last six years and had wanted to take part in the race from their very first arrival," says the 23-year-old advertising graduate, who currently works as marketing manager for Mintbet.com.
"They were so impressive, and the clipper is such a big event in Derry's calendar.
"My philosophy in life is to be adventurous and live in the moment. I had a friend who died young and it made me realise you only get one life that is not to be wasted.
"You never know when you won't have the chance to do everything you always dreamed of doing.
"I remember my eureka moment clear as day. We followed the boats out to Greencastle, and that evening I went home and printed out my application form. Next came a telephone interview, which, thankfully, I passed. The whole process took three days."
While Roseann prepared for her Level 1 seafaring training and setting foot on a boat for the first time (aside from a ferry ride to Scotland), her 23-year-old fiance, Frank McBride, a bookmaker from Armagh, helped as much as possible.
The pair met while studying at Ulster University's Magee Campus and were engaged to be married in March 2018. Date set, venue booked, plans well under way, everything would change once Roseann caught the sailing bug.
"I had originally planned to complete only leg eight of the clipper race, which takes place in June 2018," she says. "But after my initial training, I just fell in love with sailing, and I thought that it was now or never to complete the entire race.
"Frank saw how much I wanted to give it a go, so he actually suggested we move the date of our wedding. Thank God, our guests and the manager at the Beech Hill Hotel, which we had booked for our reception, didn't mind the change of date from March until October.
"They are all really excited about the race, so they understand. And Frank has been fantastic. He's definitely an accepting sort of man. He also hates the water, so he is delighted that he does not have to participate in the race himself."
Roseann completed her initial training at Gosport in England, despite having "not a single bit" of previous seafaring experience. She was comforted, however, by the fact that 40% of the people who take part in the clipper race are also maritime novices, and inspired by the prospect of becoming the first woman from Northern Ireland to complete the race in full.
"My first few days of level one were like learning a new language," she recalls.
"It was during Storm Doris, which made things a little hectic. I found it exhausting... there was so much to learn.
"I didn't know any of my crew, but we were all in the same boat, so to speak, so that made things a whole lot easier. We quickly became a family who relied on each other to get tasks done quickly and safely.
"I completed the remainder of my training in May and June. Crew allocation, when we find out our boats, team and skipper, is on May 20, and the official race start date is usually the last weekend of August.
"Other things we will cover in the remaining levels include living at 45-degree angles, operating watch systems, surviving on four hours' sleep, cooking for 22 people in a tiny kitchen and all the essential sailing skills. I can't wait to take it all in."
To date, the confirmed stop-overs of the 2017/18 clipper race include China, Australia, Seattle and Londonderry, with other destinations soon to be announced. The race finishes in July 2018, with the fleet sailing into London.
Roseann must raise a whopping £49,500 to take part in the contest. She has already come up with an impressive £12,000.
"I am currently working my butt off to raise the money," she explains. "Most weeks I work six days and then do events like pub quizzes, raffles, masquerade balls and car boot sales.
"I am hoping to link up with some local businesses that might be interested in sponsorship. The race is global, so there will be lots of benefits for them. If any businesses are interested my email is firstname.lastname@example.org."
Family and friends have, of course, been lending a hand in her fundraising efforts, having finally come to terms with the fact that she will soon be sailing off into the distance on a global race for victory.
Roseann admits that "99% of people I tell about the race think I'm crazy", and that she initially had a hard time convincing her parents, James and Marrion, sister Danielle and brother Connor that embarking on the race was a sensible thing to do.
"They were understandably apprehensive, but they understand who I am as a person," she says. "Growing up, I always wanted to travel, see the world and experience different cultures, so at 18 I worked and saved up to go Inter-railing around Europe.
"I haven't really stopped since and have spent time in Thailand, India, Iceland, Cuba and the majority of Europe. The race was a logical next step.
"Thankfully, my family help me with every single thing I do. My mum has been spending her time helping me organise and run my fundraising events, and my daddy has been getting up to do car boot sales on Sunday mornings. Every little bit of money helps. I want to do this to make them proud."
Although Roseann's native city has entered a full crew into the clipper race in previous years, the last time being the 2015/16 season, there are no plans to do so this time, so Roseann will find herself part of an international crew of intrepid sailors racing in aid of official charity partner Unicef when the starting gun goes off.
The prospect of spending 11 months in the company of complete strangers does, she admits, leave her feeling somewhat trepidatious, but at present she has other, more pressing concerns keeping her awake at night.
"Apart from the obvious worries about sharks, pirates and eating seafood, I am terrified of getting sea sickness, to be honest," Roseann says. "But I hope that, by the time the race comes around, I will have finally developed my sea legs.
"I think that one of the biggest challenges with taking part in a race like this will be leaving my family for almost a year. That will be hard for everybody."
In order to take part in the race, she must, unfortunately, quit her job at Mintbet.com, though her work colleagues have assisted in spreading the word and bringing in new donations.
"(They have been) telling all our customers about the adventure", Roseann says.
Her priority at present is in raising the remaining entry funds, but thoughts of post-race employment do crop up.
"If anyone has an opening for an adventurous sailor who can advertise, please let me know," Roseann jokes.
Looking ahead, she anticipates having plenty of tales to tell guests at her wedding when it comes around in October next year, and hopes to invite the new friends she is bound to make on her upcoming travels.
Right now, though, Roseann's big day seems a long way off, with her round-the-world oceanic adventure taking precedence.
"I am hoping to meet some really inspirational people and have the experience of a lifetime," Roseann says.
"If our boat happens to do well in the race, that would be a great bonus.
"I have not really considered the future beyond that. It's so much work trying to get everything organised. I am just hoping that I will be able to use my new sailing skills in some way when I return and that I will look back on that day in Greencastle with no regrets whatsoever."
Anyone who wants to donate to or sponsor Roseann's adventure can email her email@example.com