Belfast Telegraph

Belfast woman Jacqueline Kavanagh spending Christmas battling seas around Australia

Jacqueline Kavanagh has signed up for the entirety of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Jacqueline Kavanagh has signed up for the entirety of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Jacqueline Kavanagh
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A Northern Ireland woman is spending Christmas at sea as she takes part in a global sailing race.

Despite having little sailing experience Jacqueline Kavanagh (48), a volunteer worker from Belfast, has just sailed halfway around the globe to Australia.

She will be spending the festive period away from family and friends in the middle of the Southern Ocean as she embarks on the fourth of eight legs that form the entire circumnavigation.

Ms Kavanagh, who set sail from London at the start of September on a voyage that will take her 40,000 miles around the planet in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, admits that being apart from her family will be a challenge.

While her family back home in Belfast tuck in to Christmas dinner and unwrap presents under the tree, Jacqueline will be racing in the Southern Ocean during the aptly titled Australian Coast-to-Coast Leg.

This is a 3,400-mile race from Fremantle to Airlie Beach over 20 days that will see her next reach land in the new year.

Before she set sail Jacqueline's immediate family enjoyed a reunion.

She said: "My husband Terry, my son Bailey and my daughter Megan have all come out to see me.

"It was super emotional when they arrived.

"I'm sad to say goodbye to them but I will see them in Derry when the race calls in next summer.

"It was so nice for them to come and see the boat and meet the team, so when they read the blogs they have more of an idea who we are talking about."

Initially the Belfast woman intended to sign up for just one leg of the voyage, but as time went on that changed into the entire 11-month escapade.

She explained: "I can't think of any other adventure that is anything like the Clipper Race - it's the hardest but most amazing experience of my life.

"I met somebody who had just signed up for the race and she said I should do it, and then kept going on about it. So I signed up for one leg, which turned into two legs, then three, and then it was five of the eight legs.

"I was thinking five was a big achievement, and then everyone was like: 'Why are you doing just five?' So then I found myself signing up to the entire thing."

The mum-of-two has already experienced some testing times on the open seas including 70mph winds, waves taller than buildings, battled extreme heat near the equator and freezing cold temperatures of the Southern Ocean.

It might be a far cry from Belfast, but Jacqueline is relishing the challenge.

She added: "As well as the amazing opportunity to sail around the world, I am getting the chance to meet some really, really fantastic people who all have totally different stories and backgrounds.

"Steering the boat in big weather has been a highlight. Just being out there and feeling that I can do it, that I can control the boat.

"The sea is a pretty mad place and it teaches you that you have to respect it."

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