Us sailors are a unique breed. While families around the world get together to celebrate, we can usually be found either at sea – or preparing to go to sea. However, don’t feel sorry for us, it’s what we love doing!
We caught up with a few of our of fellow sailors to share their own Christmas sailing stories.
Professional Ocean Racer, Adventurer and Motivational Speaker
I’ve spent three Christmas days at sea, all in the Southern Ocean, but during different events. The most memorable was during the Vendee Globe in 2004-5 because my generator decided to pack up just ahead of a nasty depression that was bearing down on me at a rate of knots. I managed to enjoy lunch and open a few presents, before heading on deck to take a reef and change to my fractional code 5.
I took a few pictures outside, one of which made it onto the front page of L’Equipe of me on the grinder with water dripping off my face.
That night, I spoke live on Sky News. That was the last live I would do on the race as the following day, Boxing Day a huge earthquake created a massive Tsunami that decimated South East Asia. Whilst I was safely in the Lee of Australia, the Tsunami caused widespread damage and tremendous loss of life. I only found out the true extent once the race had finished.
That night as the breeze built, I finally overhauled the backmarker and was no longer in last place after my pit stop in Cape Town to fix a broken rudder. Huge relief to finally have a boat behind me.
CAPTAIN DARREN NAGGS
Captain of T/S Tenacious, Jubilee Sailing Trust
Personally, I love Christmas with all its bells and whistles. When I’m away at work onboard Tenacious over the festive period, I have the best of both worlds – a traditional Christmas but with sailing and sunshine!
Christmas time onboard Tenacious is great fun, all hands are involved in decorating the ship and preparing the dinner for the big day itself. However, in the tradition of the JST the ship’s officers will serve the crew and do the washing up afterwards, always an advantage!
We usually aim to be secured in harbour on the afternoon of Christmas Eve – last year for example we called at Vueltas on the Island of La Gomera. It is a very pleasant place to spend Christmas eve and Christmas day. Arriving on the afternoon of Christmas Eve allows us time to prepare and to allow our crew some time to enjoy whatever festivities there may be ashore.
People can be concerned that Santa may not find them on Christmas Eve. Don’t worry, there’s nothing to worry about on that score, Santa loves seafarers and always makes a detour to visit us. He arrives through the hawse pipe though as we don’t have a chimney…
There is always a family atmosphere onboard Tenacious, but especially so at Christmas time. We remember friends and family who may not be present but cherish the time with our shipmates with whom we’re spending this special time of year.
Boxing day means it’s time to get underway again and continue the adventure, but this may not mean an early start. There will perhaps be time to have a boxing day swim before sailing off to wherever the winds take us. I think that beats boxing day on the sofa don’t you?
World Champion and Olympic Sailing Coach
Christmas is a very special time of year for many people and no doubt this year will be very different for some. Traditionally I have spent the day eating far too much food with family before going racing the following day (Boxing day) to try and use up all those negative calories!!
It is only in recent years, when working in Asia that I have ended up coaching on Christmas day. Something a few years ago I thought would be unthinkable after coaching on Christmas eve in the Solent (from Weston Sailing club) and being literarily the only boat on the water.
When negotiating my contract with the Chinese Yachting Association I made the case of assuming that there would be more rest days. These are necessary both for the physical training (it is actually during the recovery that you get fitter/strong and overtraining can actually lead to a decrease in fitness) and for the mental training you also need a break, so as to avoid a mental burn out, but with so many athletes and slightly different programmes there were no days off for Jon.
So perhaps it was no surprise that I ended up coaching Lijia on Christmas day in 2011 during her Olympic Gold medal winning campaign. After all, every day of training counts. That day we worked 1:1 doing an extremely effective training session and (by luck) the wind was perfect.
Fast forward a few years and the Vanhang Sailing Academy has been fantastic at getting Chinese youngsters on the water. For me, this time there was no surprise when we hit the water on Christmas day. I even made sure that I was appropriately dressed!
Professional Yacht Racer
For the last 13 years I have been sailing south on Boxing Day as part of the Sydney Hobart race. However, last year was a bit different as the race was cancelled for the first time in its 76-year history.
My family don’t live close by in Sydney so it’s just not possible to spend it with them, so we always try to have an early Christmas, or a camping trip, to make up for not being together.
For the last few years, I have spent Christmas Day with 2 of my closest friends, Jules and Russ. Out of the 3 of us 2 of us are doing Hobart. So, we are always aware of what will be going on the next day.
A few years ago, Russ was given a beautiful wooden boat, and this is where we spend our Christmas Day, on the most beautiful harbour. We catch up with other friends out on the water, swim, eat and have a few champers.
At the end of the day, we end up back to the CYCA (the home of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race.) there is always an awesome atmosphere with interstate and overseas crews hanging out on the decking, telling stories.