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REAL LIFE with Marina Thomas

Racing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race onboard the winning Gold Coast Australia boat in 2011-12 changed the lives of all the amateur sailors onboard. Marina Thomas meets emergencynurse and grandmother, Deb Miller, who was part of that crew, and discovers adventure may always be on the horizon, if you’re brave enough to pursue it. t was when she was writing her adventurous father’s eulogy that Surfers Paradise resident, Deb Miller, realised she was living in an absolute rut. Deb had been pounding away on the corporate hamster wheel working two jobs and doing 70+ hour weeks to escape a marriage that was on the rocks. The mother of two realised something had to change. She discovered the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race a year later through an encouraging friend who was participating, and saw that anyone could take part regardless of age or experience. Deb, aged in her forties, decided to set aside work, friends, family, and do something just for her for the first time. She had only ever sailed once but her late father’s love of the sea and boating inspired her to start a journey in memory of him as well. Deb’s marriage had also ended – her sons thought she was having a midlife crisis but supported her quest for a new challenge. Deb was able to take extended leave from her Queensland Health role as Director of Health Systems and Clinical Innovation and applied for the race in February 2011. A few months later, she joined the 30 odd other Australians onboard Gold Coast Australia in the fleet of 10 yachts competing in the 40,000 mile ocean odyssey. The groups of strangers ranged from bankers to farmers, midwives, lawyers and chefs from around the globe. Many others had also never sailed before prior to four weeks’ compulsory training. The Clipper Race is the world’s longest and toughest yacht race and competitive Australian skippers and boats have won the last two contests with a high Antipodean crew contingent. Over 11 months, there are 15 different races over eight separate legs visiting 13 countries where crews can travel and sightsee during stopovers. Deb endured frightening weather patterns and freezing conditions, four-hour watch rotations, toilets with no doors, no showers and basic food as well as three major incidents onboard where her nursing and communication skills were tested. However, she says taking part has been one of the best life decisions she has ever made. “The experience I have had, what I have learnt March 2013

INSPIRATION AND

about myself and others when they are placed in such extreme circumstances is something that will influence me in my life ahead and the pathway that I’ll now take. The experience was about really discovering who I am – I found ‘me’ over that year. I discovered my inner strength and it gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I want to spend my next 30 years. The race gave me a renewed respect for the beautiful oceans, sea-life, wildlife and environment that we are connected with.” Deb was only originally due to do legs five and six from the Gold Coast to Singapore through the East China Sea and then to Qindgao, China and through the Pacific to San Francisco. However, after completing the two highly challenging legs among a close and competitive Gold Coast crew, a fire was ignited in her belly for more adventure and she ended up spending seven months at sea. She enthuses that highlights include racing down a monstrous wave in the Pacific engulfed in a tube of water reaching speeds up to 27 knots. And she recalls sitting on the rail under a full moon with thousands of stars sparkling in the night sky and the waves glowing with phosphorescence as they hit the side of the boat and splashed up over her. “It was like a 30

scene out of the movie Avatar,” she adds. Deb helped Gold Coast win the epic marathon in July 2012 after securing a place on the last leg across the North Atlantic from Canada back to the UK. “This was the leg where I really pushed through any previous apprehensions and really got out of my comfort zone and enjoyed being on the bow being thrashed as we did sail changes in the North Atlantic.” One particularly frightening and memorable time came when Deb was washed down the side of the boat and left hanging by her safety line. Sunshine Coast crew member, Lisa Blair, came to her rescue and she was able to move through the fear and really get a kick out of pushing herself. “I always knew I had capacity to respond well to challenges, but the Pacific tested me physically, mentally and emotionally in ways I had never imagined. It was very tough, but new lifetime friendships were forged in that leg.” Despite the harsh and sometimes dangerous conditions, Deb realised an inner peace. “Before getting on the boat, I rarely remembered my dreams – if in fact I had any. On the boat my dreams were vivid, colourful

Getit Magazine March  

The Febuary issue of Getit Magazine

Getit Magazine March  

The Febuary issue of Getit Magazine