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THE LONG ROUTE HOME BY LISA POVER Back in February 2007, my local news paper the Liverpool Echo was running a competition from the Liverpool 08 Culture Company for three lucky locals to take part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. “No sailing experience necessary,” it said. Each winner would take part in the essential Clipper training, RYA Sea Survival and then one leg of the race.
“Great, I thought. It sounded too good to be true. I eagerly told my husband about responding but we quickly looked at reality mortgages, job, car, bills - so I didn’t apply. I mean, even if I was lucky enough to win, I couldn’t justify raising the funds needed to support me whilst racing - it was figures I simply couldn’t contemplate.
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My first week training was also my first time on a sailing boat of any kind and I loved every moment. That was it - I caught the bug! The sea, the learning, adrenalin, peacefulness, moments of intense activity, the challenge, the change of environment, the friendships – and more importantly not sitting in a taxi night in night out - I was already a changed lady.
At crew allocation, I realised that there wasn’t a single Scouser on board the Liverpool 08 boat, nor in the fleet completing the full circumnavigation - not one! So I decided then and there that I would try and raise the rest of the funds for the other six legs and complete the full circumnavigation. Not only did I need to fund my crew place, I also needed the mandatory insurance along with any other costs incurred whilst racing. So without hesitation, and in addition to driving my cab at every opportunity, I started fund raising. We had the usual night at a local social club where my supporting family and friends took part in an evening of live music (donated by a good friend). We had a whole mix of raffle prizes that were donated by almost everyone. I took some photos of Liverpool’s Albert Dock (where the race would start from) and framed them. There was a complimentary hair cut at a local salon supplied by my cousin and photo key rings with ‘I’ve sponsored Lisa to sail around the world’ on the back, which all sold for a few quid! It was all very similar to evenings I’d done before for worthy causes but this time, I was trying to raise the money to fulfil my dream. The biggest struggle was trying to get a significant amount of cash when time was not on my side. I had two months from when I decided to try to raise the funds before the race departed. So, not hanging around, I put together a ‘sponsor’ pack including photos of me in training, promotional DVD of previous races and a breakdown of the amount needed in order to achieve my goal. I sent this pack in A4 envelopes, professionally set out and printed, to almost 250 various businesses in Merseyside. I approached a businessman called Tim Day who had been featured in a local press article and he agreed to see me. Tim loved what I was trying to achieve and got me some publicity in my local newspaper, funded a website for me but importantly, invited me along to a weekly networking gathering for MD’s of local businesses. Although it was inconvenient to attend as I had to take a few hours off earning valuable cab fares - and I felt like I was selling my soul to a bunch of strangers - it was a great opportunity to get my name, face and passion for my city talked about. I had lots of great verbal support from many businesses but none came forward with the all important money. At this point I was completely losing faith. But I knew in my heart that it only takes one person to give me a chance and that belief was soon to be rewarded. One Friday night around 11pm I picked up a business man from Lime Street train station and we got chatting. I told him about my dream and in the short journey to his apartment he gave me his business card and said he might be interested in sponsoring me for a leg or two. I heard nothing more until two weeks before the race start.
I signed my Clipper contract the day before the race and set sail with wet clothes from the washing machine in my bag that never had time to dry! I still pinch myself everyday about that chance meeting. It wasn’t his company sponsoring me and he didn’t want any branded clothing or blogs sent back everyday from the boat. He was just a great guy who could see my passion for the city and how good it would be for me, as a person, to fulfil my dream. He wanted to give me a chance, just like that.
I m still as shocked as you, believe me! Then to the race itself - where do I begin? It is by far the most challenging yet exhilarating experience of my life. I’m not sure if I’ll ever top the experience. I was never a girl who didn’t try challenging things in life. Bungee jumping - tick. Skydiving - tick. Scuba diving - tick. White water rafting - tick. Night time cabbie - tick. The mental challenge was fine by me but the reality was I had three weeks’ sailing experience, a watch leader role to accommodate onboard and the whole world to race nine other boats around - bizarre, what had I let myself in for? As you might imagine, I can talk for England but I still struggle to explain how much of a great life changing experience it has been being part of a tight knit team on a 68-foot yacht for almost eleven months. The change in weather is amazing, the gales, storms, summer days and the dreaded Doldrums. The wildlife, dolphins, whales, birds and flying fish. The blackest sky with the greatest number of shooting stars I’ve ever seen, a full moon to light your way and the lifelong friendships and life experience you gain. I believe, and always have, that if you put your heart and soul out there, you will someday reap the benefits. Since returning from the race in July 2008, I completed my RYA Yachtmaster and am now commercially endorsed - which was again challenging but in a different way. My intention was never to return to the taxis (I let Neptune have my cab badge when we first crossed the Equator) but maybe to do some sailing, help out at the local sailing club and to get young people from the community into sailing. With the support of my sponsor, Michael Ryder of Purple Apple Consultancy, I’m in the process of starting my own charity. It’s called The Lisa Pover Trust and will support 14-25 year olds in achieving some form of life changing experience with the intention of taking part in Clipper Round the World Yacht Races in the future. I’ll finish by saying the higher you aim in your life the more you will achieve. No one can say that the path or journey you take will be an easy one, but if you don’t give it a shot, you’ll never know. Here’s a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that I now keep firmly in mind:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do. ”
So I thought - in fact, I dreamt - just maybe, that this was a way to get out of the rut I was in. Then with no more thought, I put in my written application and waited with baited breath. I was short-listed for an interview, then got the phone call that literally changed my life. I was one of the lucky winners. Fantastic!
Out of the blue, this guy from the taxi ride called me up and, to cut a very long story short, he sponsored me to circumnavigate the world.
he following Thursday, I saw the advert again, but this time around I’d had a tough weekend at work. Being a night-time Hackney Taxi driver, six nights a week, every weekend with the most unsociable hours possible for the last five years, was becoming tougher to deal with.