Demasted – What Would You Do?

Ocean Sailing Preparation – Masterclass with Lisa Blair

My heart jack-knifed in my chest as the boat bucked beneath me. I was alone in the frigid Southern Ocean and my boat had just shattered as the mast came crashing down. I was facing the horrible realisation that I might not live past the next five minutes as another wall of white water slammed into the boat, taking my breath away. Shaking with fear I needed to act. I needed to survive. Four hours of hell later and I knew that I was going to make it. I was going to live to see the sunrise.

That horrendous demasting, as I sailed solo around Antarctica, was terrifying and something that I hope no one else needs to live through, but I didn’t fully understand the ramifications of that night until months later. I had been making repairs in South Africa before I set off again to complete my world record. It wasn’t until I left the safety of land and faced my first storm post-demasting that I realised how debilitating uncertainty, doubt, and fear can be. Surviving that demasting completely changed how I interacted with my boat and the weather. Every wave that crashed into the hull during the storm, and many after, would send my heart rate skyrocketing, my knuckles would whiten as I griped the rails while my mind reeled with questions – wondering if the next wave would break the boat.

As I sat huddled in the boat riding those liquid mountains, with the wind howling through the rigging, I came to the realisation that if I didn’t get a handle on my fear I would lose the very thing that gives me drive. I would lose my passion for sailing. I love sailing and cannot think of a life without it, so giving in to my fear wasn’t an option. I knew for me that the only way forward was through the fear. As I sat alone on my yacht in the Southern Ocean I reasoned things through. After that first storm, and then the next, I was able to overcome my fear, gain my confidence back, and push on.

Lisa Blair - pic Dean Coopman
Lisa Blair – pic Dean Coopman

Everyone copes with uncertainty, doubt, and fear in different ways. I was extremely grateful later that I’d been able to get back on that metaphorical horse and carry on – that sailing was still my future.

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