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Taking on Clipper Round the World Race with a passion

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Toh Kong Chian (right) and his fellow Singaporean crew member, Seet Bee Lian, posing on board the Mission Performance yacht. (Photo by VoxSports)

The yacht, Mission Performance, arrived on the shores of One15 Marina, Sentosa Cove, on 13 February, after completing Race 9 of the Clipper Round the World Race 2013/2014.

While many sailors were contented to have hit land and rest their aching bodies, there were some who particularly savoured the stop at Singapore more than others.

One of those few is none other than Toh Kong Chian, who met up with Seet Bee Lian, his fellow Singaporean crew member, to sit down in an interview with VoxSports before embarking on his next race to Qingdao, China on 19 February.

Seet, 49, a registered nurse shared about how her passion for sea sports led to her signing up for the race.

“I was windsurfing at East Coast five years ago, and the Clipper Boat sailed past. I waved to them and was curious to know what this race was all about. So I followed them for a while, and signed up online when I could finally join them,” she said.

Similarly, Toh chanced upon this event while he was “surfing Youtube for dinghy sailing videos” as a student, being involved then in dinghy sailing - a form of sailing that involved steering a small laser boat.

“At that point in time, I was still a student and I didn't have the time for it. One and a half years ago, when the boats came by, I remembered and started thinking about it again and felt that I had the time and money for it,” he recalled.

With each race lasting slightly over a month, both sailors experienced considerable hardship during the course of their journey. Seet had to work within the constraints of having “limited equipment and supplies”, being only able to administer “the most basic treatment” to crew members.

Bee Lian had to provide medical treatment for her crew members as and when needed during the long and arduous race. (Photo by VoxSports)

Regardless of these conditions, Seet still managed to provide sufficient medical aid when required.

Crew member David Griffin was a beneficiary of Seet’s nursing knowledge when he punctured his calf on a metal cleat while changing sails en route to Albany.

Acting as fast as she could, Seet systematically proceeded to “clean his wound, bandage him up, [give] him some painkillers, [change] his clothes and put him to rest.”

Moreover, there was the constant bout of motion sickness, as well as the fatigue induced by the nature of their "Watch System".

“We get very little sleep as we are on a 4-hourly rotation basis. We experience tiredness and physical exertion,” she added.

Toh echoed these sentiments, commenting: “You need a certain degree of physical fitness. The second thing is mental strength. There are times you will get very tired. It’s cold and wet, but you need to be ready to push yourself, get out there and do it.”

Despite unfavourable conditions and sleepless nights, both Toh and Seet had their own valuable gains from their experiences onboard.

For Seet, what gave her the greatest sense of satisfaction was “completing it all the way through, having done and experienced what [she] set out to experience in the Southern ocean.”

“I’m glad I did it,” she said with a smile.

On top of the sense of accomplishment he felt upon completing his race, Toh shared about the new friendships he gained along the way.

“We had to go for 3 weeks of training in the UK before the actual race. I met some of them there, and we kept in touch until the race started. Jumping onto the boat in Brisbane was quite easy because of all the familiar faces, and we all have a love for sailing…it was quite interesting.”

Kong Chian made many friends as a result of the pre-race training that was held in the United Kingdom. (Photo by VoxSports)

While taking on such a feat requires a great deal of mental and physical strength, Toh strongly encourages avid sailors to be involved in such events in the future.

“You have to do this at least once in your life if you have a passion for sailing,” he said with conviction.

Leg 9 of the race will see the crew embarking on a journey from Singapore to Qingdao, China, and bring them across the Southern Ocean, and Toh will meet one of his toughest challenge yet - face to face with rough waves and heavy storms.

“On one hand I’m excited, on the other hand I’m also scared… the next race is going to be a whole different ball game altogether,” he enthused.

Seet, on the other hand, plans to “take it as a challenge and accept whatever comes.”

Ultimately, the sailors both look forward to the sense of achievement that awaits them upon their arrival on the shores of China.

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