The application

Cambridge, 27th November 2000
I first heard about the Global Challenge reading an online newspaper at the time of the launch of the current race, at the start of September 2000. I vaguely remember the previous races, but had never envisaged that I could be anything to do with it. Seeing the brief article in the paper I was intrigued, so clicked on the link to the BT Global Challenge site to read more. From that very first web visit I was hooked. It seems such an outlandish thing to try and set out to do; the fact that they took people with no experience and gave them one of the toughest challenges that any sailer could undertake was amazed me.

I had no real idea whether I was up to the task, but would hate to live my life wistfully wondering whether I could have managed. At the time I was just about to start my third year working towards a PhD in computer science, and had made no plans about what I would do afterwards. Part of this was deliberate, since I wanted to concentrate on the work I was doing, rather than seeing a life full of opportunities and abandoning my work. However, it was so refreshing to get to a stage where I felt that I could start to plan ahead beyond my studies; partly I suppose as it admitted that I would finish my PhD at some point in the future.

I filled out the online form on the website, and waiting for something to happen. The first letter I got said that to get an application form I'd have to send off £50, partly as an administration fee. Fine, I thought; I don't really lose anything by pursuing this any further. The application form I got then said to secure an interview with Sir Chay Blyth I had to first fill the form out, and then send them a cheque for about £800! Nothing like finding out who is keen to start off with.

I received the application form, and with it - disaster! They included an issue from August of the crew volunteers magazine, which on the back had a story about the 2004 Challenge. Apparently all the crew volunteer places were gone and they were now just looking for reserves! All my early plans of sailing round the world looked a little premature with this news. So would I fill in the application form? I suppose I thought that if I was the kind of person that was able to compete and sail around the world, then I would be the kind of person that was prepared to apply to be on the reserve list on the off-chance that I could get involved. I think this way of thinking is quite powerful; you decide what you want to achieve, then decide how you must think in order to achieve that goal. So, with a little more caution about the whole thing, I decided to proceed.

This application form coincided with another I had to fill in, which was for a week long residential course I was going on as part of the Graduate Schools program. They are run by CRAC, and I was going to Otterburn Hall in Northumberland; this was the second week in October 2000. We had to fill in a standard application form used by many companies to then get feedback during the course. This form was quite a bit more demanding than the Global Challenge application form, so filling it in first was quite good practice. The kind of questions on the Global Challenge were quite tricky though; how to write in words the kind of feelings that I had about sailing around the world? In the end, my one overriding hope was that being honest was the best policy; you have to respect the organisers opinions of people. If you're not the right person for them it's better to find out sooner than later.

The other thing about filling the application form in was that it was the first thing that I've applied for since getting my undergraduate place at Kings College, Cambridge, in 1994. It was quite fun to get back into the whole uncertainty of being critically judged by other people.