Yorkshire A&E nurse to fulfil mother's dream with round-the-word yacht race

York nurse Eve Ashforth is leaving behind the emergency room for an around-the-world yacht adventure that her mother has dreamed of. Laura Drysdale reports.

Eve Ashforth is preparing for the Clipper Race. Picture Matthew Dickens, Imagecomms, clipperroundtheworld.com
Eve Ashforth is preparing for the Clipper Race. Picture Matthew Dickens, Imagecomms, clipperroundtheworld.com

When A&E nurse Eve Ashforth embarks on a near year-long adventure racing a yacht around the world, she will fulfil a dream of her mother Diane’s from almost three decades ago.

It was she who mentioned the Clipper Race to her daughter in passing in October last year, a suggestion that appealed to Eve’s adventurous spirit.

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“She said it on a whim,” says Eve, who knew little-to-nothing about the race. “I’m quite a spontaneous person. She went to bed and I went and looked on the website and just applied for it there and then.

A&E nurse Eve has been embarking on a training programme ahead of the race. Picture Matthew Dickens, Imagecomms, clipperroundtheworld.com

“The next day I told mum ‘this is what I’ve done’. I’m quite spontaneous and I think if the opportunity appears, I will just go for it.”

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“She know that I am adventurous and love testing my limits,” explains Eve, who was going through a period of feeling low at the time. “She knows me very well and knows if I have something to work towards, I will do that.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Diane had wanted to take on the challenge herself but was unable to fulfil her dream when she found out she was pregnant with Eve. “For me, I am in a better position at the minute,” says 28-year-old Eve. “I am doing it for both of us. It will be a great thing for us both.”

Eve, 28, gets to grip with sailing the ocean. Picture Matthew Dickens, Imagecomms, clipperroundtheworld.com

A desire to try new things and grasp opportunities is something the pair have in common. “She’s quite spontaneous as well. She has always been that kind of person that’s not afraid to take risks and I feel like I have grown up with her doing that...It is something that I have carried with me throughout my life.

“It’s quite a nice thing really, something that connects us together is this not being worried about taking risks because perhaps opportunities are much greater.”

Eve, who lives in York, spent the first ten years of her life in Canada, amongst nature and wilderness, before moving across to England. For as long as she can remember, she says her family has been drawn to the ocean and, earlier in her twenties, she spent three months living on a beach in Mexico, as she learnt to scuba dive to monitor coral and fish species.

“I have always been that kind of person that wants to try new things and have new experiences and skills.”

Next summer, Eve will begin the 40,000 nautical mile endurance challenge, facing some of mother nature’s toughest and remote conditions, as the 2019-20 Clipper Race gets underway.

Dubbed the only event of its kind for amateur sailors, around 40 per cent of the crew are usually novices and anyone from the age of 18, regardless of experience can apply to take part.

“People who have never sailed before can get involved with something as amazing as this and I just felt like I had to go for it,” she says. She had never stepped foot on a yacht before signing up. “It encompasses the ocean and that is something that I absolutely love. Why not test the limits of your own capabilities?”

Clipper Race participants are split into eleven teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts. They can choose to take on the full circumnavigation or compete in one or more individual legs.

During the last edition of the race, those on board battled 14m high waves, hurricane force winds, boat speeds of up to 35 knots - the equivalent of 40mph - extreme heat and freezing conditions.Despite the challenges and, in her words, “the huge element of danger”, Eve is determined to go the whole way.

“I couldn’t choose [a section of the route] for one. I felt like it was the right point of my life to go for it and do this crazy adventure. I wouldn’t want to regret anything. I want to try and do the whole thing because that’s the kind of person I am - all or nothing.”

The route will take competitors from the UK down to South America, across to South Africa, onto Australia then up to China, across the Pacific to Western USA, down to Panama and then back across the Atlantic.

“Hopefully I will get all the way around,” says Eve. She is looking forward to the thrill of being out on the ocean and meeting people from all over the world.

“There’s always that risk of danger with a race like this but I am not really that frightened about that. I have got it in my head that I am going to complete the race because it is the kind of person I am. I don’t do things by half. I am very resilient”

Since securing her place in the race, just weeks after she applied, Eve has taken part in two gruelling levels of Clipper training - and has two more to go. “Considering I have never sailed before, level one was a huge shock,” she says. “Excuse the pun but it was literally like being thrown in the deep end. I am hugely surprised about how much I have learnt in such a short space of time but it is definitely not without its challenges.”

“On a side note”, she jokes, “I have been surprised at how well I can sleep at a 45-degree angle and also how many different types of pasta dishes it’s possible to create with only five ingredients.”

She has now learnt about the different parts of the boat and how to race a yacht, as well as being introduced to the watch system - though shift patterns are already the norm for Eve, who is an A&E nurse with York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. “It’s difficult,” she says, reflecting on her role. “It is not without its challenges but it is also not without its rewards as well. That’s the highs and lows I think I look for throughout life.”

It is the teamwork that she enjoys about A&E especially, and she will certainly need to work collaboratively during her time at sea.

“I think it will be a huge amount of fun, but I think it will be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life without a doubt. I don’t think that is necessarily because all we are seeing is ocean. I think it is more about the teamwork dynamic on board.

“I think being in such a confined space and not being able to get off could cause a few issues, but it is how you deal with that stuff and I like to think I am quite good at managing difficult situations with my job.”

Eve will have little contact with her family and friends, including her mother Diane and father Paul, once the race begins. “I think it will be hard. I think it will be really hard, especially at the beginning when everything is quite new and the realisation of what’s actually going to happen is dawning on you. But my family have always been very accepting with allowing me to go and do various crazy things and not having too much contact.”

Despite the distance, members of her family are hoping to meet her halfway round in Australia to offer their support. “[Mum’s] really proud. I think she’s also really terrified for me. I’m not, but I think it is things like hurricane situations that she’s heard of. She is immensely proud though...I feel like I am taking this opportunity for both of us.”

The race:

The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69.

The route of each edition of the race is unique - and in its twenty year history, more than fifty cities have been host ports for the race.

The 2019-20 edition of the race will be the twelfth in the Clipper Race series and will see around 700 crew members take part in racing across five oceans to six continents.

Today, more than 4,000 people and three generations of Clipper ocean racing fleets have competed in what is said to be the world’s toughest ocean racing challenge - but still more people have climbed Mount Everest than circumnavigated the globe. Visit www.clipperroundtheworld.com/