Bragg Creek resident takes the helm for race
By: By Carmen Solana-Martin
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
A Bragg Creek resident will have the adventure of her lifetime sailing in a challenging race and raising money for cancer research.
Fiona Garforth-Bles, 53, will sail in the final two legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race travelling 8,800 nautical miles.
Clipper Round the World is a sailing competition where crews of nineteen amateur sailors, lead by a professional skipper, race against one another, around the world, in a fleet of twelve 70 foot stripped down racing yachts.
The eight-leg race began last September in London, England and will end there in July.
Garforth-Bles will spend three months sailing one third of the way around the world on the Team Henri Lloyd yacht led by Canadian skipper Eric Holden.
“It’s going to be the hardest thing I have ever done,” she said, describing the physically demanding conditions on the boat.
Garforth-Bles will work a four-hour on/off watch on deck, which she said will be exhausting.
“You don’t get much sleep, are constantly changing heavy sails, and it will be wet and windy,” she said.
Garforth-Bles will leave San Francisco April 18 and sail down to the Panama Canal. She and the crew will then sail to Jamaica and up to New York. From here they will race across the North Atlantic to Ireland.
Her race will end July 12 by sailing up the Thames to St Katherine Docks in London, England.
Garforth-Bles has worked as an oncology nurse at Tom Baker Cancer Centre for the last thirteen years in the outpatient chemotherapy department.
She hopes to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation Clinical Trials Research Unit for clinical trials at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
“I do clinical trials with my work and know how valuable they are in cancer treatment,” said Garforth-Bles. “I want to raise some money to get more clinical trials available for Albertans.
“My goal is to raise $8,800 which is $1 for every nautical mile I race.”
Garforth-Bles, who grew up in England, has been sailing since age 18 and continued pursuing this passion after she moved to Canada.
“I’ve cruised on the West Coast and crewed on friends’ boats, but never crossed an ocean,” she said. “I decided I wanted to take my sailing to the next level, learn as much as I can, and also cross an ocean.”
To prepare for the race Garforth-Bles trained with the Clipper Round the World organization in Portsmouth, England for three weeks from June to July 2013.
“The training was pretty rigorous and taught me about being on a racing boat.”
Garforth-Bles said she hopes to inspire her daughter and son with her impending adventure.
“They’re supportive and I hope they are proud of me,” she said. “I’m nervous and excited, but I do have moments thinking what have I done?”
Staying healthy will be a priority during the race according to Garforth-Bles.
“There is a lot of potential for injuries, as you can be thrown from one side of the boat to the other,” she said. “You are always tethered when you are up on the deck.”
Garforth-Bles said she hopes her love of sailing will help her overcome all the challenging times she will experience including the close-quarter living conditions, lack of sleep, and the physical demands of the race.
“For me personally, this is an opportunity to increase my sailing knowledge, challenge myself and succeed in that challenge,” she said. “Go for your dreams, because life is short.”