While the Volvo Ocean Race is just heating up, the 2013-2014 Clipper Round the World Race seems a fading memory of something far far away. But it was actually a Pacific Northwest sailor who skippered his pay-to-play crew to victory. Eric Holden was in Vancouver when The Canadian Press caught up with him seeking news for his next adventure.
VANCOUVER – Eric Holden got to stoke two of his passions while crisscrossing the globe.
A meteorologist with Canada’s Olympic sailing team, the 34-year-old skipper is back home for the first time in two years after winning the gruelling Clipper Round the World yacht race in July — a 64,000-kilometre trek that took almost 11 months to complete.
“One of the big perks of this race was experiencing the weather in those different places,” Holden said Wednesday. “The southern ocean from South Africa to Australia in particular is the Holy Grail, the Mt. Everest of sailing. You get the biggest winds and seas. There’s not that many races that go there. That was a big reward for me.
“We had three storms that hit hurricane-force winds and the seas were quite monstrous … it was a very impressive show of nature.”
What might be even more remarkable is that Holden — the first Canadian to win the race — and the 11 other professional skippers who took part sailed with crews made up entirely of amateurs.
The neophytes were vetted and received about four weeks of training in the English Channel before being divided up and assigned to a ship. Holden’s crew ranged in age from 21 to 74, including five other Canadians.
“For me that was probably the most rewarding part of the whole experience — seeing the development from pretty much zero sailing knowledge to being safe, competent sailors that I have full respect for,” said Holden. “It may not be the race for every professional sailor because you really do have to have that patience to work with people who really don’t know what’s going on and might be a little bit intimidated initially.”
He said the success of his yacht, the Henri Lloyd, over the 16 individual races in the event that has a Formula 1-style scoring system was due in part due a tone he set early.
“We were told before the race by how much the crew often takes on the personality of the skipper,” said the soft-spoken Holden. “You weren’t quite sure how much to believe it, but it was really amazing how that happened to each team.