Emily spoke with passion and refreshing honesty. She shared her experience of achieving her ‘childhood dream’ of winning a much sought after place on one of just seven participating teams (Team AkzoNobel) in the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race. She also outlined, in detail, the nine physically gruelling and emotionally draining months she spent taking part in this renowned and revered race, which covers 45,000 miles and is often described as one of the most extreme sporting events in the world.
"It was brilliant to welcome Emily back to Oakham, where she spent many years honing her sailing skills," says Head of Sailing, Nick Neve. "Whilst at Oakham she successfully raced dinghies in school, national, European and World Championships, so it was incredibly inspiring for our current sailors to hear, first hand, just how much she has faced and achieved since leaving School - and she is still only 24!"
Emily described in vivid detail the ‘highs’ of seeing the beauty of the world first hand, crossing the equator four times and setting a new World Record (for the furthest distance travelled by a yacht in any 24-hour period ever), and the ‘lows’ of having to endure cramped living conditions, eating only freeze-dried food, constantly moving kit around to correctly weight the boat, and catching only two consecutive hours of sleep a day.
She inspired students with the key message of “dealing with what you can, never giving up, and coming up with crazy innovative solutions” – which she certainly lived up to during the Race. Not only did she help to repair a broken main sail, mid race, she also carried on despite encountering a serious injury (a damaged nerve in her back and a dislocated shoulder), which she just “sucked up and carried on sailing”.
Another message she imparted during her talk was the prevalence of plastic in the oceans and on beaches around the world. Part of her team’s work was to ‘turn the tide on plastic’ and, as well as taking part in beach clean ups in between each leg of the Race, they also took 75 water samples en-route. With only three of these samples not containing micro plastic, she really impressed upon the audience that everyone needs to do much more to reduce their plastic consumption.
As well as describing her experience as a ‘rookie’ (which meant she spent a lot of time undertaking the “not so fun jobs” such as grinding for hours at a time), she also outlined what it was like to be part of the first Volvo Ocean Race that included women on all boats. In his introduction, Oakham's Head of Sailing, Nick Neve, described Emily as ‘Super Woman’. Given the challenges she’s overcome to win her place on this amazing race (notably those of her incredibly young age and her sex), along with the battle to train her body and mind to endure taking part, ‘Super woman’ could not be a more apt description.