Jilly’s Clipper Race challenge is scary but amazing

editorial image

Local Clipper Race bursary winner Jilly St John is busy preparing herself mentally, physically and emotionally for what promises to be one of the biggest challenges of her life, when she sets off to join members of the crew of the Derry~Londonderry~Doire yacht for Leg 7 of the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race.

The North Coast girl who has been living in Londonderry for the past number of years and now calls the city home, says she is hugely excited about the challenge that lies ahead of her.

A well-known singer and musician with the band Wylding, Jilly is also a writer and model with a keen interest in lifestyle blogging. Winning a place on Derry City and Strabane District Council’s ‘Your Next Chapter’ Bursary Scheme has made a huge impact on Jilly setting out for her a new challenge that will test her to the core.

Jilly has spent a long number of years working to overcome anorexia. She is very vocal about her battle with the illness and is keen to get her positive message out not only to young people in the Derry, Strabane and wider NI area and feels it’s a subject of national interest throughout the UK and Ireland.

“I think it’s incredible to think where I’ve come from. From being housebound with panic and anxiety, suffering from anorexia to my new-found health, where I am grabbing life in the biggest way possible. It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks’ time my challenge will reach its pinnacle in racing from Seattle to New York on a yacht. It still shocks me!” she says.

Key to Jilly’s preparations for the race is preparing her body for the physical demands that living and working on the yacht will require. Yoga is a huge part of her life and thanks to the support of local yoga tutor John Bell, yoga has brought a great sense of calm and balance to her life which she hopes will have a real positive impact on her journey from Seattle that includes travelling past the Jamaican Islands and through the Panama Canal.

“Yoga gives me the ability to adjust my attitude. It allows me to reaffirm in the hope of believing. It calls for me to stand strong, tall, centred and focused. Yoga is my medicine, my friend, my earth and something that will guide me through this next challenge in my life. It allows me to remain calm, balanced, and rooted in my belief in myself and my journey,” she adds.

Asked why she applied for the bursary to take part in the Clipper Race, Jilly says it’s about always making herself do something new and to constantly put pressure on herself to face new challenges.

“I feel good about this because I’m doing this for myself. I’ve lived independently since I was 15 years of age and I’ve led a very eventful life - as well as overcoming an eating disorder, I have achieved great things in my life personally and in my career, so this is another step forward for me in realising who I am and what I have achieved. This is the next step in the dawn of my new self of endless opportunities. I feel grounded, strong and happy in my life and taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race will be the next step in this nonstop eventful journey.”

As part of the pre-race preparations Jilly has undergone extensive compulsory Clipper Race training as health and safety is the highest priority for all those taking part.

“I really enjoyed the training – I felt comfortable with it all. It was phenomenal. It feels great being out in the water with the wind in your face. It makes my heart happy – it’s where I feel most content and calm. You feel really free out at sea. It takes a lot of patience and practice but I loved every minute of the training and being part of the team was hugely beneficial for me. It has been life changing and I’m determined to make a job of this.”

Jilly says the Council’s Bursary Scheme is a fantastic way of giving people the opportunity to do something totally out of their comfort zone. “All of the bursary recipients are so grateful for this fantastic opportunity. I walked along the Quay and watched the Clipper Race yachts sail out of Derry a few years ago and thought I’m gonna be on that boat. I just can’t believe that two years on and I’m getting ready to fly to Seattle to join the crew and represent the city in the race. It both scares me and amazes me.”

Reaction to Jilly’s participation in the Clipper Race has been mixed. “Some people are like, are you crazy! How you gonna cope out there? But most people are like – yeah that’s amazing. They want me to do well and know that it’s a huge thing for me to do. Let’s hope I can live up to the challenge. I think I can.”

Among the beauty essentials Jilly hopes to take with her is coconut oil, lipstick and glitter. “I am going to cover my hair and skin with the oil to ensure it doesn’t dry out in the weather conditions and as for the lipstick and glitter – I reckon it’s little luxuries like this that will lift not only my own mood but others too, and the glitter should sparkle things up on the boat when the days get long.”

She intends to also take some dietary supplements and snacks on board also to ensure she can navigate her weight allowance and ensure she doesn’t undo the positive work she has done over the past year to regulate her weight and build up her physical strength.

“I’ve also downloaded some good playlists on my iPod – Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley and a bit of Bowie will go down a treat out on the open sea and I should probably forewarn that I also have the entire AC/DC discography too! “

In terms of what the future holds and what she hopes to achieve from participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, Jilly says it’s about being in a better place and having the emotional and physical strength to see herself in a new light.

“It’s taken lot of work, mentally, physically and emotionally for me to get myself prepared for this, I’ve gained a new body and an ability to like myself. It’s still work in progress but I am getting there and that’s a good thing. I really love how much my life has changed over the last year or two. I am doing things I never imagined. So who is to know what happens next.”

The public can follow Jilly and her crew mates on Derry~Londonderry~Doire as they continue their journey on the Clipper Round the World Race –Jilly’s Clipper facebook page – www.facebook.com/jillystjohnclipper or follow the team on Facebook and Twitter at Derry-Londonderry Clipper 15-16.

For images and videos of the Clipper Race please register on the media portal: http://mediaportal.clipperroundtheworld.com/auth/login

To find out more about the Foyle Maritime Festival in July visit: www.foylemaritimefestival.com