Just a Few Questions – Jo Breen

A few days ago, we sent out six questions to a few of our competitors to answer. The idea was to put together an article by choosing answers from across all the replies. As the emails came back, it became obvious very quickly that it was going to be best to show all of what was returned. So here’s the first of them, from Morning Star skipper Jo Breen.

How did you feel as you crossed the line?

Crossing the line was an incredible mix of emotions.  For us, it was the middle of the night, having spent 4 hours doing the last 2NMs in no breeze, so the tension had been running high.  Crossing the line was a huge relief! After 2 years of hard work getting to the start line, all the trials and tribulations of the race, we had finally achieved something that couldn’t be taken away from us.  Up until then, there had always been a niggling doubt in my mind that we would actually finished.  I always imagine the worst cast scenario and to have actually achieved what we set out to do and to do so well, was a huge moment for me!

There’s been preparation – then the race.  Of those which was the hardest part for you?

The preparation, was by far the hardest part of the race.  The sleep deprivation during the race was nowhere near as bad as what I went through during the refit of the yacht.  I was working two jobs (one overnight, the other during the day) to fund the refit, then doing as much of the work as I could myself when I wasn’t at work.  I neglected family and friends and lived and breathed this goal without much respite.  

By comparison, the race was a different type of stress.  I certainly felt the pressure to not only finish the race but to do well, especially with so many people following us.  Every so often I had to take a step back and remind myself to just keep focused on the sailing.  I genuinely love being at sea and despite having some days where I would have loved a break from the boat problems and 3 hours watch rotations, I can happily say that I’ll be back to do it again!

 What was the highlight of your trip?

We had some fantastic days of sailing just out of the doldrums where we had got a bit of a jump on the boats chasing us down.  That was hugely satisfying, especially with is being in the slowest boat in the fleet.  We also had some amazing kite runs (although not as many as George promised!) during the race.  That always puts a big smile on my face.  Our best 12 hour run was 96NM which is huge for an S&S 34! But I think the real highlight was crossing the finish line and the welcome we received.  There is just nothing to compare it to! 

 What was the lowest point?

Early on in the race we struggled with some of our systems going down after days of heavy wind and lots of rain. Everything was wet, it was cold, we were exhausted and I was starting to have doubts that we could hold it all together and finish the race (we were only just north of Sydney at this stage!).  The last straw was the autopilot failing, then breaking the pin off our back up tiller pilot.  Suddenly we were faced with hand steering for the rest of the race (another 30 days), which is a situation I had tried so hard to avoid.  

I was so frustrated and disappointed.  I tend to think on long trips you go through a sped up version of the stages of grief on a daily basis over the little losses.  Eventually I got to a stage of  acceptance and just got on with the job of hand steering.  I even found I enjoyed it a lot of the time and after 300 or so hours at the helm, I’m probably a lot better on the helm now because of it!

Have you learnt anything about yourself by doing this event?

I am fortunate that I have done a few long trips before, including one single handed.  I think I’ve done all my soul searching and come to understand more or less how I cope at sea and in extended periods by myself.  I think during the race I regained some of the patience I used to have but maybe lost during the refit.  I always find time at sea helps me focus on whats important and what I want out of life.

If somebody else was thinking of doing the race, what advice would you give them?

Do it! It will be the best and worst thing you have ever done.  So much of this race is a test of resilience and endurance. Even just getting to the start line can feel insurmountable at times.  But the reception at the other end is something so special that you will never forget it! On top of that, the camaraderie between the teams is incredible.  The Osaka Cup family is one of a kind!

Part of the Osaka Cup family on the OHYC podium


Many thanks to Jo for her insights. Of course as you probably know, Jo is already lining up for her next adventure, having signed up as a crew member on the Ave Gitana in The New Caledonia Groupama Race.

Morning Star is set to leave OHYC this week and Jo will travel as far as Saipan with her father Mike before having to get off the boat and head to New Caledonia. We wish Jo and Mike a safe journey south.