Into The Unknown with Offshore Sailor Lizzy Foreman

Not content with having already sailed solo across the Atlantic, Lizzy Foreman is currently preparing to sail solo around the world at the 2020 Vendee Globe, ‘the Everest of the sea’. Here she tells us how she got into the sport, her upcoming plans and about encountering Point Nemo, one of the remotest places on Earth.

What do you do and what has been your journey so far?

LF: I am an offshore sailor and I sail solo and as part of a team. I started sailing at a young age on a reservoir on the outskirts of London and have been racing offshore for the past five years. When I was 20 and still studying at University I was selected for the Artemis Offshore Academy based on the Isle of Wight and this was my first opportunity to discover the Mini 6.50 and Figaro yachts, which are considered the gateway into solo offshore racing. In 2014 I launched my own offshore racing campaign and a year later I raced solo across the Atlantic in a boat only 21 foot long spending 27 days at sea.

Since 2016 I have been training onboard an IMOCA 60 with the Vendee2020Vision programme; an initiative created to train up several solo British sailors with the aim of taking on the next Vendee Globe in 2020.

I also sail as part of a team onboard ‘Team Jolokia’, a mixed age and ability crew from all walks of life. We tackle the major races in France and Europe onboard a 65ft yacht which was designed for the Volvo Ocean Race, with the objective to break down misconceptions and prejudice, and to inspire business and communities to be more open to diversity.

What inspired you to take up sailing?

LF: My Mum first got me into sailing at the age of 6 in a little blue dinghy (a topper) called ‘Sprint’. I loved to huddle down by the daggerboard case and listen to the water gurgle, while my little sister would fall asleep on the other side and Mum would helm. I’m amazed that there was room for all of us!

After a trip to Totnes at the age of 10, my imagination was left running wild. I had been to see Pete Goss and his 120ft catamaran ‘Team Philips’ which was being built for a non-stop, solo, around the world race. Lying in a replica bunk, I began to wonder…’could I do this too?’ A few years later I became aware of Ellen MacArthur, who finished second in the 2001 Vendee Globe.

Building towards the 2020 Vendee Globe, what are your goals for this year?

LF: This year I have a number of offshore races onboard 60 foot boats (fully crewed), but the main events are the Round Ireland and Round Britain & Ireland races in July and August. Sailing around the British Isles is a challenging undertaking, as there are various treacherous headlands and strong currents to deal with, along with the fatigue which accumulates after a few days of intense sailing.

Alongside my sailing I will also be working to improve my meteorological and tactical knowledge, and building on my physical strength and endurance.

You described the race as ‘the Everest of the sea’ – what are you most nervous about and what are you most excited about, and why?

Since the first race in 1989, three sailors have died and many have had to be rescued and abandon their boats. Broken bones, such as ribs and wrists, can easily occur if you fall over onboard. I think the very fact that you have to be completely self-sufficient in times of emergency is probably the most nerve wracking thing; the medical kits onboard are huge as we effectively have to be our own doctors!

A really scary thought is that during the race the fleet pass near ‘Point Nemo’, the most isolated place on Earth, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Point Nemo is so far from land, that the nearest humans are often astronauts. At this point the International Space Station is only 258 miles away, while the closest inhabited landmass is over 1,670 miles away…

The most exciting thing about the race is going in to the unknown. So far, I have only sailed in the Atlantic Ocean so the chance to sail all the way around the world would be a real once in a lifetime opportunity!

You’ll be sailing non-stop for three months – what are you going to be eating?

LF: When sailing offshore on a racing yacht the cooking equipment is near non-existent. Without a fridge or oven the only option is to take canned or freeze-dried foods, the same as that eaten by astronauts and the armed forces. Freeze dried meals take about 10 minutes to ‘cook’ inside an aluminium packet with a cupful of boiling water, and they have between 400 to 800 calories per portion. You can even get a freeze-dried English breakfast and ice-cream!

Onboard the boat I will need to carry a water maker in order to be able to produce my own drinking water from sea water.

What’s the scariest experience you’ve had sailing?

LF: Probably too many to name…! One event which remains vivid in my mind was when I was sailing under spinnaker in the middle of the night towards Guadeloupe. I had been asleep while a squall was approaching and I got caught in 30 knots of wind. As I was tired and the wind was strong I didn’t do a very good drop, and so the sail ended up trailing out into the water and going under the boat. A real nightmare to get it back, and it ended up ripping into two pieces!

What made you want to become a CW Challenger?

LF: I wanted to become a CW Challenger because I really like what the company stands for; the underdog spirit, pushing boundaries, and bringing premium watches to as wide an audience as possible.

Time plays such an important role in sailing – it literally defines the sport – that partnering with Christopher Ward seemed natural, and I hope it will help to highlight that sailing is not an elitist sport and can be accessed and enjoyed by people from all walks of life.


About the Christopher Ward Challenger Programme

Lizzy Foreman is a Christopher Ward Challenger. Launched in 2013, the Challenger Programme nurtures those with world-class talent, lending a helping hand to achieve their ambitions.