Aug 2014

After profiling a number of PSP Logistics' crew during the last 11 months, we had no intention of letting our skipper, Chris Hollis, get away lightly! We recently pinned him down to ask about his experience as the skipper of non-professional crew participating in the Clipper 13-14 Race and here's what he said...

Greatest highlight/achievement

I have a few…firstly the camaraderie with my fellow 11 skippers. They are a great bunch of people and have become lifelong friends. I couldn’t have got through the last 18 months without their support and friendship. Equally, getting to know Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on both a personal and professional basis. Since childhood, he has always been an inspiration to me and it was an honour to get to know him and understand the man behind the legend.

The other two are bitter sweet experiences: the moment GREAT Britain hit us at the start of Race 5 (Albany to Sydney) I was in complete disbelief it has just happened. I could see it about to happen but had nowhere to go and couldn’t do anything about it. Leg 4 was the ‘big’ one for PSP Logistics with so many Australians on board and it was a massive disappointment to be out of the race at the first hurdle. But winning the protest at the CYCA, being rewarded average points (8.3) and having it confirmed that we were in the right certainly sweetened the blow.

Similarly in Race 6 (Rolex Sydney Hobart) we were in 3rd place in the Clipper Race fleet as we approached Bass Strait when our rudder bearings failed and we started taking on around 40 litres of water an hour into our lazarette. Henri Lloyd experienced the same problem and was forced to retire from the race but the sheer determination of PSP Logistics’ crew (and an hourly baling roster!) got us over the finish line in Hobart in 6th place.

Lasting memory

The storm in the Southern Ocean during Race 4 (Cape Town to Albany). Some of the gusts were over 100 knots. The seascape and sound of the wind was incredible, like nothing I’ve experienced before. We were totally prepared so fortunately there were no dramas and just sat tight and rode it out. Following the storm, we started the Ocean Sprint and pushed the boat really hard for 24 hours to not only win the sprint for Race 4 but also break the 300 miles in 24 hours barrier, clocking up 310.5 miles at an average speed 12.94 knots. This record remains unbeaten…and long may this last!

Proudest moment

Sailing into Sydney at the end of Race 5 (Albany to Sydney). It was a quiet night with no one on the harbour except one yacht with Dekka’s friends and family who had come out to welcome us ‘home’. It was 6 years since I’d last sailed through the Heads and so a very special moment bringing PSP Logistics and the crew, many from Sydney, into CYCA and seeing all the familiar landmarks lit up.

Biggest regret

Has to be Race 14 (New York to Derry-Londonderry) and missing out on a podium position to Old Pulteney by just one minute. We had such a great race across the North Atlantic and were in contention for the podium all the way. To miss out by such a narrow margin was personally very difficult and hugely disappointing as a team.

One thing you would do differently?

My tendency to avoid confrontation. I’d definitely manage the crew dynamics differently and deal upfront with issues rather than letting things simmer.

One meal you’ll never eat again

Chick pea curry.

Most treasured personal possession you took with you

I didn’t really take anything of this nature. I didn’t even listen to music on the boat which really surprised me. If I had to single one thing out it would be my iPhone as it ran my life in UTC for 11 months. And my mid-layers and balaclava which kept me warm!

Scariest moment

There were probably two. The first 60 knot gale in the Southern Ocean when we were caught out with a full main and Yankee 3. And at the bottom of Tasmania; we were flying along the coastline with the No. 2 (Marty) and were caught out by a 48 knot gust with Mark (Pigram) on the bowsprit ready to pop the kite…not where you want one of your crew when you are so overpowered!

Most rewarding moment

Leaving St Katharine Docks at the start of the race heading into the unknown. I had an amazing feeling of anticipation going away for 11 months.

Favourite stopover

Two standout. Sydney because I was home and reunited with friends and family after a long time away. It was the longest stopover and also over Christmas which is one of my favourite times in Australia. And also Derry-Londonderry because of the incredible welcome we received and the awesome vibe around the city for the maritime festival. Here we also had a great sail on Lough Foyle with Frank Dixie, Managing Director of our team sponsor, PSP Worldwide Logistics. We were really lucky to have such a supportive sponsor who activated in many of the stopovers. Seeing the grin on Frank’s face at the helm of ‘his’ boat made me realise how proud the company was of our endeavours. And last but no means least, all the stopovers that my loving girlfriend Vicky came to meet me (Cape Town, Brisbane, Jamaica, New York, Derry-Londonderry, Den Helder and the race finish in London); she was an incredible support throughout and it was great to be able to share the experience with her in so many places.

Which place that you visited for the first time on the race would you like to go back to?

Northern Ireland; the people, the scenery and the hospitality were first class.

The skipper you most respect

The dark horse Eric; he was unstoppable and this was unexpected. And Vicky who ran such an efficient, safe and tight programme and had the utmost respect from her crew.

Funniest moment

“T Watch” on Leg 8 who used animal noises to communicate with each other to trim the sails. It was hilarious sitting in the nav station and listening to the zoo on deck.

Worst leg

Definitely Leg 5 (Brisbane to Qingdao). The combination of the heat, broken forestay, delay in Hong Kong waiting for the engine part, missing the stopover in Qingdao, starting behind the rest of the fleet for Leg 6 and on all this on the back of the issues during Leg 4!

And the question we’d all like to ask…would you do it again?


Click here to view the highlights of PSP Logistics' journey in the Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race.