Clinton Spiteri has recently returned from a trans-atlantic crossing aboard the GY51 sailboat, Nisida of Hamble skippered by sailing veteran Peter Hopps. The journey was a delivery of Nisida back to Europe following the close of the Caribbean sailing season that features the famous British Virgin Islands (BVI) Spring Regatta as well as Antigua Sail Week.
The journey started on the 6th May setting sail from the horse-shoe shaped port of Falmouth Harbour- not far from the famed Lord Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua where the Caribbean sailing season draws to a close every year. The 3,500 nautical mile trip across the Atlantic Ocean ended in the Irish port of Dun Laoghaire, just ahead of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race and took 21 days non-stop.
Clinton is no stranger to watersports, having been born in Malta and raised by the coast for most of his life. A ‘sea natural’, he takes to the open water with familiarity and fondness. Kite-surfing and wake-boarding rank highly on his list of passions, but as an all round sporting enthusiast he also boasts interests and accolades in a wide of activities from judo to mountain-biking.
He is currently based in London, having lived and worked there for the last 7 years excluding a brief hiatus in Boston (US) and another in Abu Dhabi (UAE). Currently in a Principal capacity at engineering consulting firm URS Corporation Ltd, he specialises in sustainability advisory services including – BREEAM and LEED environmental assessments, feasibility studies of low and zero carbon technologies and energy strategies using computer simulation of the built environment. Recently he played a key role in achieving a BREEAM Excellent Award for the refurbishment and extension of the old Marks & Spencer HQ on Baker Street in London (UK).
Clinton explains that his connection with Nisida was a charter he had organised with a few URS colleagues to compete in the Royal Malta Yacht Club race from Malta to Sicily. ‘I was so impressed with Nisida‘s website that I contacted Peter to discuss crewing even if I hadn’t met him before. An opportunity arose for a delivery and the rest is just history.’
Living in a hectic city and needing an opportunity to reflect on life as a whole motivated the journey. Clinton says of this experience ‘it has been an epic journey and totally unforgettable, I hope that it will not be the last of its type’.
Life on board Nisida enabled Clinton to draw parallels to our attitudes to sustainable living on land and he comments ‘at sea you have a greater respect for it, the days away from the dry land enforces in one a heightened sense of self-sufficiency which you cannot ignore for the sake of your own self- preservation!’ Adding that ‘in the face of the unknown, especially when far out from shore there is the constant barrage of the ‘what if’ thoughts. As a crew we had to always think poignantly and consistently about our use of resources, questioning necessity and the alternatives if need cried – such introspection is evidently suppressed by the voice of modern-day consumerism.’
Asked about his favourite piece of on-board engineering throughout the trip, Clinton did not return the predisposed reply “the diesel engine”. Instead he talked enthusiastically about the heads – nautical talk meaning the vessel’s WC.
Clinton claims that heads are ‘an admirable example of a low-tech solution to conserving resources by using salt-water for non-potable uses’. He explained, ‘when one considers the energy-intensive process involved in extraction, treatment and distribution of water, it is such a shame that of the 140 litres of water we each use daily, only a fraction of this is actually used for drinking, food preparation or showering – the rest being wasted in functions where inferior quality would easily suffice’.
On his crew- sailing with veteran skipper Peter Hopps was ‘an inspiration’. Nisida‘s captain hit his benchmark tenth trans-Atlantic run on this journey – three of which he had sailed single-handedly. The other 5 crewmates he states made the voyage ‘an experience’ and practically speaking ‘humanly possible’.
Throughout the journey, each man took turns to helm on three hour long shifts logging a mean run of approximately 160 sea miles. Below deck there was a rota for cleaning and cooking with Clinton remembering that some had ‘better luck than others’ at turning basic food such as freeze dried chicken and instant soup mix into edible casseroles.
Hairy moments- Clinton recalls one instance shortly after finishing the ‘graveyard shift’ at around 3 am with face still thawing from the blistery cold – ‘she was achieving 15 knots and the wind was filling in quickly. Although the number two reef was already in she suddenly gybed and a long silence ensued. I just thought we had had it, it’s all over and we’re sinking!’ Clinton remembers ‘thankfully the silence was broken by expletives from the skipper and the discovery that we had a preventer line in which took the strain off the mast and avoided any serious damage’.
About what he missed the most – ‘well not much, but was impressed how quickly I got my feet back and raced to a Dun Laoghaire pub for a celebratory pint of Guinness. After 21 days of not drinking it was just priceless’.
To commemorate his first trans-Atlantic crossing, Clinton raised a small sum of money in favour of the Royal National Lifeboats Institution (RNLI) as a solid memory of his achievement. The RNLI is the charity that provides a 24-hour life-saving service around the UK and ROI and depends on donations to operate. You can support the RNLI by visiting Clinton’s fundraising webpage www.justgiving.com/tawru/ or directly to the RNLI at www.rnli.org.uk.