"Qingdao" was one of the 10 yachts taking part in an around-the-world race. Photos courtesy of Yan Xinmin
Before joining the 2007-2008 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, Yan Xinmin had never spent even a minute on a boat. However, when she spotted an advertisement recruiting crew from all walks of life for the biennial ocean-racing event in a copy of the Guardian in a London subway last March, a wild idea popped up in her mind.
"I want to be one of them."
Yan is not new to adventure. As a lover of travel, she has covered 26 countries and once found herself 6,000 m above sea level during a media trip to Mount Qomolangma (or Everest as is known in the West) in 2003 while working for China Central Television.
Still, sailing was by far the craziest idea to hit the 30-something Beijinger. She knew nothing about the sport and is not even a good swimmer.
The advertisement just stopped her in her tracks. An additional attraction was that during one of its stopovers, the fleet would touch Qingdao, East China's coastal city which is less than 1,000 km from her hometown.
"Since my trip to Mount Qomolangma, I had been dreaming of another outdoor adventure. But I was not keen on going for a familiar activity," she says. "The possibility of sailing excited my curiosity."
Before the race, she underwent a three week-long intensive training session that included a three-day 378-km testing race on the North Sea from Amsterdam to Wilbeforce, Britain.
It gave her a taste of what it would be like to spend the next 40 days on the sea: She had to share a 10-sq-m smelly room with 15 people, wear sodden clothes and socks forever and endure days without a shower.
Rotating between work and rest every three hours, she could catch barely any sleep as she was thrown off her bunk frequently. On many occasions, she had to sit in the pouring rain with other crew on the tilting boat for hours and hours or rush to the deck in the middle of the night to change the boat sail weighing more than 80 kg, on a wild sea.
"I thought of quitting many times. There was a time when I tried to think of something nice to distract my attention from the hardships. A big, dry and comfortable bed was the one image that kept appearing in my mind. I can't imagine how I got over that difficult time," Yan says.