Readers' Lives: Bridget Keevil

Readers' Lives: Bridget Keevil

Founder and owner, Travel Stop, Suffolk

At the end of August, travel agency owner Bridget Keevil will give up her job for 11 months to take on the biggest challenge of her life – participating in the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race to raise £5,000 for Abta LifeLine.

Q: Why have you taken on this challenge?
A: To raise awareness of Abta LifeLine in the trade. It may not raise huge amounts of money but if we can drip-feed news of the race, more people will learn about the charity. Abta chairman Noel Josephides persuaded me to do it!

Q: How did you first find out about the race?
A: I saw an ad on the tube. It said ‘Are you ready for the race of your life?’ and I thought ‘I feel like a little old challenge’. I didn’t even know what it was but it tweaked my imagination. I had to tell my husband so I dropped it into conversation over breakfast at the Aito conference last year. He said ‘Go for it’ – I nearly fell off my chair! I thought I should strike while the iron is hot and I emailed them from the conference.

Q: Who are your teammates going to be for the year on the yacht?
A:
There’s about 20 of us, with the oldest in their 70s. There's a professional skipper. Some people have sailed before. Eight of us are doing the circumnavigation, the rest have signed up for one or more of the eight legs of the race. I am doing all eight. My job on board is victualler – I have to do the menus and get the food on board.

Q: How can the trade get involved?
A: I'd like to get a celebrity chef involved to help source some food at some of the ports, but so far I only have a postcard from the Hairy Bikers! I was hoping a cruise line might help. I also want to get help from ground-handlers at the ports where I need to buy the food, especially in China. I am also hoping tourist boards and operators might help us to see the places we dock at and I’ll write about it on my blog (thefatbirdandtheboat.wordpress.com). I’m open to suggestions.

Q: Where will you visit on your race?
A:
We leave St Katharine Docks in London on August 30. The first leg is non-stop to Rio. The places we visit include Cape Town, Australia, Asia, China, the East Coast of the US and through the Panama Canal. We could have five or 10 days on shore. The only time we have longer is in Sydney at Christmas. When we dock I’m going to stay in a five-star hotel!

Q: How will the agency cope without you?
A:
We have taken on extra staff. I have trained my husband to do the accounts, which I normally do. It will probably be more stressful for him than for me! I hope to be back by July 22, 2016, as that will be the 25th anniversary of my agency and I wouldn’t want to miss that.

Q: How are you feeling about the trip?
A:
I’m not stressed, just scared! It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had never sailed before I started the training. I am learning but I’m not very good at it! At night it’s four hours on and four hours off – I normally sleep for eight hours. There is no privacy, just a small bunk and a shared toilet; I prefer five-star luxury! People say I’ll want to buy a boat after I’ve done it – I frigging won’t!

To sponsor Bridget’s fundraising for Abta LifeLine, go to: justgiving.com/bridgetkeevil

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