5-Minute Interview With Marc McAlister, Participant of Sail To Taiwan Journey 

Could you tell us a little about yourselves and how you became involved in sailing? 

 I was born in HK and raised in various parts of the world including Thailand, China and the UK. Hong Kong has been home for over 11 years and I love how accessible the city is to nature and spend most of my free time hiking or going to the beach. I have always had a sense of adventure and enjoyed exploring different natural environment but when it comes to sailing I am a novice. I have tried my hand at sailing smaller Lasers but never attempted sailing on a bigger boat like the Spirit, let alone on a long open water journey such as sailing to Taiwan. So when I read a marketing email about this trip I jumped at the opportunity!

Can you tell us more about Sail to Taiwan? What was the distance and how long did it take you to get there and back? Were you affected by any weather conditions?

There were 2 days of safety and preparation followed by 4-5 days of sailing to Anping (Taiwan). That includes checking the wind and weather conditions we mapped a course to Taiwan which took us out out. The first day and last day we experienced strong winds and rain which made things challenging, especially sailing at night in the darkness. Its surprising how quickly the weather conditions can change so quickly, it got cold and wet very quickly! Fortunately I came well prepared with appropriate wet weather gear but the Spirit also had extra clothing onboard too.

How did you prepare for the trip?

 I carefully followed the instructions and information provided by the OB team and made sure I brought all the necessary equipment and essential clothing with me. I also met and talked with some serious sailing friends who shared some advice and give me some helpful tips. The most important part was the Safety training, which was provided before setting off including a safety program facilitated by the RYA - launching a life raft was pretty fun!
You have to be mentally well prepared going into challenge like this and always ready to face the uncertain, especially the weather, lack of sleep, living in confined spaces, basic food, no showers and also using tiny heads(toilets)!

What did you find most difficult?

There are several things which includes...

  • If you think living in a small HK apartment is hard, try a confined space on a boat with 16 people! Your apartment will feel very spacious after this challenge!
  • Being divided into teams and working on different shifts (6hrs on/off then 4hrs on/off) and sailing at night was tiring but you didn't want to let your team and crew down.
  • In high winds and wavy conditions it was hard to stay below deck, so I found myself on deck getting some fresh air to help me from feeling sick!
  • Trying to cook in a tiny galley on the high seas when the boat was rocking about was certainly a challenge and quite amusing too! Several people did feel sea sick, hopefully it wasn't from my cooking!
  • Keeping clean and preserving water, there were no luxuries like taking a hot shower!

How can other people get involved in challenges like this?

If you have a keen sense of adventure then I highly recommend you contact the Outward Bound team to find out what courses they can offer you. I have now completed three different OB challenges (including hiking, kayaking and now sailing) and each time they have been fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. OB cater land and sea based challenges for all different ages and abilities, so find out what interests you!

What is your favourite thing about sailing?Being on the open water, remote and not seeing any land for days was a surreal feeling.  

  • Sailing at night in the pitch darkness and trying to navigate using the stars was very interesting experience and something new to learn 
  •  At night time the bioluminescence in the water and around the boat was incredible and so beautiful to see
  • It was a chance to meet new people from different background, ages and walks of life who come together and work as a team to operate the boat. It was pleasurable to observe this group collaborate and evolve during the course of the program. 

Where is your favourite place to sail to?

 I don't think I necessarily have a favourite place to sail to....  what I think is more important is the journey and experience you get along the way!

What are your top tips for budding sailors?

  • Come well prepared and pack the right equipment and positive mental attitude. In the words of Sir Ranulph Fiennes  "There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing" 
  • Never underestimate the ocean or the weather. The weather conditions can suddenly change very quickly so always be prepared. 
  • This was certainly not a luxury cruise so it's important to approach this journey as a challenge with an open mind and be prepared to try something new. 
  • Safety is taken very seriously at OB. Looking out for yourself and your crew to ensure there were no accidents at sea. The OB team were great at ensuring this was a priority and I never felt unsafe.