London General Practitioner Fiona decided to take a year's sabbatical with Flying Fish because, in her own words, she wanted to improve her sailing, avoid having to work for a while and generally have more fun!
Fiona joined her Yachtmaster group in the UK, to master basic sailing skills, navigation and safety before heading out to Australia to train as a skipper, log some offshore passages and improve her boat handling in Sydney Harbour.
A fantastic experience
She remembers her time in Sydney: 'This was just a fantastic experience and it was such good fun. Compared with getting up in the dark in London and thinking, errgh here's another day – getting up in Sydney? The sun was shining, everyone was in a good mood. The instructors were great, they're really good teachers and I had a brilliant time.
The highlight for Fiona was the Coffs Harbour Regatta. She spent a week training in race tactics, before racing up the coast in a Sydney 38.
She writes: We had three days of exciting downwind sailing, constantly battling with other boats as we sailed up the coast. Being the winning Flying Fish boat was a huge high.
After the course a group of us chartered a boat and cruised around the Whitsunday Islands for a week, which was a blast. I managed to fit in some diving in Cairns before heading off to Antigua for the famous Antigua Race Week.
I was 'bow man' on a Swan 36 and we came 4th in class winning two prizes, which of course we riotously celebrated.
Then I delivered a Swan 52 to Tobago, before getting on to an Oyster 66 as paid crew for the transatlantic delivery from Antigua to Palma.
Fiona returned to the UK in July to pass her Yachtmaster exam and go straight on to compete in Cowes Week.
She sums it all up: My year off was one of the best things I have ever done and I am now completely addicted to sailing. I met the most fantastic people and did some unforgettable things.