White Salmon, Washington

Good news! The ‘Watchkeeper’ project that I first conceived for the Atlantic, but didn’t have time to implement, seems to be coming together this time around. You may have seen the inklings of this at the start of the Atlantic row – how many hours rowed, hours slept, thought for the day – but there wasn’t enough momentum behind it to keep it going and it went the way of anything that wasn’t vital to my survival.

[Photo: Atlantic scream therapy, 2006]

This time around, critical mass has already been achieved, and much more is in the pipeline. More news to come in due course, but for now I’d like to tell you about my tie-in with the study that the University of Portsmouth is conducting into the psychology of solo adventurers. They are already working with the sailors in the Velux 5 Oceans solo yacht race and will now be including me in a related research project.

In May I will have a pre-row interview with Dr Neil Weston, and during the row itself I will fill out a daily questionnaire to evaluate my mental state. The hope is that this will shed some light on how people react in stressful situations – will my psychological state be a fair reflection of my circumstances, or will I start over-reacting when under duress? This may well be of interest to all kinds of people – not only endurance athletes, but also anyone who has to perform under pressure – at work at home, in relationships.

I’m keenly aware that on the Atlantic, I made life very difficult for myself psychologically, so avoiding this same pitfall will be a key part of my preparations for the Pacific. In this vein, I’ve just taken up yoga again, with a class this morning at Flow in Hood River, and I’ve also started reading Raj Persaud’s book, The Motivated Mind. Now here is something he mentions that you may not know about Oscar winners – it seems the perks of the job are not limited to fancy designer frocks (and yes, two days later, American TV is STILL talking about them…):

‘Winning an award leads to an increase in average life expectancy of almost four years compared to those who are merely nominated, and almost six years to those who appear in the same films but don’t even get nominated… multiple winners lived almost three years longer on average than those who had just the one lonely Oscar on the mantelpiece.”

Why should this be?

“The crucial factor seems to be that those in higher status positions have more control over their work… and it now appears that a sense of control over your life has huge stress and health implications.”

Interesting. When you are on the ocean, there is so much that you cannot control – the weather, the sea state, the currents. The key surely (oh, do please let me remember this when I am out there!) is to retain control over the bit that I CAN control – my response to those conditions. If I choose to accept them rather than fight them, I will make life an awful lot easier for myself.

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