International Women’s Day - ocean racing councillor takes on the North Atlantic
- Credit: Sandra Squire
As a West Norfolk councillor, she's used to the odd stormy scene in the council chamber. But now mum-of-two and Wimbotsham ward member Sandra Squire is set to face mountainous seas in a transatlantic yacht race which last year claimed the lives of two sailors.
Mrs Squire is setting sail across the North Atlantic on a 70ft racing yacht competing in the 2017 - 2018 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
Mrs Squire and her crew of 18 will brave 3,350 miles and 22 days at sea close to the site where the Titanic sank and the Flemish Cap, the shallow, turbulent waters made famous in The Perfect Storm.
Mrs Squire is hoping her bravery will raise £4,000 for four local charities - the Friends of Magdalen Village School, West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled, West Norfolk National Autistic Society and the Wells Lifeboat Appeal.
'I can't really say that the race isn't dangerous,' she said. 'As by it's very nature we know that sailing can be. There is a risk in everything we do, but if you know what those risks are, the correct and safe ways of doing things, then you can manage those risks.
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'I feel a mixture of fear and excitement, I'm hoping not to get too close to the wreck of the Titanic.' She added.
The 43-year-old took up sailing just three years ago and started off on dinghies at sailing school Norfolketc in Morston. A passion for sailing was born and the chance to meet other thrill-seekers from around the globe.
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She said: 'I did a taster sail first and I guess you could say I caught the bug.
'It is a hugely exciting hobby. I love sailing, it can be thrilling and exciting, yet also incredibly relaxing.
'The sailing is also just part of it, it's the people that make it really special, I've made so many new friends. I've met people from all walks of life, from all over the world, all with their own unique stories to tell.
'I saw an advert for the Clipper Race in a sailing magazine and thought it looked like an incredible thing to do.'
She signed up for the race in July 2015 and has since spent gruelling hours training on the Solent and English Channel whilst juggling work and family life.
A strong support network has meant she can find the time to undertake the necessary training having never been on a yacht race before.
Mrs Squire said: 'We all have to undertake four weeks of mandatory training with Clipper and I'm doing as much sailing as I can by doing extra training and crewing.
'Life is always a balance I suppose, I'm lucky that I don't have to balance a full time job as well. So far I've always managed to slot sailing and training in to times where I don't have any council meetings and the children are getting used to me being out or away a lot more.
'The kids both enjoy sailing as well and are a little proud their mum is a bit different, they seem to think I'm very brave.'
As a working mother, Mrs Squire believes there is still an outdated expectation for women to behave in a certain way, especially those with children.
'People seem quite shocked that I'm leaving my family to take part in the race,' she said. 'Yet they don't seem quite so shocked when a man does the same.
'Women can do anything they set their minds to, we may not have the physical strength of our male colleagues but we bring other skills with us.'
And Mrs Squire will take those skills to sail her way to the House of Commons after making it on the Approved Parliamentary Candidates list to stand for election as an MP in 2020.
'It's actually amazing how similar sailing and politics actually are.' She said.
'With both, you bring a group of different people together, with different experiences and ideas and they have to work together to get things done.
'No one person can sail the yacht in just the same way as no one person can run a council, it's all teamwork.
I'm hoping to take some of the teamwork skills I learn by taking part in the race, back to council to improve how we work together so we can really make a difference to our local area.
'Yes it can be hard at times, but it's rewarding and if you really put your mind to it, anything really is possible.'
Mrs Squire is looking for businesses to join her shore team to assist with some of the costs of undertaking the race. Contact her on 07817160725 or email firstname.lastname@example.org