|23 Mar 2021|
Suddenly, I was cycling through streets in Oxford again rushing to gym sessions, meetings, and the department. Even my diary got filled again as if it found its purpose beyond a long list of links to zoom calls.
After an extreme idleness of this long Oxford summer, I enjoyed the welcome change of juggling again between sailing, science, and organising the yacht club. On the weekends, I would compete on the Solent, indulging in adrenaline-charged regattas, strong autumn winds and cold waves, whereas during the week, I would play with lasers in a basement lab - just like in normal times. I finally even visited the Vincent’s Club regularly after becoming a new member over the summer.
But, of course, times are anything but normal, and after four weeks, this brief flare up of university daily life was extinguished by the new, albeit expected, lockdown.
At first, I was frustrated. Especially since now I was also stuck in isolation after having been approached as a close contact. All training and racing, as well as my week-long experiment in the accelerator had to be cancelled, and instead I settled back into the life in my room, or one should perhaps say, life on zoom. I was bored.
Soon, however, I realised that I had chosen isolation before: every time I embarked on long offshore races. During these races, be they Atlantic crossings or circumnavigating Great Britain, we were cocooned on a little boat to work, sleep, eat and repeat for the duration of several weeks in an area of less than six square meters – a far bigger challenge than being stuck in a house in Oxford! After all, being confined to a small space with a ‘crew’ was nothing new.
Oh yes, normal. A word that no one dares to say this year. At the beginning of term, however, a spark of normality returned.
Although, of course, I missed the adventure and being outdoors and offline, I had to admit that this quarantine was comfortable compared to offshore races of the same duration: I could sleep more than two hours in a row, cook whatever I wanted instead of eating freeze-dried food; my room didn’t move unpredictably, and nothing was wet. Moreover, there was time to reflect and focus – something which seemed impossible during racing or even normal term time.
Thanks to the Blues Performance Scheme, I kept myself busy with a daily workout routine: mobility in the morning, then an S&C session during the day, and yoga or cardio in the evening. Our living room transformed into our gym with loaned weights, bands, a pull up bar, road cycling turbo trainer, and uplifting tunes. We were pushing each other, as it happens when a rock climber, a high jumper, a road cyclist, a volleyball player and a sailor end up in quarantine together.
Apart from the training, finally taking the time to fully focus on nutrition and mental preparation, was definitely a valuable experience of lockdown. There are always things to learn. Even if we can’t go sailing right now, we keep the Oxford sailing team occupied by running weekly theory sessions, doing an online course for the yacht master skipper licence, and following the Vendee Globe race – the pinnacle of offshore sailing. In this world-famous race, sailors race around the world; non-stop and alone on the boat for 70 to 150 days.
In the middle of the ocean, they are so far away from land that the closest human is on the International Space Station. In comparison, this isolation and lockdown are not too much of a challenge. As sailors, we are used to an ever changing environment. Right now, we might be stuck inside far away from the sea, but we can still progress. In one of his poems that is set on the sea T. S. Eliot urged ‘Fare forward Travellers’ adding ‘you’re not the same people who left the station’. And neither are we, the world moves on.