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Sailing into new waters

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Grace Freret sees parallels between her work as a children’s nurse and being part of the crew on an around the world yacht race

Grace Freret was chosen out of 500 applicants to be one of three Gore-Tex Experience Tour and Henri Lloyd competitors in the Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race. She has been through months of strenuous training to conquer leg four of the race, which departs on 3 December and explores Cape Leeuwin and three oceans. She will be at sea for 28 days.

Based in Liverpool, Ms Freret has been a nurse for over 10 years. However, she has never forgotten her introduction to the adventures of sailing in Clare Francis’ novel Come Hell or High Water. Sailing was a childhood dream, but she chose nursing as a career.

Ms Freret was inspired to become a nurse after a childhood friend fell ill. The incident prompted her to help those who had to depend on others, which led to her choice to specialise as a children’s nurse.

Before deciding to apply for the Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race - the world’s longest at 40,000 miles - Ms Freret was working at the Smithdown Children’s Walk-in Centre. She treated children and young people aged from infancy to 16 years for a variety of minor injuries and infections. She says: “There is no average day, we treat any child who steps through the door.”

Ms Freret jokingly describes the “parent’s kiss”, which is an emergency room tactic to remove foreign bodies from the nasal cavity. A parent blows into their child’s mouth, causing the object obscuring the nasal cavity to be expelled, sometimes right across the room.

Sailing is not the first time Ms Freret has been pushed out of her comfort zone. She recalls her experience working in a primary health programme in north Sudan as her greatest achievement.

It was there that “I realised that we take free accessible healthcare for granted,” she says. She taught communities, and found the satisfaction from teaching was “seeing it working”, much as she has during her own training for sailing.

An adamant supporter of teamwork, Ms Freret says that her profession as a nurse is an advantage to when working as a crew member. She explains that working as part of a team allows for “growth every day and, as a nurse especially, it is the way we deliver the best care”.

When it was announced that Ms Freret had been chosen to compete in the yacht race, she says she “still couldn’t quite believe it. I’d never won a competition in my life, not even a raffle”. Asked about her desire to win, given that it is “not a leisurely sail”, Ms Freret says: “I don’t wish to admit how competitive I am.”

She describes the mental and physical demands of sailing: “You live everyday life in a whole different way - every moment on board is part of the race.”

She also describes the effects of being in an environment very different to that of the Smithdown Centre. “My body is not used to the unstable environment,” she says. “I have bruises everywhere after training.”

Ms Freret compares her time living on board and sailing to nursing. She says: “To look after a child and family, you need a team and a plan. The same as a sailing race.” She urges other nurses to “find their niche, try other things, never overlook or underestimate being caring”.

Ms Freret’s advice to those seeking adventure or hoping to fulfil their lifelong dreams, whether they are nurses or not, is straightforward. “You can do this,” she says. “Take a risk. Don’t be scared. Challenge yourself and follow your dreams.”

Ms Freret’s journey proves her to be one of a modern-day wonder woman.

Dakota Smith

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