Five Minutes with Sam Davies
We spent five minutes with Samantha Davies; single-handed round the world sailor, Volvo Ocean Race skipper, part of The Magenta Project and mum to Ruben, to discuss how life has changed since motherhood.
How will you be celebrating mother’s day?
I’ll be racing! There is an all-women’s cup regatta in Pornichet in France where teams come from UK and France to race in J80s. The event started in 2011 was so successful that participants urged the organisers to stage it annually.
The regatta is supporting my charity ‘Because I am a Girl,’ which supports millions of girls in getting the education, skills and support they need to move out of poverty.
What was the best lesson your mum taught you?
She taught me many good lessons. The most important and long lasting was to have a love of sailing. Mum and Dad live on a boat, they have no washing machine and no hot or cold water. I have wonderful memories of Mum cooking up roast beef and Yorkshire puddings in a force 7!
She taught me to enjoy sailing and to have respect for the sea.
Most surprising thing about becoming a mum?
Simply how hard it is.
I breast feed my son, Ruben, for three months – I likened it to a Vendee Globe (single handed non-stop around the world race) that also takes about three months. I remember spending many hours awake, he was either hungry or had tummy ache because he’d eaten too much and he wouldn’t sleep unless he was on the move.
Motherhood is the same as offshore sailing, you discover that your body is capable of things you never thought possible. At least on the boat you can put the autopilot on!
How have you adapted your training schedule to suit motherhood?
When you become a mum you become twice as efficient with your time. The first time you hand your baby over to someone else to look after for a couple hours it’s incredible what you can achieve in that time. Your brain adapts and keeps doing what you were doing before as well as everything you need to do for your child.
It was tough when I had Ruben as I had a one year count down to the Vendee Globe start, I was straight back into a big project that was very physically demanding. I had to work hard physically to get my body back into shape to sail and avoid injury. My body was different and it was frustrating but I had to respect the recovery time and the stages of rehab to get your body and abdominals back into shape.
I was frustrated at not being able to dive back in, and had a small injury from overdoing it which made me stop and reassess.
To enable you to keep training you need to be organised. My partner, Romain, is a sailor and we have had times when we’ve both needed to be away sailing – which can also involve competing against each other as we did in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year. We have a full support network to enable us to keep competing. My parents help a lot, when we were both competing in the TJV my parents moved into our house, looked after Ruben and took him to school. We have an au pair and we’ve also adopted a friend’s mother as Rubens third grandmother, who has supported us when my parents and the au pair weren’t available.
Best advice for maintaining a healthy training/motherhood balance?
The most important point to my mind is that if the parents are happy then the kids are happy. I am away a lot; even during stopovers for last year’s Volvo Ocean Race I was busy with pro-ams and organisational requirements. For a long time I wasn’t a proper mum, but there were three other mothers on board and we all ensured that our children had a rich experience. Our children were able to spend a year travelling and experiencing the world.
You have to focus on the positives of your lifestyle choice. Normal working mums are able to see their children either. Romain and I make sure that as a family we’re happy, and if we’re happy Ruben is too.
After being away a lot over the past two years I’m talking a year off from large projects – this gives me the chance to focus on being a mum and also for my body to recover from all the niggles picked up from a hard year of grinding and driving the boat.
You need to listen to your body and listen to your family.
Any other comparable skills between being an offshore sailor to being a mother?
Definitely! Performing with sleep deprivation is hard. Although as a mother in the middle of the night you don’t have buckets of water being poured over you or need to put on your full foul weather gear before heading on deck – although there were moments during nappy changes that I did think about it!
I’ve done a lot of team building exercises and leadership coaching, at times being the skipper of a Volvo Ocean race boat is like having 11 children. Although I’m not sure if Ruben is going to suffer or profit from all my leadership skills!