As a born fighter Dereck Hatfield never gives up. On his homepage we can get a glimpse on his sailor’s experiences: “it takes tremendous courage, determination and persistence to race around the world alone. Derek is the 126th brave sailor to have ever done it. As perspective, this is fewer than the 400 astronauts who have gone into space or the over 15,000 mountaineers who have reached the summit of Mt. Everest. It is a tremendous accomplishment under normal circumstances, but Derek Hatfield’s story is truly inspiring”. At the present Hatfield has anchored his sailing boat “Spirit of Canada” at the docks of Cartagena. He kindly agreed to give us this interview.
- Seeing your achievement record – and unless a last minute incident -, you seem to have negotiated and signed a direct connection to the podium. As if being up there after an ocean race of several weeks or months were easy and affordable for everyone …
Even though it may seem easy for the singlehanded racers to sail around the world, you cannot wake up one day and think about doing such an endeavor. It takes much commitment and perseverance to prepare oneself for such a race, and a lot of support from family and friends, who without this type of race would not be possible. These races are all about attention to detail and preparation of the boat and the person. I feel very pleased to be able to do around the world races and do so well. I feel that growing up in rural Canada has given me the focus and fortitude to complete these events. But don’t think it is all fun and clear sailing. As in any race or competition, the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment comes after the race is completed. During the race itself, it is a lot of hardship and very hard work. There are times of tiredness and depression where the skippers literally cry themselves to sleep because they are so unhappy to be there alone.
- Are you aware of that you have made your way of life the life’s dream of a majority of boaters? At this point in your career and with all the experience behind you, do you feel privileged?
I’m not sure I feel privileged; it has been a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to this stage in my professional sailing career. I feel that with focus and hard work, many sailors can accomplish such long voyages.
- Do you prefer to sail alone or with a crew on board?
I have sailed with both crew and by myself. I feel that the only way to get better at racing a sailboat, I must sail with people that are better than me. But now, I prefer to race in singlehanded races as it gives me a great sense of accomplishment when I finish a race. For enjoyment when I am not racing, I like to cruise with family and friends.
-From time to time, would you not deny that fear kicks in out there, right…?
I don’t think there is any “fear” per se, just sometimes concern for safety. I feel that if there was any fear by the skippers, they would not be able to leave the dock to do such races offshore by themselves. For this type ofracing, the skippers must prepare everything and every detail must be taken in consideration as the smallest of problems can lead to a much bigger problem, and ruin the results.
- On your website www.spiritofcanada.net, we see that, in connection with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), and aboard the brand new sailboat Volvo 60 Amer Sports One just bought, anyone interested in experiencing first-hand an extreme ocean racer aboard one of these state-of-the-art “monsters” are able to do so. It is an option that will have already given sleepless nights to more than one. What can you tell us about this new project?
I want to be able to share my sailing experiences with everyone, and give them the chance to go offshore in a very different/ radical way. I now feel it is my duty to give this experience to fellow sailors as they have supported me for 15 years in my dream to compete in three round the world races.
- Finally, and now that ‘Spirit of Canada’ is anchored at the docks of Yacht Port Cartagena, let me ask you a question of a certain “depth”, -and please “not” is not allowed: do you like our port?
I am very honored to be here in Yacht Port Cartagena. I must say that it was fate that brought me here as it was not my plan to stop in Cartagena. I had a problem with my mainsail. But now that I am here, I enjoy it so much that I decided to stay much longer and make my base here in Yacht Port Cartagena. The staff make me feel right at home and even thought I do not speak much Spanish, everyone tries very hard to speak my language. I must prepare the Volvo 60 for the very first transatlantic and I am finding everything I need right here.