Sophie Quintin, a doctoral student in maritime security at the University of Portsmouth, is about to take part in one of sailing’s most prestigious and gruelling races.
She is a member of Team Seattle, one of the 11 teams taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Sophie will join her boat, a 70ft yacht, for the North Pacific leg of the competition, which starts on 9 March in Subic Bay, Philippines from where the fleet will set off on a 8,000 nautical miles race to Seattle – the longest leg of the competition.
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, is a biennial race that takes amateur crews on one or more legs of a circumnavigation of the globe in 11 specially designed identical yachts.
Sophie, who is a qualified skipper with many years of sailing experience, undertook four weeks of rigorous intensive race training last summer. She said: "This is going to be a tough personal challenge both mentally and physically. It will be fascinating also from a research perspective as I have taught and written on the geopolitics of this vast maritime space."
Sophie is in the mid-stages of her PhD as a mature student exploring the rise of African maritime power at a time when the sea has once again risen in importance as a space of opportunities but also competition over resources.
This is going to be a tough personal challenge both mentally and physically. It will be fascinating also from a research perspective as I have taught and written on the geopolitics of this vast maritime space.
Sophie Quintin, Doctoral student in maritime security
"After a career working for the European Union in conflict areas and a colourful busy life, I decided to go back to university to contribute to the governance of the oceans with my own research. I could not have picked a better place to combine studies and my passion for sailing," Sophie said.
"I am also grateful for having had the chance to chat with single-handed sailing legends Dee Caffari and Hiroshi Kitada before leaving our great maritime city, as well as touched by their encouragements."
Upon her return, Sophie aims to explore the emerging subject-area of sailors as ambassadors of science, an agenda promoted by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. “It is an area I feel our university is well-placed to take the lead,” she said.
Her research will take her to Senegal for data collection for her PhD with interviews of people involved with maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. She is also a research assistant and student representative for the recently launched Centre for Blue Governance at the University of Portsmouth.
Sophie said: "Doing a PhD as a mature student or for that matter at any age is an adventure in and of itself but for the next two months my adventure will be in the north Pacific. I am ready for this new challenge."
Follow Sophie and the purple boat Seattle on the Clipper around the world website.