Yorkshireman David Greaves is about to embark on a busy sabbatical. The 50-year-old deputy headteacher of Meadowside county primary school in Knaresborough sets out next month on a year-long round-the-world yacht race. To add to the challenge of sailing the 67-foot vessel on a route which runs the "wrong way round" against the trade winds, he will file regular Internet reports for his pupils.
He is also putting together a general education package on a range of subjects so that around 8,000 pupils in Knaresborough - as well as children in South Africa and Australia - will be able to follow the race via the Internet.
A fleet of 14 boats sets sail from Southampton on September 29, retracing the route taken by British yachtsman Chay Blyth, who, as organiser of the BT Global Challenge selected each of the crew of the 14 boats.
During the nine-month voyage the race visits Rio de Janeiro, Wellington, Sydney, Cape Town and Boston, before returning to Southampton next July in good time for the beginning of the school year.
David Greaves admits it was a difficult decision to embark on the voyage. He said: "Perhaps I am going through a mid-life crisis. Some men at my age leave their jobs, or their wives and homes, take up exciting new adventures and pretend they are 21 again. I am doing all of these in one go - what more can a man ask?" He has had a lifelong fascination for the sea although his previous experience has been limited to sailing a small dinghy. He has been training intensively since the beginning of the year for the voyage. His boat is sponsored by Courtaulds International, but the trip will cost around Pounds 18,500 and he is going to have to pay most of that out of his own pocket. And he admits to some feelings of trepidation. "I realise that all the training in the world could not prepare us for the conditions ahead," he said.
His wife Kath, deputy head at Richmond methodist school, is ambivalent about her husband's expedition. "It's a chance of a lifetime for him," she said. But now their two daughters have left home for university study, home life is set to change radically, "After 26 years of marriage I am going to have to get used to life as a single person for a while," she said.