We'd rather have high school than high seas

It's not all glamour sailing the globe, as Portsmouth pupils discovered

Sam Davies is preparing to go on a round-the-world trip. Not the luxurious version, but three months of living alone in wet, cramped conditions, eating freeze-dried food and sleeping only rarely.

Ms Davies, 33, a former pupil at Portsmouth High, will be setting off on November 9, sailing singlehanded as part of the Vendee Globe yacht race, which previously made Ellen MacArthur famous.

This race requires yachtsmen to skipper their boat, predict weather conditions and repair mechanical defects. And for pupils at her old school, any illusions about the glamour of solo yacht racing will be shattered as they embark on a project of their own this term.

Using interactive maps and online journals, the pupils will follow Ms Davies's journey, discovering many of the academic skills she needs to survive.

To launch the project, 12 pupils visited Ms Davies on her yacht Roxy this week, accompanied by Sue Nelson, their PE teacher.

"From the outside, the yacht looked really glamorous," said Ms Nelson. "But once you get inside you can see the physical demands on her. It's not just about sailing a boat around the world: it's all the knowledge that goes with that."

Ms Davies's living space accounts for only two or three metres within the 18m yacht. Her bed is surrounded by electronic meteorological and global positioning equipment. She must also ensure her nutritional requirements are met by the freeze-dried food she is taking. And often she will sleep for only 15 minutes at a time.

Geordie Andrew, 16, was immediately struck by the spartan conditions on board the yacht. "You're on your own for three months," she said. "I couldn't live like that."

Portsmouth pupils will update school noticeboards and give assemblies on Ms Davies' progress. Where possible, teachers will relate the curriculum to the trip. Geography teachers might look at global positioning technology, and PE teachers at sports nutrition.

Ms Davies hopes the project may encourage some pupils to take on challenges too. "If you're motivated, you can do it," she said.

But following the race from a distance is sufficient for Geordie Andrew. "It'll be good to hear how she's getting on," she said. "But then we can go home and sleep for eight hours and cook nice dinners, while she's doing the hard work."

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