05 Jul 2022

One-time anoxeria sufferer, Jilly sets sail for a ‘scary but amazing’ Clipper challenge

One-time anoxeria sufferer, Jilly’s looking forward to a ‘scary but amazing’ Clipper challenge Local bursary winner Jilly St John has set off to join the Derry yacht which is aiming to becoming the first boat ever to record four successive leg wins in the 20 year history of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.. Before setting off, Jilly said she had been busy preparing herself mentally, physically and emotionally for what promises to be one of the biggest challenges of her life. The North Coast girl, who has been living in Derry for the past number of years and now calls the city home, said she was hugely excited about the challenge that lies ahead of her. A well-known singer and musician with the band Wylding, Jilly is also a writer and model with a keen interest in lifestyle blogging. Winning a place on Derry City and Strabane District Council’s ‘Your Next Chapter’ Bursary Scheme has made a huge impact on Jilly setting out for her a new challenge that will test her to the core. Jilly has spent a long number of years working to overcome anorexia and is very vocal about her battle with the illness and is keen to get her positive message out to young people in the Derry, and wider Northern Ireland. She feels it is a subject of national interest throughout Britain and Ireland. She said: “I think it’s incredible to think where I’ve come from. “From being housebound with panic and anxiety, suffering from anorexia to my new-found health, where I am grabbing life in the biggest way possible. “It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks’ time my challenge will reach its pinnacle in racing from Seattle to New York on a yacht. It still shocks me!” she says. Key to Jilly’s preparations for the race was preparing her body for the physical demands that living and working on the yacht will require. Yoga is a huge part of her life and thanks to the support of local yoga tutor John Bell, yoga has brought a great sense of calm and balance to her life which she hopes will have a real positive impact on her journey from Seattle that includes travelling past the Jamaican Islands and through the Panama Canal. “Yoga gives me the ability to adjust my attitude. It allows me to reaffirm in the hope of believing. It calls for me to stand strong, tall, centred and focused. Yoga is my medicine, my friend, my earth and something that will guide me through this next challenge in my life. It allows me to remain calm, balanced, and rooted in my belief in myself and my journey,” she adds. Asked why she applied for the bursary to take part in the Clipper Race, Jilly said it was about always making herself do something new and to constantly put pressure on herself to face new challenges. “I feel good about this because I’m doing this for myself. I’ve lived independently since I was 15 years of age and I’ve led a very eventful life - as well as overcoming an eating disorder, I have achieved great things in my life personally and in my career, so this is another step forward for me in realising who I am and what I have achieved. This is the next step in the dawn of my new self of endless opportunities. “I feel grounded, strong and happy in my life and taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race will be the next step in this nonstop eventful journey.” As part of her pre-race preparations Jilly underwent extensive compulsory Clipper Race training as health and safety is the highest priority for all those taking part. “I really enjoyed the training – I felt comfortable with it all. It was phenomenal. “It feels great being out in the water with the wind in your face. It makes my heart happy – it’s where I feel most content and calm. “You feel really free out at sea. “It takes a lot of patience and practice but I loved every minute of the training and being part of the team was hugely beneficial for me. It has been life changing and I’m determined to make a job of this.” Jilly said the Council’s Bursary Scheme is a fantastic way of giving people the opportunity to do something totally out of their comfort zone. “All of the bursary recipients are so grateful for this fantastic opportunity. I walked along the Quay and watched the Clipper Race yachts sail out of Derry a few years ago and thought I’m gonna be on that boat. “I just can’t believe that two years on and I’m getting ready to fly to Seattle to join the crew and represent the city in the race. It both scares me and amazes me.” She intends to take some dietary supplements and snacks on board also to ensure she can navigate her weight allowance and ensure she doesn’t undo the positive work she has done over the past year to regulate her weight and build up her physical strength. In terms of what the future holds and what she hopes to achieve from participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, Jilly said it was about being in a better place and having the emotional and physical strength to see herself in a new light. “It’s taken lot of work, mentally, physically and emotionally for me to get myself prepared for this, I’ve gained a new body and an ability to like myself. “It's still work in progress but I am getting there and that’s a good thing. I really love how much my life has changed over the last year or two. I am doing things I never imagined. So who is to know what happens next.” Photo shows Jilly with close friends Alan and Moira McClure, proprietors of the Legenderry Warehouse café in Derry, ahead of her setting of to Seattle to become the latest crew member on board the Derry Clipper

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