Clara Weimer on her project, the preparations and her passion for sailing
On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the LYC, Clara Weimer, long-time youth member, coach and ship's mechanic, is planning something big: once there and back to the Caribbean. In our interview, she tells us how the unique concept came about and what her cruise planning looks like.
What connects you with the water, water sports and seafaring, and where is your professional journey heading?
My childhood connects me with water sports, because my parents also sailed and used to have their own boat. That's where I took my first steps and then joined the Lübeck Yacht Club at the age of six. I started out in the classic Opti, then briefly switched to 420s, but then very quickly switched to 29ers and sailed in many regattas. At the end of my 29er time, I got more and more into "big-ship sailing" and then sailed a lot on the MEU.
But there were always adults with us and somehow we thought it was a cool idea to be able to sail alone. I made sure that I got the necessary certificates. So SKS and the radio licence. Then we could go out on our own and that was pretty cool. Then, through a relatively crazy idea, I had the idea of studying nautical science. I did some research and was advised to do an apprenticeship as a ship's mechanic first. I did that and then went on to study nautical science, which I finished in January.
But during the Corona period, I had the desire not to start working straight away and perhaps take a little time out. I've had the dream of taking time out at sea for a long time. But I didn't know how to realise it because I don't have my own ship and neither do my parents. Then the MEU was the closest possibility to realise this dream. I then got in touch with the people and the youth wardens who are responsible for the boat and they were also immediately enthusiastic.
Then we went to the board and talked about it for a long time, negotiated for a long time, did a lot of research, until the project was approved sometime in November.
The project, the MEU is your youth and training ship. What kind of yacht is it?
The MEU is a Comfortina 38, built in 93 and has been our youth and training ship since 2004.
How do you get to the Caribbean with the crew? And what is the plan for the way back? Can you outline and sketch the route a bit?
We start in Travemünde on 5 August and plan to get to the North Sea fairly quickly via the Kiel Canal. Then we want to go via Amsterdam to Scheveningen. That is the first stage. From Scheveningen we will continue to Brest through the English Channel. From there, we'll sail via the Bay of Biscay to Portugal, where we plan to stay for a few weeks. Then we'll go to Madeira and from there to the Canary Islands. We'll stay there again for almost a month, and then we'll sail from the Canary Islands to Cape Verde and from there across the Atlantic to Barbados in the Caribbean. That is the southernmost point of the journey. From Barbados we then work our way up the island chain, the Lesser Antilles to the British Virgin Islands. And from there, it's on to the Bahamas. Then it's off to Bermuda and from Bermuda back to Europe to the Azores. Then back to the Spanish coast and further north via England, back to Germany.
What do you do in terms of crew changes and crew management? How many people are there altogether and - of course very important - do you still have places available?
I was also very surprised how well the project was received. That was also a condition of the board, that if there is no interest and no one books, because the project has to be financed somehow, then it won't take place. That's why we first had to find out if there were willing participants. We received a lot of positive feedback and also many bookings. The outward journey to the Caribbean is actually full now. Each leg is fully booked with at least four people. On the return trip in 2024, there are still a few places left. But I am confident that these will also fill up during the course of the journey.
How much work has been and will be put into the ship in advance? How much still needs to be installed and added? How much equipment might be missing in advance for such a big strike? Did you still have to do a lot of work?
We really put a lot of work into it in the winter, especially the electrics. That has been neglected a bit in the last few years. We have now installed an AIS device, a battery monitor and new batteries are still to come. We also installed a proper battery charger for the alternators. Then we bought solar panels and also installed the solar charge controller, as well as sockets on deck so that we can also charge solar panels via the solar equipment. We also did some work on the safety equipment. Some things were replaced on the lines and the rigging. There was definitely a lot to do. Of course, we also had to redo the underwater hull, and the rudder had a problem, which was also completely renovated. We have invested a lot and hope that everything will now hold out and that there will be no major damage on the tour.
Did you have help planning the trip or where did you get the ideas for the route?
I did it all myself. The route is relatively classic, most people who take a year off sail this route. Then I looked at how the distances and times are and when I want to be where. Of course, you also have to take into account the hurricane season over in the Caribbean. So I actually set everything up myself and hope that I haven't miscalculated and that I'll be on time everywhere, so that everyone who has booked their flights can also get on board on time.
After all the preparation and planning phases and the green light for the trip, you are about to start, and in two months it will be time. Is there any part you are particularly looking forward to?
I'm actually looking forward to everything. I think every single leg has its own charm and appeal. Everyone is really excited about the Caribbean, but I also find northern Spain, Galicia, extremely exciting. And I'm also looking forward to the islands and the English Channel. Especially from a sailing and navigational point of view, I think it will be a challenge. I can't really say what my absolute favourite part of the journey is. Of course, I'm also looking forward to the Caribbean, but also to the Azores. I think everything is a highlight.
If people still want to join you on one or more legs? What do they have to do? Where do they have to go? Where can they find more information?
There is information on our website, at lyc.de. You can then go to MEU goes Caribbean via the youth ship MEU. There you will find the stage plan and the free places for each stage. I try to update this regularly when there are changes. There is also my email address email@example.com and you can also write to me at any time via Instagram MEU goes Caribbean. So there are various channels to reach me.
We wish you and your crew every success and always a hand's breadth of water under your keel! We will accompany the MEU on its journey and post an update every now and then.