Retired Norwich resident set for Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
PUBLISHED: 19:36 28 June 2017 | UPDATED: 13:23 23 July 2017
Put away those slippers, for one Norwich resident 60 is the new 20.
After 31 years working as a director for M&H Plastics in Beccles David Smith decided to spend his retirement travelling around the world. At 61-years-old he’s chasing the elusive gap year many of the younger generation now see as a right of passage.
Three years down the line, I’m surprised he’s managed to fit me into his busy schedule. Dressed dapperly in a colourful floral patterned shirt, his vivaciousness leaves it hard to comprehend that he’s in his 60s. I meet him in one of his favourite local haunts, Cafe Bar Marzano at the Forum in Norwich, where he likes to spend a rare quiet afternoon reading the paper and watching the world go by.
He starts by telling me all about his first exploit. After deciding he wanted to work with underprivileged children he began researching volunteering opportunities with companies abroad but unfortunately he found it difficult. He realised most were just looking to make a profit with little money sustaining the project and only aiming to provide a clichéd experience of what it is to volunteer abroad. Failing to find a company with ethics he agreed with he found a local guy in Rio de Janeiro and after liking what he said he instantly booked his flights for a five week long trip.
For the first time ever David was staying in a hostel. He laughs reminiscing at the realisation that all the other volunteers were under 30 and he was by far the oldest. He revelled in an experience that was one of the best of his life, living and partying with young, fearless people. He extended his stay for seven weeks returning to the UK for Christmas with his own children. Once the New Year was in, he wasted no time and flew straight back to Rio for a further seven weeks this time taking part in the Rio Carnival.
David admits it wasn’t all fun and games. Working in the favela was daunting at first but he quickly developed friendships with the local children. It was also frustrating, as it’s difficult to make a sustained difference to their lives as volunteers continually change. So he’s decided to part finance one of the young girls he volunteered alongside so she could continue their work for a further six months.
There were also many hairy experiences along the way including a nearby shooting at a carnival party, a mugging, pick pocketing and a near-death fall down a sheer drop from a rotten balcony. David wasn’t put off though, he considers Rio his second home. He has since taken his 19-year-old daughter, Georgia, out to visit the favela and it seems she could follow in her father’s footsteps.
Travelling half way around the world wasn’t enough for David; he’s decided to tackle the whole thing. Two years ago he spotted an advert for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and signed up for three legs. That’s over 5000 miles, sailing from the UK to Australia in three months. He’s already gone through vigorous training including climbing the 70 foot mast of the boat, something that has to be done regularly at sea. The race is no laughing matter with fatalities taking place in previous years. He said it’s the most exciting and dangerous thing he’s done in his life but he’s looking forward to the sailing and making lifelong friends.
Once he’s back on the land, David has no plans to slowdown. With charity work to tackle in Asia or Africa, returning to Rio and climbing Kilimanjaro he has many things left on his bucket list and we can’t wait to see what this Norwich resident does next.
David is fundraising for UNICEF as part of the Round the World Yacht Race. He’s hosting a Charity Golf Day at Bungay and Waveney Valley Golf Club on June 30th. If you would like to donate visit Smithy’s Clipper Page on JustGiving.com.