A Largs woman who battled long Covid is living her dream of sailing around the world. 

Elizabeth Balmer, 29, was left bedbound for eight months by a crippling strain of coronavirus.

She initially thought she only had earache, before the illness ravaged her body and stripped her of her independence.

Now fully recovered, the PhD student has joined the Our Isles and Oceans team on the Clipper Round the World Yacht race.

She has just embarked on the momentous challenge of sailing over 6,900 nautical miles encompassing a race from southern to northern China, and then a race across the North Pacific Ocean later this month.

Elizabeth and her teammates departed Zhuhai in China on March 12 to begin the epic challenge.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race trains people from all over the world and from all walks of life to become ocean-racing sailors. 

Before joining the Clipper Race, Elizabeth was a keen sailor, having sailed since she was young before being struck by long Covid.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

Elizabeth began to recover, with her health returning over the next year and during this time, she discovered the Our Isles and Oceans programme, which helps young people who had struggled during lockdown. 

Elizabeth joined the programme in Oban in 2021, giving her the chance to spend a week sailing around the west coast of Scotland on board a Clipper 68 racing yacht.

Following the programme, there was the opportunity to apply for an ambassador place on the team on the Clipper 2023-24 Round the World Yacht Race, and Elizabeth was successful. 

She explained: “I got the phone call and I burst into tears! I didn’t think I would fully recover from Covid, and I did. My whole mindset changed.

"Having been so unwell and completely bedbound, you realise you have to just seize every moment while you are well.

"From not having my health and then getting my health back, I said I would take every opportunity I can.

"As a sailor, crossing an ocean was already a dream for me. I could have picked the Atlantic, I could have picked the Southern Indian Ocean, but I picked the most challenging one!” 

Elizabeth is sailing on Leg 6 of the Clipper Race, which encompasses two races.

Firstly, she will race from Zhuhai to Qingdao in China, a testing course of more than 1,300 nautical miles, navigating currents, fishing fleets and cold temperatures.

Elizabeth will then be racing almost 5,600 nautical miles across the North Pacific, from Qingdao to Seattle in the USA.

She will be enduring huge swells and wind speeds, with freezing temperatures thrown in on what is one of the longest races in the circumnavigation.

Elizabeth said: “I went through the challenge of suffering from long Covid, and I thought, the North Pacific can’t be worse than not being able to get out of bed because you are so unwell.

"So that’s why I picked the big one. It’s always been a childhood dream of mine to cross an ocean, and also cross the International Date Line, so I’m really, really excited about it.”