An interview with firefighter Bex Sims

A winning ambassador!

Firefighter Bex became an Elliot Brown ambassador after winning a place on the 2018 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Described as one of the biggest challenges of the natural world, Bex sailed from Qingdao in China, over 6,000 miles to Seattle, taking one month to complete the endurance test.

We’re official timekeepers for the event and famed for having strapped an Elliot Brown watch to the mast of a Clipper yacht in 2015 and another to the bow in the 17-18 Edition – proof of our confidence in the indestructible nature of our watches.

Since returning to shore, Bex has been promoted to Crew Manager at the Derbyshire Fire Safety Joint Training Centre in Ripley. But if there’s anyone quietly working behind the scenes to champion female adventurers, it’s Bex Sims.


So, how was sailing across the Pacific Ocean for you?!

“It’s the hardest thing I have ever done by a long shot, only just behind my recruitment when joining the force. It was an amazing experience but extreme conditions!  The highlight was just how unique the experience was. Living life at 45 degrees – having to hold onto everything, strapping yourself into bed – it’s so completely different to real life.”



How did your Kimmeridge watch fare?

“I didn’t take my watch off the whole time – one of the really good elements of it was that it glows in the dark. So I always knew what time it was, even at 3.30 in the morning when I had to get up! Depressing, but very helpful.”


Would you do it again?

“No! It was the hardest thing I have ever done. But there are other challenges out there. I love doing different things – they push you mentally and physically. I also love being outdoorsy, just camping.”


You’ve just completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, how was that?

“It hurt! We started in Ingleborough, then Pen-Y-Ghent and lastly Whernside. You are supposed to do it in under 12 hours and cover a 25-mile route in total. We did it this August in 10 and a quarter hours.

“It’s always been on my list of things to do. Then someone said to me one day well why not do it! I had a weekend earmarked for camping, so we just got on with it. We just thought we can do this, took lots of food with us, put our heads down and cracked on!”


How did you feel afterwards?

“It was just what I was looking for. Clipper taught me that you can achieve much more than you think when push comes to shove. It might not be fun, but you will survive at the end of the day. If others can do it then I can push myself.”


Do you think you would do another big scale adventure like that soon?

“I’m not looking to do anything as big as the Clipper Race again. I am aiming for some smaller adventures for this year and next and some closer to home. I am very thankful to the sponsors, because without them I wouldn’t have been able to do Clipper. But adventuring is very pricey. Now that my job role has changed, I am not working weekends anymore, so I can do more sociable adventures and I have more time to plan things during normal hours!”


So, what are you currently planning?

“Well we’re just about to drive a fire engine to Croatia!  I was told about a colleague who had been taking equipment over to Croatia and heard on the grapevine that he was planning another trip. I have been once before but now that I am a Manager I’m not allowed to drive the fire trucks anymore. So I get to re-live one of my favourite bits of the job!”


It's not the first time you’ve been is it? What’s it like as a journey?

“It was lovely. Such a nice reception – we were treated like super stars! Last time we took six trucks. They really appreciated it and it was nice to see the difference we were making, giving something back.

“We did have some very unpleasant weather across the Alps. And one mechanical issue. But it was quite drama free. The best bit was driving in convoy. I was in truck number two. I’ve never done that before but a lot of the people involved were ex-service. It was always very cool to look in the mirror and see a group of trucks pulling out behind you.”


Tell us about the Siren Sisters!

“The event is the UK Firefighter Sailing Challenge, it happens every year in The Solent. I’ve now competed in four events. They’ve never had an all-female crew, it’s quite male dominated. So five years ago, we got a committee together to try and make it happen – hence the Siren Sisters.

“We’ve always done alright, but two years ago we won our category. We were dead chuffed. It was brilliant beating all the lads! We had a lot to live up to this year but we won our category! It was lovely – for a team who had never sailed before. We just got on with it, calm, no shouting, we worked well together in a nice atmosphere.

“I have always been a sailor, but because of Clipper, this year I was First Mate. It was a bit daunting but I loved it. Because of my recent promotion it felt like another crew manager watch. Just like being at work.

“In fact, events like Clipper match with the fire service really well. You’re always looking out for each other, reacting and problem solving, eating together; any fire fighter would fit in well.”


What about the British Firefighter Challenge – back on land!

“This is a challenge which only takes five minutes, but it’s the most painful five minutes of your life. The first time I did it, I won the women’s race. I am now toying with next year. There’s a great atmosphere and it’s really supportive for women. Next year’s will take place in Hull, and we need more women to enter. It’s you against yourself, pushing yourself, everything hurts. But I am training for my job anyway, we have an annual fitness test and I have got to keep working for another 20 years, I want to be the fittest I can be.”


How do you like wearing your Elliot Brown Kimmeridge watch?

“I wear it all the time, during work and for a night out and during activities. I’m pretty active - mountain biking, hiking, playing netball, running. I wear the Kimmeridge but have recently added the new rubber strap which looks great and suits my lifestyle perfectly. The leather looks lovely but the rubber is better if the weather gets bad and I don’t have to worry about it getting wet.”


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