The day scientists tried to drown me ... for my own good

Updated 0812 GMT (1612 HKT) February 3, 2015
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Elite sailors don't just train for races -- they train for disasters. At South Tyneside College's Extreme Environments Lab in Newcastle, athletes are taught what to do in an ocean emergency. Here, CNN's MainSail presenter, Shirley Robertson, copes with cold water shock.
One of the toughest round-the-world competitions on the planet is the Ocean Volvo Race (pictured). But before sailors can hit the open waves, they must take part in a three-day advanced sea safety course. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas/Volvo Ocean Race/Getty Images/File
The Volvo Ocean Race is not for the faint-hearted. Dubbed the "Everest of Sailing," the competition covers 72,000 kilometers in an epic nine-month journey across the globe.
Launched in 1973, the race claimed three lives in the first year alone. Justin Chisholm/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing via Getty Images
Forced to endure the most brutal conditions on the globe, sailors must not only be emotionally resilient -- but physical dynamos. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images
"I'm lucky - I sail on boats with a full support team and I just assume that in the event of disaster, it will be fine. Even if I don't know where safety equipment is, or how to use it, the comfort of having all the gear is somehow enough," said CNN's MainSail presenter, Shirley Robertson, who took part in the survival course. "It's like the spare wheel you think you have in the car but have never checked. And I'm not alone either, this attitude is endemic in society." Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Getty Images
"Even for these professional sailors about to set off around the planet, this course made them stop and think. It made them prioritize their safety and practice survival techniques as they would any other sailing maneuver. It made them stop assuming somebody else had it covered," said Robertson. Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/Getty Images
Once out on the open waves, sailors don't have the comfort of stepping out of a pool. "Most of the course was spent familiarizing ourselves with the safety kit onboard, discussing the "what ifs," and doing the right thing in the right order," said Robertson. Justin Chisholm/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing via Getty Images