FROM her office she commands a staff of 500, is in charge of the welfare of over 1,600 students and heads up an organisation with a £17m annual turnover.

But next summer City College Southampton principal Lindsey Noble will be trading all that in for a life on the ocean waves as she takes on the challenge of a lifetime.

The 58-year-old will swap her suit for a so’wester after securing a place on next year’s Clipper Round the World Race.

Instead of looking forward to a quiet retirement after a successful career in further education Lindsey has set her sights on wider horizons after applying and being accepted for the gruelling year-long challenge.

Describing herself as “mad keen” on sailing Lindsey says the challenge is a daunting one, but something she is determined to do.

“I thought if I don’t do it now, I never will,” said Lindsey. “By the time this race is over I will be sixty and by then I really would be worried about whether I was physically up to it.”

It means resigning from the post she has held for 12 years, during which time she has overseen a multimillion pound campus rebuild, the doubling of student numbers and taking the college into the top ten per cent in the UK for success rates.

On resigning Lindsey said: “I am very sad about it. The college to me is like part of the family and it will be very difficult to leave.

“I have talked it over with the board and they now have plenty of time to find a replacement.

“Sometimes I think you can get too close to a challenge or a project and I think it will be good for the college to have someone come in with a fresh approach.”

Lindsey has been spending her time at the gym to ensure she is physically ready for the challenge and has the full support of her 24-year-old daughter Fern and partner Roger Irwin with whom she lives in Winchester.

One of her concerns is whether she will get along with the other crew as they tough it out in challenging conditions.

“I am looking forward to finding out about myself, particularly how I will deal with being a follower, rather than giving out instructions.”

The college won’t be far from her thoughts as while she is in port Lindsey intends to network with local colleges to establish links with City College around the world.