This is the taste of things to come … organising the food for our coming level 4. I have now realised that what I have to be really good at is long multiplication … like the ingredients of a one pot meal x the number of the crew x the length of the sail. Man! is that a great deal of food … and the having bought it where to hide it on the boat. Well first shop done and now learning on the job ….
Well not quite! 50 days until race start and it’s time to start saying cheerio to people and winding up land-based living. Weird knowing you’ve just done something for the last time …
Over the last year I have dedicated my Monday + Wednesday evenings to getting a boat-ready body!!! Last night I took my leave of the incomparable Rach & Izzie who between them have inspired me and a room full of others to lift weights + generally exert ourselves to music! CXWORX – total killer + the washboard abs are still hidden somewhere inside … but ready or not sailing here I come.
Getting fit has been serious fun! Crippling on occasions … track 5 … there are bits of my body still recovering from track 5!!
So guys a serious shoutout – Izzie, Rach & Kieron thank you. When we are languishing in the doldrums with nothing to do and ‘Bang my Head’ comes on over the boat sound system I will be able to launch straight into the ‘starfish’ routine!
Next week it’s the real deal – Level 4 race training! Bring it on!!!
I knew I was probably in trouble when my mobile went off unexpectedly at work and it was my skipper. This was our first conversation since our initial meeting at crew allocation.
“What would you say if I asked you to be the victualler for the boat?” asked my skipper.
Being the victualler on a boat is right up there at the top of the ‘you-cannot-get-this wrong’ list when it comes to crew roles! Being the victualler means that I am responsible for organising everything to do with food; deciding what we need (ie writing the menu), buying the stuff, packing the stuff into bags to survive the journey, deciding where to store the stuff in hiding places on the boat, retrieving the stuff when it is needed for cooking and eating, making sure we have enough stuff, and buying more stuff and repeating the process before the start of each race.
I said ‘yes’ and then sat at my desk slightly terrified (actually more than slightly terrified), wondering what I had done!
The ‘rabbit-in-headlights’ fear and the feeling that I must have indeed been evil in my last life were not assuaged by attending the victuallers’ training day provided by Clipper. It just told me that eleven other total novices were in the same boat metaphorically! I came away from the day just feeling overwhelmed and wondering how many potatoes were enough potatoes for 24 people for 5 weeks (the duration of our first race)! Somebody suggested the answer was 75kg … but I have no idea what 75kg of potatoes looks like let alone where am I going to store them.
But all mountains are climbed by taking the first step … so I contacted my crew to discover what were their food preferences and allergies. Possibly not a good idea! The good news was that none of my fellow crew were likely to go into toxic shock if they had to share the boat with a peanut (just as well because my peanut butter addiction is alive and doing very well) but the flip-side of the coin was people’s totally mutually exclusive food dislikes and preferences. All I can say is ‘chaps please view the food and its vagaries as part of the overall adventure … it is going to be an interesting ride, let’s hope you like the majority of the grub … and if you don’t well please just eat it anyway!’
So I have been menu planning! I’ve gone for an 8 day rotation – I am still haunted by school dinners where inedible substances manifested themselves the same day every week! Draft mark 1 was ably improved upon by Mols (with her chef’s hat on) …. not home and dry but the menu now has the potential to be edible and varied!
I now have to do the sums – potatoes twice a week for 24 people x 5 weeks … does that equal 75kg?
Molly being a total star + giving up most of Saturday to help me!
Victual (pronounced ˈvɪt(ə)l) – The word derives via Middle English and Anglo-French from the Latin noun victus, meaning“nourishment” or “way of living.” … There’s also vittles, a word that sounds like it might be an alteration of the plural victuals but which actually entered English a century before victual.
Saturday 20th May, crew allocation day in Portsmouth Town Hall, was the day the next edition of the Clipper Race started to get really real.
The sail training (mandatory for all crew) had been instructive, certainly fun, at times daunting, we had got to learn new stuff, re-remember old stuff and meet new people, but the race had felt so far away that it seemed somewhat academic. Now life was beginning to feel a lot more immediate (and to carry on with the academic theme) a bit like collecting your exams results from school at the end of the summer.
Was I nervous? Excited? Yup! Bit like being three and it being Christmas. Crazy really because it didn’t matter where I ended up – the hard bit is sailing – but I knew who I wanted to sail under.
At the beginning of the day who wasn’t over-excited? Everybody chattering, together, fingers crossed, hoping – all in the same boat. By lunchtime we were teams, wishing our training best chums good luck for their new crew and off to the team meet to make new friends in ours.
Happy? I was ecstatic! I’m part of Qingdao under skipper Chris Kobusch!
The moment my name got read out (yes!) Crew Qingdao assembling for a photo call.
Morning of Thursday 10th July + we (the crew) are all here readying the
boat for the last race. Cool, tense, adrenaline beginning to pump, mixed
emotions. The weather warm + sunny with a gentle off-shore
breeze, completely the opposite of yesterday’s foggy blustery dank blast.
Looking forward to the race with some melancholy – last race, end of the
adventure but then come London this will be the beginning of something new.
In the end it was an exciting finish to race 15. Nothing too dramatic but
intense in a 10 knots sort of way. We spent the last day of the race
hunting down Qingdao + reduced the deficit from 20 miles at the start of
the day to just half a mile at the finish line. But it was the same story
to other races – the wind died + in the end we just couldn’t finish them
off. So 10th. Disappointing after what was nothing short of a textbook
race start. But hey – it was a good sail + the North Sea gave us a good run
for our money (even if we did end up seeing slightly more of St Kilda than
we had ever really wanted!). Really changeable so we were on our toes all
In a couple of days we will be slipping lines for the last race – across
the North Sea to London – the nautical equivalent of the 100m dash! Cannot
really believe that in 4 days it will all be over!
Jamaica has an international mix of crew – which makes for interesting
conversation when it comes to whiling away the hours on watch but something
of a challenge for the victuallers when it comes to buying provisions. Being
a victualler you need to have clairvoyancy on one hand + a thick skin on the
other. Mind-reading because you need to know what people want even when they
haven’t told you + a thick skin because you don’t have an A-level in second-
The food on Jamaica – at least for the last two legs – has been nothing short
of amazing given the camping gas stove we have to cook on. At the beginning
it was all planned menus – it’s Thursday therefore it must be chilli mince
sort of thing. But that went out the window + now the victuallers just buy
food + the mothers make what they will with the ingredients. The serving
sizes are international. At mealtimes we have 3 serving sizes – ‘Polish’,
‘regular’ and ‘feeling seasick-size’.
The menu is pretty international too although breakfast is the meal when
national preferences are clung to most determinedly. But when the weather is
cold + wet hot food with a major calorie count is what we look forward to
most + this is where the British love of real puddings comes into its own.
Steamed pudding + custard – can’t be beaten. Cracking pudding Grommet!
We’re nearing the end of Race 15 – 3 hours to the finish line. The North Sea
has repeatedly thrown down the weather challenge gauntlet + we have risen to
each change. This morning clinging to the high rail it was like sitting in an
eerie looking down on the vertical drop that was the deck. Now the wind has
dropped + once more we are trundling along at 7 knots still trying to eke
what we can out of what’s left of the wind. Still trying very hard not to be
the 12th boat – Africa + Quingdao still ahead of us for the catching.
It’s a sort of weird thing sailing through the different areas of the
shipping forecast – some of the areas are named after physical features you
can see + some are named after features that you cannot. When you say the
names in your head the names of the adjacent areas follow – like a
mantra. The shipping forecast is one of those givens – it is almost part of
what makes up the national psyche.
Sailing past Malin Head coming into Derry – like ‘Wow, that’s Malin Head’ +
you know where you are in the roll-call of names. But right now we are
about to sail over Dogger Bank + there may well be something here to but
you cannot see it.
But one thing is sure the wind + the weather are a tadge variable out here
on Dogger Bank so maybe that’s why it features large on the list. The wind
is building 20 knots plus, we’ve just put reef 1 back in because the
forecast suggests that the plus might well be quite a lot more.
So it is back to life on the incline. Now that we are all wearing foulies +
lots of layers people are tending to hang their clothes by their bunks (for
easy access) but the net result is that getting to the Nav Station now is
like fighting your way through the wardrobe attempting to find Narnia at
the other end. Life is back to survival mode only.
Something around 200 miles to go to the finishing line. The wind is south-
westerly – here’s hoping that it holds without backing too much as that will
give us a straight run to the line. Oh and wind gods, not too much please –
just a regular helping of wind. Thank you.
Weather on Race 15 seems to come in two flavours – not enough or too much
wind. We have had samplings of both – but unfortunately for our race
performance we’ve spent rather too much time with not enough.
After a brilliant start in Derry (if I am allowed to be everso slightly
self-congratulatory) Jamaica sailed straight into light winds where we
turned west and everybody else turned east and there we sat with everybody
else sailing off. There was wildlife to keep us company – puffins (who look
like they need to learn to fly), dolphins (doing their magic on our spirits
as always) and on several occasions pods of small whales (not pilot whales
this time but others on account of the shape of the dorsal fins). Each
siting rallied our hopes but really – given the shortness of this race –
what we really wanted to be doing was racing. It is easy to get a taste for
being at the front.
We finally left the Atlantic with storms forecast + winds building. It was
on this change-over that I got to do mother duty again + discovered the new
sport of sail climbing. The boat sails while I monkey over the units
helping my bunk-buddy in the galley to construct crew meals. The layout in
the boat is certainly designed by + for taller people than me – everything
seems just out of my reach + that is even more so when the boat is heeled
over in gusting 40 knots winds. Not so much mast-monkey as galley-gibbon.
And here we are in the North Sea trundling along at around 10 knots oil rig
platforms scattered around the horizon + heading down the Scottish east
coast before turning east ourselves towards out destination. A beautiful
sunny day with a nip in the air – so definitely keep warm weather. Who
wouldn’t want to be sailing when it’s like this?