Sailing the breeze

I am just back from 3 days sailing around the Isle of Wight and am feeling deliciously exhausted with a salty crust coating. A chance for a few days big boat sailing just to remind myself how to sail as part of a crew.

Just recently I have had a few ‘rabbit-in-headlight’ moments when my sense of self-belief has wobbled … after all it was only last summer when I did this for the first time. But hang on there girl – I’m good at executing orders, I can sweat halyards (pull ropes to get sails hoisted), know my VMT from my TMV (the prep for getting the mainsail up), tail ropes (make sure they run freely through the winches – although if you are a real sailor you don’t call them ropes(!)), and this time round I even got to call an evolution (getting the mainsail up) although I needed serious coaching from the 1st mate and have no plans for putting myself forward as watch leader for real on the race, and helming – I can do this! I can even mix it with the nautical terms these days (although only learners’ slang) – all that terminology in Swallows & Amazons is at last beginning to make sense.

The weekend dished-up some decent weather for sailing too. Saturday presented us with an easterly Force 5 – a sufficiently stiff breeze that there was some exciting sailing to be had. In our case beating up wind to allowed us a good run back with the ‘kite’ hoisted (the spinnaker up). The kite bit was great, but for me the beating not so. What is it with seasickness? To date I have a 100% record of up-wind sailing and feeling wretched. Although it should be added that the sunlight reflecting on the surface of the spinnaker would make a fantastic study in colours of blue.

Sailing is great for leaving you feeling completely knackered – no other sport (or at least none that I do) leaves me in such a state of total exhaustion. Standing on the foredeck as we returned to Gosport marina it occurred to me that the quality of the weekend just experienced far out-striped anything to be had should I have stayed at the house … and this is just a taster of adventures to come.


Catch-up time

… 9 boats under 400 nautical miles and closing!

Go for it Jamaica. Sail your socks off! You are doing brilliantly!!

Race 10 – round the bottom of Japan + left a bit.

Jamaica is now back out at sea and racing after an emergency medevac of Mick Wood to Tateyama in Japan. Get well soon Mick! Feel worried on behalf of the crew – got my St John’s Ambulance bible out and revised the symptoms of angina/pneumonia/avian flu and other hearty conditions just in case there’s something similar on my watch!

Jamaica after a good start are now slogging it out with PSP Logistics at the back of the fleet – there being no redress for medical emergencies. But the crew + Pete are sanguine, Race 10 – Qingdoa to San Francisco – is a long old haul and what’s the odd 400 miles when you have over 4,000 miles to go. The boats are beginning to scatter like molecules into a vacuum, Pete (plus some others) being happy to sail south of the racing line to keep clear of any bad weather in the north.

Go to Yellow Brick ( If you reduce the scale on the map the distances don’t look so great – but I doubt that’s how it feels when you’re racing. You can also make the fleet do the hokey-cokey  by zipping backwards + forwards on the time toggle (one in the middle at the bottom of the window).


It is all starting to get real!

Received a couple of emails today confirming (a) details of my flight, and (b) information about the accommodation off the boat in San Francisco. Rabbit in headlights time – it is all starting to get very real all of a sudden. Up until now the race has been in the future and then all of a sudden it is not that many days until I leave and counting down.

Am I excited? Not exactly because I have no notion of what to expect? Am I nervous? Actually, yes. What is preying on my mind? I want to be a good crew member. I am desperate to be a good crew member. I feel I know so little about sailing and I don’t want to let my crew down … but then I guess the knowledge bit is all about to change.

The back-story

I decided to apply to join the Clipper Round the World Race because of a poster in the London Underground.

I am not a person usually over-endowed with self belief but when I saw the poster, the thought ‘I can do that’ razor-wired itself through my mind. I still thought ‘I can do that’ when I checked out the website for qualifications and application details and watched the video of crew being pounded by crashing waves and driving spray.

And so that is how I found myself in Gosport being interviewed to join the crew of an ocean-going racing yacht with absolutely no sailing experience.

‘We can teach you to sail’ my interviewer said, ‘but you have to come with the right attitude.’

Level 1 training was in May – completely surreal! Crash course on nautical terminology (or a quick skim-read of Swallows & Amazons) needed!! Also and seriously, I was going to have to get the hang of tying knots! What did I think I was doing? For a start my fellow ‘students’ could all sail (as well as nearly all being Auzzies). But I survived (despite dying of fright at the helm) – the greatest compliment coming from fellow-sailor (also an Auzzie) Mikey, ‘You’re not so bad for a little one!’ (… on account of me being half the height + weight of everybody else on board).

Level 2 training was in June – still short on self-belief, but things were going well – as a crew we even got to play sea-rescue with the coast guard (clearly a real highlight for the professional crew training us, incredibly impressive to watch). But with a deterioration of the weather came seasickness. I don’t think I have even felt so wretched – wrung-out doesn’t quite describe it. I am sure I must have vomited up all my internal organs, quite possibly several times.

Level 3 training was in July – got to sail with our Skip (Pete) for the first time as well as with Oli from OneDLL. I am just so impressed by these chaps. Still suffering from a good dose of ‘rabbit in headlights’ and a state of constant knackeredness from the 4 hour watch system – but, but I might even be getting the hang of this! Impressed myself beyond I can say when on a sail change went forward and tied a bowline without having to mutter anything about rabbits, holes and trees!

In August I was selected as one of the crew to sail Jamaica (CV31 by then had a name) to St Katherine’s dock (next to Tower Bridge). Great delight on my part! Things for me on the sailing front were by now beginning to feel familiar … but the trauma highlight for Skipper Pete and those who knew what they were doing was our newly delivered boat had various crucial bits either missing or not working. The disaster movie highlight for Jamaica happened at race start. This was a red jacket event, crews looking the business, sun sparkling on water, boats lining up looking magnificent – in the movie retelling, this heroic moment would be accompanied by stirring music – thing was when we powered up in Jamaica the foredeck pulled away from the rest of the boat. Sailing along the coast had its highlights – the Royal Sovereign lighthouse (boat on a stick) must be modern sculpture at its best! Sailing into Kat’s Dock to the applause of hundreds was heart-swelling, followed by the most awesome bit of parking I have ever seen (amazing Pete)!

September 1st was race start – another swell of pride moment but this time it was for the Round-the-World and Leg-Oners.

Since then it has been armchair sailing with highlights (sailing into Rio pole position in the fleet + just 19 seconds ahead on the next boat) + and moments of resignation (bits of the boat going ‘ping’ resulting in stepping down from racing).