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).