My first yacht delivery…it was epic!

It’s 3 days till race start!!! I can barely register that. How did THAT happen? The anticipation is palpable, both in my home in Bristol and at St. Katherine’s Dock in London…. I had the privilege to join 21 other Punta del Este crew in order to safely deliver our yacht from Gosport marina (which I have been sail training out of for the last 2 years) to St. Katherine’s Dock in London for the official race start this coming weekend.

I was keen to utilise the yacht delivery as my last opportunity to get some further sail training on board CV25 before the fleet sail over the horizon and, also to meet more crew in my team, including a few of the crew from Punta del Este.

We had absolutely glorious weather for the 3 days it took to (motor) sail to St. Katherine’s and the clear night skies were a delight to behold when I had to do a night watch or anchor watch.

The Punta del Este delivery crew all wearing our Clipper race uniforms (well, except Sue, but that’s another blog post!) and smiling just before we slipped the lines out of Gosport.

I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I felt leaving our familiar pontoon in Gosport. It really hit home that the next time CV25 is tied up on the same pontoon she will have sailed over 40, 000 nautical miles and it will be her last circumnavigation before retiring from the race fleet. I may or may not be part of the delivery crew who bring her home to Gosport in just under a year’s time. I was also struck by the fact that the next time I step on board CV25 it will be to take part in the race for real and in Seattle, a city I have never been to, in order to perform in a sport’s event that I have no prior experience of. Yep, I was in a reflective mood as I heaved the mooring lines back on deck. This was it! The race of my life was starting. No more Clipper training weeks, we were on our way to race start in London and there was an awful lot of boat preparation to do on board to get her race-ready in the meantime!

Here we are in the Solent heading out into the Channel with our main, staysail and yankee hoisted admiring our brand new set of sails.

Until this point I had never sailed with new sails as our training sails are all the tired, worse-for-wear sails that barely make it back from a previous circumnavigation. As soon as the main was hoisted I was pleased to notice straight away the difference in it’s shape on the boom. I had also never sailed with a full crew before, but noticed very quickly the lack of space on deck as a result. If you are not doing a job it becomes even more imperative that you simply sit out on the high side (windward) with your back against the guard wire netting. If it’s a breezy day, you notice how quickly your back gets a soaking and feels numb in the breeze.

We all admired our team logo on the mainsail and feel proud to sail under a smiling sun; I hope she bodes well for us in the race!
Not only was I not prepared for the emotions I felt during the yacht delivery, but I also wasn’t prepared for the media crews and crowds. This footage was filmed by a camera man who flew over the fleet hanging out of a helicopter in the Channel. Just watching it sends shivers down my spine. This epic race has begun for me and I can’t quite believe it! I also love how Punta del Este’s hull looks in the water; yellow was a great colour choice.

Since I was last on board CV25 for my final week’s training in June, many modifications have been made to the boat to get her race ready by fellow crew during the week prior to the yacht delivery. It’s called ‘Prep Week’ and madness and chaos ensues in Gosport’s marina as victuallers buy and stow enough food and sanitary provisions for a crew of 22 for 4-6 weeks at sea. The engineers and bosuns have to re-rig the yacht and ensure all the gear is in tip top shape. The sail repair team had to add all the branding to the sails and a myriad of other jobs and sourcing of random things took place. I think Gosport’s Aldi benefited hugely from this (as did Weatherspoons!).

To the untrained eye this may look like an awful sanitary situation at sea. To me though, I was absolutely delighted by the addition of a soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser and storage unit for loo paper to the heads. Dare I say, it felt a wee bit luxurious for the first time ever in my Clipper experience! Up until now, visiting the heads has been a grim experience of soggy loo paper because it’s rolled onto the floor, no hand drying options and only the loathsome antibacterial gel to ‘wash’ hands with. These amendments pictured above will be a small blessing and morale booster during the race.
Again, to the untrained eye you may think this looks like a sterile, almost devoid environment, but I was delighted that someone in my team had taken the initiative during Prep Week to create this rope guard running down one side of the companionway steps. In heaving seas this netting will provide some much needed support and hand-holds. In the background is the port-side wet locker with half the crew’s newly-arrived race foulies from Musto. We have modified them to have our initials emblazoned on them in reflective tape so we know whose belong to whom and to help identify each other on deck.
One of the boat’s adjustments I was involved with; helping put up extra net stowage units.
The net stowage gets filled with things like this! On board we have enough crisps and Haribo sweets to feed an army! Ocean racing does not involve a healthy diet that’s for sure and hence, why I am only doing Legs 7 & 8, as my medical consultants flatly refused to let me do more legs or the full circumnavigation because it’s guaranteed to flare up my oral Crohn’s disease.
Again, to landlubbers this may look like a pitiful meal, but to me, it was the best thing I have yet to eat on board. It was almost fresh (!) and therefore, very tasty and gobbled down by all crew…Definitely a contender for the ‘Best Mother’s Meal On Board’!
Punta del Este’s Media Crew in the nav station tweeking the communications on board and getting to grips with the go pros. During the race we will be posting crew diaries online via the Clipper website. I have provided a link at the end of this post.
Our team’s Medical Crew: Tono (Spanish) is a Urologist and Hillary (English) is a nurse. They’re a great, reassuring asset to the team!
Sue is also a huge asset to the team as she’s a ‘can do’ woman with anything involving tools and sewing machines. She spent a lot of time during the yacht delivery below decks fixing up extra stowage for personal effects by our bunks and making extra stowage below the bunks for potatoes and onions.
One of Sue’s creations attached to a lower port-side bunk for storing potatoes for weeks on end at sea.
Me, cleaning bunks. Always cleaning!
…And tidying our lovely new lines in the sail locker once we’d sat on deck whipping the ends of all the sheets!
Our Skipper in the water off Southend-on-Sea in Essex cleaning the keel whilst we were at anchor waiting to motor as a fleet up the Thames.
Another addition to the boat is this notice board in the galley, which quickly got utilised by the mothers as a way to keep up morale with the promise of food! We did get served toasties and crumpets that day as we motored up the Thames, but they weren’t as hot or as well presented as one might expect from the advertising here 😉
Motoring up the Thames past the Thames Barrier was so exciting! I will always remember it and treasure it. It was a privileged vantage point to see the city of London and I was blown away by the crowds along the river banks.

As we motored up the Thames as a fleet with all 11 yachts displaying their colours and flags, we all stood on deck marveling at the views, seal spotting and taken by surprise by the crowds and support from the river banks. Lorry drivers on the rubbish tips and industrial sites would hoot their horns at us, stop their trucks and jump out to wave at us. All the many and varied leisure boats on the Thames would bib their horns and all the passengers wave at us. One flat along the Thames had a huge sign hanging from it’s balcony that read ‘Vamos Punta del este!’ and the owners came out to wave at us. The RNLI kept coming alongside us in their rib and taking pictures of us, there was another rib that kept visiting us along the way and taking photos, whilst 2 men in a sail boat drew alongside us and chatted to us about our respective sailing routes, departing us with “rather you, than me!” and waving their beer tankards at us. It was an extraordinary day. I kept thinking, “if this is our arrival into London for the yacht delivery, what on earth is it going to be like when I do this again in just under a year having just crossed the finish line eagerly awaiting seeing friends and family at the docks?”. It all felt very overwhelming and surreal, but exciting and magical too.

Many who know me would not be surprised I am on board the loudest boat! 😉 This was posted by the guy who kept following us up the Thames in his rib. We gave him a special wave from deck captured by him on his mobile phone, pictured above.
I was totally taken by surprise by Caroline! As we came into St. Katherine’s Dock she was stood at the dockside waving us in. I was chuffed to bits to see a familiar face and she, in return, is the first of our crew supporters who got to board the yacht and take a tour once we’d moored up. I met Caroline in Bangladesh when we were both VSO volunteers 17 years ago; we’ve certainly shared a few of our life (mis)adventures together over the years!
The fleet’s safe arrival into St. Katherine’s Dock.
Punta del Este’s yacht delivery crew; all smiles as we let the realisation sink in that we’re days away from race start and our respective sailing challenge of a lifetime!

“Vamos Punta del Este! Vamos!”

Don’t forget you can follow our progress in the race by using the Clipper Race Viewer here:

Using the Race Viewer above, we’re indicated by the yellow boat for Punta del Este.
Mentally getting ‘race ready’.

If you’d like to read the official Clipper Crew Diary entry for the yacht delivery for Team Punta del Este, click on here.

And the winner is…

Thank you to all of you who submitted mascot name suggestions via this blog, Facebook or by email. In particular I have loved reading the explanations given for the name suggestions; there were some lovely sentiments. But ultimately, there needs to be an overall winner, as my mascot needs naming. So, the winner is…

Sir Robin Yarnspun (or, Robin Yarnspun for short)!

…But I’d also like to offer a Runner Up prize for El cazador de sueños (Dreamcatcher) as I LOVE the sentiment that sums up my own motivations for being in this edition of the Clipper race, but I fear I could never do the name justice in my pronunciation of it 😉

Ultimately, why I chose Sir Robin Yarnspun over all the other great name suggestions was because it pays homage to two important influences in my life; Sir Robin (obviously) and my mother. Whilst the former is a household name in sailing circles, my mother is also well known (“notorious” some might say), in spinning and weaving circles.

My mum, one of life’s characters and survivors, has struggled her whole life with crushed dreams because of a tragic car accident when my siblings and I were babies and toddlers. Whilst she defied all medical expectations by gradually getting herself out of intensive care, a neck brace and wheelchair, into a swimming pool, onto a bike and most importantly, back behind a car’s steering wheel, it’s all been catching up with her very quickly these last few years and these days she’s almost house-bound and certainly unable to walk very far, increasingly limited by the use of her right side only. She has bravely accepted she has to move into more functional, adaptable accommodation, but it’s emotionally difficult for someone who’s spirited, independent and lived the last 35 years looking at Kinder Scout within a tight community in the Peak District where I grew up and she still lives.

I am painfully aware that as my world is about to broaden exponentially as I slip the lines for horizons new and loose sight of the shore, my mum’s world is very quickly shrinking and she’ll shortly be loosing sight of the moorland she loves so much. Where my ‘move’ is by choice, her move is unwelcome, but borne out of necessity. I feel for her immensely. It is heartbreaking in so many ways that I feel unable to talk much to her about the Clipper race as it feels indulgent in the face of her own enormous day-to-day challenges. She is brave and has way more grit and determination than I ever will.

My husband took this photo at Easter this year when we were supporting mum to try out her newly-purchased walking aid. Little did we know at the time that it would be the last time my mum felt able to walk through the farmyard next door to her house. These days she can barely make it to the bottom of the garden.

My mum is only in her mid 60s, but the legacy of a horrific car accident a lifetime earlier is taking a huge toll. I marvel on her behalf at all my fellow crew aboard the Clipper yachts in their 60s and 70s and hope they acknowledge to themselves that they are so blessed to be physically able to undertake such a remarkable feat. It saddens me greatly that mum will not be coming to race start as she feels unable to deal with the travel logistics and crowds and that she’ll never know what life will be like for me below decks, nor how alien and small the deck of a Clipper 70 feels to a novice sailor like myself.

But despite all this, my mum is an accomplished craftswomen of all things to do with yarn. She is yarnspun at heart. My mascot is yarnspun. I like to think she’d approve of the woolly homage! Over the years she has carded and spun it from fleeces donated by local farmers, dyed it using natural dyes she creates from plants and vegetables, woven it, knitted it, crochet it and championed it with her weekly “stitch and bitch” (as she calls it), which is a gathering of crafty women in her home once-a-week.

This summer I took a road trip back to beloved Scotland with my husband and our tent and we ended up on Iona and Mull. On a gloomy, stormy day we found ourselves at the Ardalanish Isle of Mull Weavers and I was completely blown away by the fact that the woman who runs it knows my mum and spoke so highly of her. She said: “there isn’t a person in the weavers guild who doesn’t know your mother and she has taught me many things.” We both shared anecdotes about mum and spilt many tears over the fact that mum has recently had to sell off all her beloved spinning wheels and looms.

Me with Monika, a New Zealander, who has made a life for herself on the Isle of Mull keeping the spirit and craft of weaving alive at Ardalanish. She credits my mum for her role in her own weaving journey.

So thank you Rosie Turner for coming up with a name for my mascot that keeps the spirit of my mother’s talents alive, whilst also acknowledging a childhood hero whose biographies have inspired my own dreams and led me to play my own small part in this edition of the Clipper round-the-world yacht race. Lastly, but not least, thank you to Tricia Jenkins for her own unflagging support from afar. You shall both receive a lino-cut print in the post (made by another very talented craftswoman I admire) and I hope it’ll arrive auspiciously just in time for the official race start on the 1st September… Here’s to Sir Robin Yarnspun! x

Words of encouragement from afar

It’s not every day I wake up to receive a letter from the Commodore of a yacht club, but I did today! I love the fact that the Commodore ended his letter by including ‘A Wanderer’s Song’ by John Masefield at the end of the letter too. It’s very apt so I thought I’d share it with you.

Download the full letter from the Commodore to all crew of Punta del Este below:

Prep week’s started…that means 3 weeks till Race Start!

Some of my team mates are currently in Gosport living aboard yacht CV25, otherwise known as Punta del Este, dealing with a never ending list of tasks that they have to get through during ‘Prep Week’ before I join them in 7 days time to deliver our team’s yacht safely to St. Katherine’s dock in London for the start of the race.

Race start officially begins with a Parade of Sail 3 weeks TODAY (that’s a mere 21 days to go)! Given I have been mentally and emotionally living with the Clipper race for two years already, I am finding the reality that the race begins in earnest in only 3 weeks, quite hard to fathom. Even stranger, was the realisation my husband had whilst we sat eating dinner after work on Thursday evening – 8th August – that a year to the day I’d be officially crossing the finishing line onboard Punta del Este back into St. Katherine’s dock (all being well), having sailed in the Pacific and across the North Atlantic in the process! That means this whole mad-cap adventure/challenge will be over in just under a year!

Since I am barely able to focus on getting myself race ready and to Gosport next Monday in order to be part of my team’s yacht delivery crew, the fact that in a year hence, I will have returned from playing my part in this race feels odd. I have read many biographies of sailors, kayakers and ocean rowers to know that my feeling of being overwhelmed and wishing time would slow down before race start is quite ‘normal’ and one shared by anyone who is about to embark on a big, life-changing challenge. In the past I have been very excited and animated about what lies ahead, but currently I just feel numb. There’s a long list of things I need to do such as: making a will, getting a US maritime visa, buying flights to Seattle, sorting out paperwork regarding our car and house whilst away, sourcing appropriate ocean racing kit, booking medicals and vaccinations, getting prescription sunglasses and meds, learning some Spanish etc. etc. All this, whilst juggling three jobs and ensuring I fulfill my obligations at work and being there for my own family and friends. I can’t say I have been good at any of these of late!

Aside from the rapidly advancing big day, there’s also the official big news I can now announce because I have now been informed of the details by Clipper HQ. So, finally, I can now tell you dates and ports for my part in this race and how you can follow our progress in real time…

(drum roll!)….I’m a ‘multi-legger’ crewing in the last two legs of the race – that’s Legs 7 & 8 and they involve the Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. The schedule is as follows:

Leg 7’s race start = 2nd May 2020 from Bell Harbour Marina in Seattle, but I will need to register for duty on 27th April 2020 (any one with friends in Seattle please do let me know as I’d love a friendly face to wave me off and perhaps offer to put me up for a few nights whilst in town).

From Seattle we sail down to Panama to Flamenco Island marina on the Pacific side and await to transit the Panama Canal as a whole fleet on the 2nd/3rd June 2020 to Shelter Bay Marina on the Atlantic side. Then, on the 5th June 2020 (my middle brother’s birthday actually), it’s a sprint up to Liberty Landing or North Cove marina in New York, USA.

Leg 8 starts on the 27th June 2020 with a race to Royal Bermuda Yacht Club involving a week’s stop-over in Bermuda. Having never been to Bermuda this sounds very exotic to me (and probably eye-wateringly expensive too)! From Bermuda we set off across the North Atlantic on the 9th July 2020 to Derry-Londonderry’s Foyle Marina. Last, but not least, on the 2nd August 2020 we depart Derry-Londonderry for our last race that will take a mere 6 days or less to return back to St Katherine’s dock across the finish line (probably off Southend) on or before the 8th August 2020.

I have never been to the USA, nor Panama or Bermuda so for me, this will be one huge voyage of discovery. If you have family or friends in Seattle, Panama City, Bermuda, New York, Derry-Londonderry who you think would be up for showing me some hospitality then please do get in touch. I would much rather sleep ashore and enjoy a decent bed and shower than sleep onboard in the marina of each stop-over. But most of all, I know from speaking to previous race crew that some friendly faces to welcome me in each port would be much appreciated and a morale booster.

If you want to follow the race over the coming year then you can do so by going to the RACE VIEWER page of the official Clipper RTW Yacht Race website. There is also a closed Facebook group you can request to join called Crew, Family and friends of Team Punta del Este and we have our own Instagram account, if you’d like to follow us there too, to see short profiles of some crew members, updates from training and prep, useful tips and advice, and fun shots from the team! You can find the profile under @puntadelesteteam on Instagram.

Finally, for any of you who’d like to be there at Race Start and join me in waving off some of my team then there are Race Start Spectator Boats. There are a limited number of tickets available, which you can order here (remember to wear yellow to support our team and let me know if you’ll be there to join me and my husband):