It’s not over, until it’s over.

It’s been quite a week! In the space of 7 days I have seen off the fleet at race start from Southend Pier in Essex, quietly seen in another year of mine and my husband’s life on this earth, hosted a big international, 4-day conference with my academic colleagues at Bath University – Death, Dying and Disposal – only to finally return home to Bristol, conk-out on the sofa in exhaustion, then wake up on Monday to the incredible news that my team had managed to climb up the leader board over the course of a day and come into Portimao marina FIRST! Yes, that’s right, Punta del Este have done it; they’d won the 1st race of Leg 1 in an 11 month endurance race around the globe. I am indescribably proud of them as I know they must have pushed so hard to make the absolutely gripping come back that they did. As one of the crew reported: ” What a finish! The rapidly changing weather between the systems made the final approach more than interesting. The wind was increasing from the east and Punta managed to play the wind like no other boat propelling themselves to third place on the rhumb line (straight line to destination). Meanwhile, Qingdao went out to cover Unicef to find both boats “parked” in a wind hole. This was Punta’s chance to take first position!” …And so they did!

I hope that right now as I type this, they are getting much needed sleep, but also basking in their glory. It’s a magical start to what we all hope, will be the best thing we’ve done with our lives to date. But the firsts don’t stop there! Punta del Este also won the ocean sprint section with the fastest time, which gives the team an additional 3 points. Our Skipper, Jeronimo, reports that it was winning the ocean sprint that gave him and my crew mates on leg 1 the focus and motivation to push hard and use all the fuel in their tanks to bag 1st place into Portimao Marina, Portugal.

A team member captured this gripping moment on the Race Viewer

Unfortunately all the live footage of the fleets arrival at the end of race 1 is restricted to Facebook use only, so I can’t upload the fantastic Clipper Race Live footage here. This Clipper write up will have to suffice; PUNTA DEL ESTE WINS RACE TO PORTIMÃO

Below are the overall race standings at the end of Race 1 / Leg 1. None of the teams have played their Joker yet, but I do wonder if Punta del Este might do so in Race 2 with their confidence high from winning race 1 and the fact that the end of race 2/Leg 1 is the yacht’s sponsor…watch this space!

POSITION TEAM / OVERALL POINTS
1 PUNTA DEL ESTE 14
2 QINGDAO 12
3 DARE TO LEAD 10
4 ZHUHAI 10
5 VISIT SANYA, CHINA 9
6 UNICEF 6
7 HA LONG BAY, VIET NAM 6
8 IMAGINE YOUR KOREA 5
9 GOTOBERMUDA 3
10 SEATTLE 2
11 WTC LOGISTICS 1

Yesterday morning Louise Ware, Jeronimo’s wife, touchingly wrote on the Facebook homepage of Crew, Family and Friends of Team Punta del Este: “I’m Jeronimo’s wife. It’s my dad’s 74th birthday today. In many ways, it is a miracle he is still here. When I woke him up I gave him a cup of tea in bed and his birthday card, with the news that Punta Del Este had won the first leg of the Round The World Race. “Yeeeeeeeeeeesssssss! Go on my son!” he cried, “best birthday present ever.”

I am a person who notices signs and coincidences everywhere in my life, so I rather like the fact that I share my birthday within a few days with Jeronimo’s father-in-law. Indeed, we noted during yacht delivery to St. Katherine’s Dock that there are a significant number of fellow Virgos among Punta del Este crew; I take that as an auspicious sign, irrespective of rational answers!

Continuing the theme of signs and coincidences, I was excited and surprised that a childhood friend I grew up with in the small High Peak village of Edale (the official start or finish of the Pennine Way to those of you who enjoy long-distance hiking through driving rain and bog) happened to be on holiday with her partner in Lagos and messaged me to say: “I’m obsessed with your race today. We’re in Lagos in Portugal on holidays and all day I’ve been watching the boats with no wind! Punta del Este making an amazing comeback from 7th to 3rd…. this racing thing is exciting! Hope your keeping well and not too jealous of those afloat… xxx”

So I promptly messaged her back to let her know she’d be welcome to take a trip over to Portimao marina to step aboard and give my congratulations to the team. I was chuffed to bits that she promptly did that and took some pictures and I think it’s really quite amazing that a childhood friend just so happened to witness Punta del Este’s victory at the end of Race 1. Smiles all round.

It was confirmed by my friend that yes, that is indeed a red carpet on the pontoon! Here Punta del Este is moored on the same pontoon as Visit Sanya. Punta del Este finished the race at 00:45:22 UTC, whilst Visit Sanya finished the race in 5th position at 03:17:22 UTC on Monday 9th September.

All in all, it’s been an incredible week in the wider sailing world too, because the day before Punta del Este sailed into Portimao to win race 1, a woman I am greatly inspired by (hence why I have her blog linked to my blog’s home-page) completed her solo, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation aged 77! Joanne Socrates is an inspiration to us all and gives me hope to keep my dream alive that one day I will circumnavigate the world’s oceans. She was alone at sea for 330 days and used her incredible voyage to raise money for the RNLI. I am in awe of her courage, resilience and skill. Congratulations to Joanne Socrates and my team, Punta del Este!

The race of our lives has officially begun

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I saw the start of a yacht race and no ordinary race either, but the Clipper 2019/20 RTW yacht race with my crew mates aboard Punta del Este vying with 10 other identical Clipper 70 yachts at 10am on the start line just off Southend pier in Essex. I feel like I have just waved off my children, wondering if and when I’ll see them again! I didn’t sleep a wink last night for thinking about how they were doing, what they’d likely be doing on board and how everyone must be feeling after a momentous weekend in the public eye and much hand shaking and flag waving. The last 4 days have been a blur of speeches, blessings, hugs, flag waving, greetings, drinks receptions and heightened emotions. I have not done much sleeping nor eating of hearty meals if truth be told.

I am now adding the Clipper race viewer to an already growing list of things that help me procrastinate with academic work on a daily basis. I have been rather glued to it waiting to see who will strike out from the fleet and lead on over the horizon towards the finish line of Race 1 off Portimao in Portugal in about a week’s time. I love the significance of the publication date for the first Crew Diary entry and Skipper’s daily report from the boat – both being my birthday – so I hope that’s an auspicious start to the race for Punta del Este!

But before these were both posted from the boat on the 3rd September, St. Katherine’s Dock and Southend Pier had seen a lot of frenzied activity, media crews and displays of strong emotions, which for me, began with our yacht’s naming ceremony on Friday 30th August.

Race Start officially kicked off with our racing yacht being named at 6pm on Friday 30th August in St Katherine’s Dock by the Commodore of Punta del Este yacht club (far right) and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (middle) with one of our team member’s, Fernando, from Uruguay.

The crew who are on Leg 1 and the circumnavigators (of which our team has only 8 out of a crew of 69) were joined by other Punta del Este leggers, such as myself and Sue (pictured below). We cheered on our crew with much chanting of “Vamos! Punta del Este” and waving of anything matching our team/boat colour, as well as the pennant for Punta del Este yacht club (our team’s boat sponsor). Our cheering and chanting could be heard from St. Katherine’s Dock all the way down the Thames estuary to Southend Pier.

Family and friends turned out to see Punta del Este slip her lines and motor down the Thames in the 11-strong fleet, accompanied by media in helicopters and accompanying vessels of all sizes on the Thames. The atmosphere was electric and I was quite emotional at the thought that the next time I am on the Thames hearing “Vamos! Punta del Este” I will have just sailed in the Pacific and across the Atlantic and be coming home myself after 3.5 months on board; that’s in just under a year from now – a few weeks before my next birthday.

A lovely surprise for my family and friends who had turned up to share in this momentous day was seeing the iconic Tower Bridge opening up to allow the fleet of Clipper 70s to pass down the Thames.



Team Punta del Este was leading the fleet down the Thames since Punta del Este is the destination all the yachts are sailing to marking the official end of Leg 1. Their estimated arrival window is the 14-16th October 2019.

I was joined for the Parade of Sail by some family and friends and they all did me and the team proud by sporting (unofficial) Punta del Este team t-shirts (despite all declaring that yellow “wasn’t their colour”!) and the two youngest supporters in our gang had even been practicing the Spanish lyrics to our team song the night before! I was so proud of them.

A close friend and her daughter looking fabulous in yellow.
My kind-hearted mother-in-law and my number 1 junior crew supporter.
I think yellow rather suits my dad.
My number one supporter! My husband, Dave.
Capturing our Race Skipper’s ambition (aside from winning of course)!
I hadn’t got the heart to tel her they were upside down!
Skipper with fellow Spanish crew and the Commodore of Punta del Este yacht club, just before slipping the lines from St. Katherine’s Dock
Marking the start of our parade onto the stage as a team to wave off friends and family.
Punta del Este crew, well,some of us anyway.
Captures our hopes!
All I kept thinking as I observed my team from the spectator boat was “I wonder how they must be feeling and what they’re thinking?”

All the spectator boats left the fleet at the Thames barrier where they continued to motor down river and we turned back towards Tower Bridge. The following day I was up very early to make my way to Essex from Fenchurch Street train station to catch the fleet begin their 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation from Southend Pier. Three canons were fired to mark the official race start at 10am (GMT) on Monday 1st September. I watched the fleet jostle with each other to claim an advantageous start line position and then wrestle with their spinnaker hoists before sailing off into the horizon. I had very mixed emotions about not being aboard with my crew mates at this stage of the race, but as I walked back up the pier I thought, race aside, I just hope all the yachts and crew return safe and well in mind and body. We are all amateur crews, so it’s remarkable really that we’re even living this opportunity to race around the world under sail. I am privileged to be a part of it.

Given my inexperience of sailing, let alone racing, I do find these yachts a little too close for comfort.
They crossed the start line in the lead too!
Getting those spinnakers up in close quarters!
It looks like Punta del Este have Korea hot on their heels…or should that be stern? 😉
Heading out of the Thames Estuary towards the English Channel, with spinnakers flying.
The last photo I took of the fleet before turning my back and walking towards Southend’s shore. I will not see Punta del Este again until I fly to Seattle in late-April 2020. At this point I’m not sure how I feel about that.

So, the race of our lives has officially begun and for the next 7.5 months I will be vicariously living it with my crew via the Race Viewer and reading the daily Crew Diary posted from the yacht and the daily Skipper’s Report. As they say in sailing circles; “fair winds and following seas”.

You can watch the Clipper live stream of the race start below. Punta del Este appear about 16 minutes 24 seconds in.

…And as I publish this post I am pleased to say Punta del Este have climbed up the leader board into 4th place!

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: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings?fbclid=IwAR2sD8P3VIiLofncx0P9_HnLTiuYb5mL6LIkfgdRH8LJ83DiRscKZy-VhDw

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):

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/clipper-2019-20-race-official-race-start-spectator-boat-tickets-tickets-63050263034

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

I have just returned from Team Punta del Este’s team-building weekend in West Sussex. This is a big event in the pre-race calendar as it’s the only time the team gets to all be together. I say this, but we were not actually the full team, probably just over 55% of the team was present, due to the cost of international flights and competing work and family commitments for some crew.

It was a relaxed weekend that involved doing things we’ll never get to do together on the race; relaxing, sitting by a campfire, drinking too much and having a BBQ. Although the standard of our accommodation wasn’t dissimilar to living standards on board CV25 (otherwise known as Punta del Este); narrow bunks, shared toilet facilities, poor plumbing, shared catering and limited utensils and food!

This was a good opportunity to test our team spirit, but also get to know one another away from the regimentation and demands of life aboard CV25 when ocean racing. Unlike other teams, we deliberately wanted a cheap weekend so that it was as inclusive as possible for all crew to attend, since we have a number of students and people with limited incomes on our team (I count myself in this) so we didn’t want a flashy, corporate team-building weekend, nor hotel accommodation. We also wanted the location to be cheap and easy to get to for the many crew flying into the UK from overseas. Gaveston Hall fitted the bill perfectly. Aside from the Isle of Wright Island Bakeries Cricket Club who were on tour playing a local team, we had the place to ourselves and took full advantage of the indoor pool and slack line course in the woods.

Slack-lining proved to be a good test of our core stability; a requirement of life onboard a racing yacht.
Absolutely nothing like the last time we all met in the pool for our RYA sea survival training!

Luckily the sun shone on the Saturday so our intentions of having a BBQ and sitting around a camp fire were not sabotaged by British weather either. We all just enjoyed being together and getting to know each other in an informal and unstructured way and recognising the preciousness of being together when the reality is that very few of us will be sailing together at any one time. It will only be those crew who are doing the full eleven month circumnavigation (the ‘Round-the-Worlders’ or RTWs as they’re referred to by Clipper) and our Skipper and Mate who will get to know the full Punta del Este team.

Our Skipper making all his crew his family’s tried and tested Sangria recipe!
But it didn’t last long!
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Our Mate, Ryan (on the RHS), helping Vincent wash up after the BBQ.
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Luckily the rain held off for our BBQ and camp fire.

Not only does this video made by my team mate, Steven Smith, capture the spirit of our team-building weekend, but it also discloses our official team song! …Do you know what it is?





This was the most popular tune which we finally voted on during the team-building weekend after months of indecision and many, many song suggestions. I think fellow crew voted for it because it’s sung in Spanish so honour’s our Spanish Skipper’s native language and the chorus captures something of the spirit of adventure and challenge that we’ve all embarked upon by being race crew in the Clipper Race; “I’m going to laugh. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to live my life”. It’s an upbeat song about seizing life and remaining positive in adversity. Sums up our motivations for doing the Clipper Race for all of us in a nut shell!

If you meet us at the finish line of races or attend the podium awards at the end of each leg (which we’re hoping to bag all the way around the world!) then you’ll be hearing a lot of this song. So you better get learning it in Spanish to show your support for Team Punta del Este! 😉

Catch of the Day

This weekend I was down in Ilfracombe, North Devon, to compete in my first gig boat regatta. I was placed in position 4 (midships) in the Women’s B crew for Bristol Gig Boat Club. I first joined the club in 2015, but until now, I hadn’t been able to commit to regattas outside of my usual 2-3 nights-a-week training on Bristol’s floating harbour. I was excited to finally get a chance to race on the sea and experience how waves and tide impact the boat and my rowing technique; after all, gig boats were designed for offshore rowing, not calm harbour waters.

So what are gig boats you may ask?

Well, contrary to much of what I write about on this blog, they are nothing to do with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and they don’t directly involve sailing, although gig boats are a significant part of South West England’s maritime history; Cornwall’s in particular. A gig boat – more correctly, a Cornish Pilot Gig – is a 6 oared, wooden rowing boat. Traditionally, gigs were rowed along the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a way of getting a pilot with local knowledge of the waters to large sailing ships so that they could navigate them safely into land. The first pilot to the ship would gain the much needed commission, and so these boats were built to be fast. The last gig used for pilotage was the ‘Gipsy’ from St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, on the 21st December 1938. The ship was ‘SS Foremost’ and the fee for pilotage was the equivalent of £3.65.

Gig racing as we know it began in the early 20th Century. During the industrial revolution the need for working pilot gigs had fallen, and the boats which were once so vital to a community became redundant. One story even tells of a gig being cut in half and used as a chicken shed. However, all was not lost. In areas like Newquay and the Isles of Scilly, gig racing became a sport. In 1921, just after the end of the 1st World War, Newquay set up the first Pilot gig racing club. Since then, the sport has grown exponentially, with over 100 gig clubs now in existence, and clubs founded throughout Devon and Cornwall, and internationally in France, Holland and the US. Over 140 boats now compete in heats at the World Pilot Gig Championships, which is extremely competitive to get a boat entered for.

Women’s B crew about to row out to the start. I am sat in position 4 on bowside.

Gigs are 32 feet long and are planked in Cornish Small leaf Elm. At the widest point they are no wider than 4 feet 10 inches, but all new gigs are built to the same specification, which the Cornish Pilot Gig Association (CPGA) inspectors monitor during each new gig construction. The modern oars we use are made of Silver Spruce and differ in size according to the seat position in the gig. The stroke and bow oars are shorter because the gig is narrower in these positions. There are 8 thwarts (seats) in each gig; 1 for the Coxswain (Cox), 6 for the rowers and 1 for the Pilot (‘Seagull’). The rowers have 1 oar, with 3 rowers on each side of the gig, alternating Strokeside (those sitting on the Portside, oar to rower’s left), then Bowside (those sitting on the Starboard side, oar to rower’s right) etc. The position immediately facing the Cox (who steers the gig using a rudder) is position 6, known as ‘the Stroke’. The Stroke sets the pace, which is a key role in gig racing. Position 5, on bowside, works in tandem with the Stroke. Midships, position 4 and 3, are the power house of the gig, driving the boat through the water with much longer oars. Position 1, at the bow, plays a vital role in gig racing as they have to be adept at tossing their oar from bowside to strokeside and back, on turning round marker buoys. Given the sheer weight of these oars and the speed at which this needs to happen, this is no easy task! The bow pair (rowers 1 and 2) also tend to get extremely wet in choppy seas!

Bristol Pilot Gig Boat Club (BPGBC) was established fairly recently, in 2007, but boasts competitive crews at all levels (youth, seniors, veterans and supervets), as well as introducing new members who may never have rowed before. The club also have crews that just want to row for fun and the social side, rather than competitively. The club races from May to September, all along the West Country coast, and even as far afield as London, Ireland and Holland. Training happens throughout the year, whatever the weather, on Bristol’s floating harbour and all competitive crews also use the rowing machines (‘ergs’) at the marina for training.

At the weekend I found myself finally getting to experience what gig racing is all about at Ilfracombe regatta rowing in Isambard, which was launched on the 27th January, 2007 and was the club’s first gig, built by RB boat builders, who are based in Bristol harbour’s Underfall Yard. She was named after the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer who designed, among other things, the Clifton Suspension bridge and the SS Great Britain.

As usual, I was apprehensive about my first regatta for the club, especially as those of us selected to be Bristol’s Women’s B team had never rowed together before. We were a great mix of ages spanning 5 decades and we rowed hard! During the race I was utterly oblivious as to what was going on around me and our position in the race, because all rowers are trained to keep their ‘heads in the boat’ and just focus on our oar and making sure the blade ‘catches’ in time with the other rowers’ blades. However, spectating club rowers took photos and videos from the harbour wall, which upon viewing made us all chuffed to bits to see that at the very start of the race, we pulled away first and were leading (until Appledore’s white gig caught us up and promptly overtook us!). We were also chuffed to see that our 2nd positioned in the race was held for the majority of the race and that the distance between us and the 3rd gig and rest of the fleet was quite a large margin. Not a bad performance for my first regatta, although I think a lot of our ‘success’ had to do with the fantastic coxing and vocal motivation being yelled at us by our Cox during the race; she knew how to keep us focused and use energy we didn’t know we had left by shouting: “grind!”, “Push hard for 10”, “shoulders in the back of the boat”, “lean!”, “timing!”.

We gave the best performance for our club in this regatta 🙂
Rowing out to the start.
The race start and we’re off!
Women’s B in Isambard crossing the finish line in 2nd place behind Len White, Appledore’s gig.

Just as with yacht racing, strategically, the Cox wants to ensure they get the gig up to the marker buoys ahead of the fleet to ensure they have right of way round the buoy and can therefore take a tight corner; wide corners only serve to make the rowers row further and therefore, usually drop position(s). Turning round buoys is an art in itself as the bow rower tosses their oar to give more power to the side of the gig that’s leading the turn and if the gig is very close to the buoy then all rowers on the side closest to the marker buoy, must lift their oars – almost like a ‘Mexican wave’ – over the buoy in a smooth manoeuvre that ensures the gig doesn’t loose speed/momentum. Also, just as with yacht racing, an experienced Cox will use the swell and waves to their advantage, in order to keep the gig moving without losing momentum. Ilfracombe gig club did really well in this regatta, but then they were rowing in home waters so knew the course and its tides and eddies etc. Such knowledge gives all gig boats a critical edge in an offshore regatta. Although the weather wasn’t anything special, it was a special day for me in my own involvement with my club and I am now eagerly awaiting my next regatta at Lyme Regis on the 10th August. If you live locally, why don’t you come down and enjoy the regatta for yourselves?

All smiles and high team spirits as we landed back ashore in llfracombe harbour. Lydia, on the RHS, was our brilliant Cox for the race.
Bristol Women’s B: Vicky (sat in gig), Sarah, Molly, Me, Sophie and Lydia (in front).

For anyone who is interested in local maritime history then one of my favourite books about Pilots in Bristol is this little gem about the Pilots of Crockerne Pill, located on the River Avon at the mouth of the Bristol Channel.

Pirates to Proletarians Front Cover

It’s about their struggle to maintain their role and defend their jobs in nineteenth century Bristol. Pill residents were looked upon by the Bristol authorities and many town-dwellers, as disorderly and difficult. As the nineteenth century progressed, however, the realisation took hold that the interests of the pilots and watermen of Pill had much in common with trade unionists in Bristol and the wider labour movement. The book, The Experience of the Pilots and Watermen of Crockerne Pill in the Nineteenth Century by Mike Richardson, can be bought here.

Baptism of Fire

If I’m honest, I think my last obligatory training week for the Clipper Race (Level 4), which I completed a week ago, was a real step up from Level 1, 2 and 3 training; L4 didn’t feel like an incremental development for a beginner sailor like me, no matter how logical the training syllabus is deemed to be by Clipper. It was intense, if not overwhelming and scary at times and a taster of what the Clipper Race is REALLY going to be like and demand of us crew. It will certainly call for endurance, patience, suffering and tenacity, irrespective of which ocean is being crossed. The fact that it’s taken me a week to even get the energy to sit at my laptop and write this post is also indicative of how physically and mentally-demanding my week at sea was. This week, back onshore straight back into work, has been hard to adjust to. Most of the time I have felt a bit washed-out, heavy bodied and listless. On reflection, I think it’s just my body unwinding after the intensity of Level 4.

The demands of Level 4 started before I even left home, because to get to Gosport marina to register by the required time, I had to catch the first train out of Bristol to Portsmouth Harbour and then get the foot ferry over to Gosport and walk the last bit to the marina. The train was scheduled at 5.44 so I set my alarm for a bleary-eyed 4.30am. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to this early start I figured that I would be on a watch system the rest of the week anyway, so I’d better get used to it. I was very surprised therefore, to see so many commuters waiting on the platform when I got there at 5.30am! I was stunned and hoped they didn’t do this regularly, but if they did, wherever and for whatever reason they were commuting at this mad hour I hope, made it all worth it. I spent my 3-hour train journey mildly anxious about the week ahead and sat at a table seat trying to discreetly practice my knots with a bit of nylon rope I carry with me everywhere these days. I also studied the handwritten notes and diagrams I had made at the end of my Level 3 back in March about the locations of particular jammers, spinnaker hoists and drops and re-familiarising myself with the particular deck roles and commands involved in all sail evolutions (tacking, gybing, reefing etc.) As with every training week I have done for the Clipper race that I have staggered over the last two years, I always feel anxious about it because I never go feeling prepared for it. Nonetheless, I somehow manage to pass each level and learn and develop in the process; it’s just not a comfortable process to go through!

I was one of the last to arrive at the marina as those international crew attending were staying locally, having got international flights a few days earlier. I had worked late the night before in my office so that I could be absent and offline for a week without too much calamity for my Masters’ students who are in the thick of doing their dissertations and the two research projects I am delivering at the moment. The usual rush and stress to get my landlubber life in order so I can slip offshore and offline! But once at the marina I felt energized by the general buzz and excitement of the race crews as they gathered to meet their Skipper and Mate for the first time since Crew Allocation in May.

I was directed by my Mate, Ryan (who proved to be a fantastic coach/instructor during my training week), to go and collect my Musto HPX Pro series race foulies before reporting on deck. They came with my name and initials emblazoned on them in reflective tape to assist in being identified on deck by other crew. Putting them on is a challenge in itself and they feel enormous and heavy. Whilst I quite like the salopettes, even if they are far too big around the groin and chest, I really don’t like the smock as the pocket cannot be accessed once our Spinlock life jackets are worn and it is difficult to put on any clothing over one’s head when heeled over at sea, nor does the rubber neck seal help in this regard! I much preferred the red foulie jackets we were assigned during previous training weeks as they fit better for women’s bodies, have lots of accessible pockets and some warm(ish) padding to keep the lower back from going numb when on deck. My ‘medium’-sized Musto smock is cumbersome and all the female crew I have spoken to are more than a bit annoyed that Musto didn’t make a custom-sized version for women in this edition of the race. At the end of the day though, it’s just one of the many things I’ll have to learn to put up with during the race and suck up.

Some of Team Punta del Este doing our Level 4 race training from Gosport sporting our brand new race foulies: (L-R) Me, Hilary, Kati, Steve, George and Ben.

Once we’d collected our foulies it was time to slip the lines and head off into the Solent to begin our week offshore under race conditions. This meant beginning our 3-hour watch system straight away, as well as hot bunking and no showers or mooring up to come ashore. My Skipper, Jeronimo, chose a 3-hour, 2 watch system that went as follows (if I remember correctly!):

This meant that for every 24 hours aboard, I went to sleep 3 x and got up 3x, with a total (potentially) of 8 hours sleep in two-hour stints. We were always woken 10-30 minutes before being ‘on watch’ and it took half an hour of our ‘off watch’ to clamber out of our life jackets, safety tethers and foulies, usually stuffing some pasta or potato meal into our mouths enroute to our bunks. All of this was conducted at an angle and if we were heading into the wind, then slamming up and down too. I usually crashed out once I had struggled to access the top bunk on the high side, but even more of a challenge if I was feeling seasick. Although I had to rely on my leecloth to prevent me from rolling off the bunk and causing serious injury, I must admit that after a week, I still wasn’t confident in it’s ability to keep me safe and secure, so if we were on a tack that had me restrained by it, I lay tense clutching the netting of my stowage on the other side for peace of mind; it didn’t make for restful sleep! Going to the toilet (heads) and brushing my teeth were agonizingly slow procedures that I managed about once in every 24 hours. For the week I was at sea I didn’t change my underwear or thermals and I washed my hands in salt water. Day 3 was mentally difficult as I felt gross and seasick, but by day 6 it all began to feel ‘normal’. Seasickness hit most of the crew within 24-36 hours from shore and I struggled too. But I was really pleased with myself that this week offshore, despite feeling very nauseous, I wasn’t vomiting, so that’s a hard-earned battle I have won mentally during the course of my training.

You will notice that we were all on deck for a 3 hour overlap in the middle of the day. This meant a 6-hour watch for both watches and a chance to mingle with half of the crew we otherwise wouldn’t interact with. Being in race conditions for a week also made me painfully appreciate that all crew need to view time off watch as a privilege, not a right. Life at sea involves always expecting the unexpected, be that changes in the weather, crew injury, mechanical failures, which all result in requiring all hands on deck. So, the watch system was fine in theory, but as I learnt, it often meant that what should have been my precious 3-hour ‘off watch’ rapidly got diminished to 1 hour. On these occasions I would remain in my foulies below deck and sit slumped, eyes shut in the galley. I didn’t want to waste precious minutes struggling to take off my foulies and clamber into my precariously positioned bunk. I was surprised and marvelled at how my body would wake itself up within minutes of a on-watch crew member coming to shake me awake for duty and I was also surprised by how little I smelt after a week offshore not washing. Nevertheless, some of the time I would lie in my bunk summoning the energy to clamber out completely confused as to the time of day, day of the week or where I was. It wasn’t until I came up on deck, had the wind hit my face and feel the sea spray that I’d begin to wake up. Clambering in and out of foulies and life-jackets below deck was usually undertaken in a foggy silence, for me at least.

As Nick Leggatt, one of the race Skippers said to us during the week: “First you’ll feel you’re ‘gonna die, then you think you’re ‘gonna die and finally you wish you could die!” He said this jokingly, but quite frankly, I now understand the source of the joke!

Nick has a wealth of experience as a Skipper. He’s 52-years-old from Cape Town and has already circumnavigated the globe three times, and set five world speed sailing records, including a round the world record with American adventurer Steve Fossett’s crew on Cheyenne (Playstation) in 2004.

Racing:

During the week offshore, we had to undertake two practice races ahead of the real round the world race starting from St. Katherine’s Dock in London this September. I have never been in a yacht race before, so I had no idea what to expect and as a result, felt nervous about it. From my school days competitively running the 1500 meters and uni days as a college rower in a women’s VIII, I have never enjoyed a starting gun or flag drop. The anticipation doesn’t bring out my best side. I guess I have to accept that I am not a person who thrives under competitive stress, but it was too late now, we were motoring towards the race start off the Needles/Isle of Wright!

I was incredibly nervous at this point, so I was only too glad to assist in hoisting our storm sails as per race rules following the Fastnet disaster in 1979.
Approaching race start off the Isle of Wright. Prior to the 10 minute signal all boats have their mainsails hoisted, headsails hanked on, halyards and sheets attached, but NOT hoisted (as pictured). The race route was to take us across the English Channel off the French coast at Cherbourg and through the Channel Islands before crossing the Channel again to the Dorset coastline (Portland Bill). For this race we practiced a Le Mans race start
Disaster as we ripped our code 2 spinnaker off the French coast, but despite this we went on to win our race an hour ahead of the 2nd placed yacht. Let’s hope this bodes well for our performance in the real race itself!
Our repairs to the spinnaker didn’t last long, but we still managed to win.
The cardinal that marked the end of our 2nd race off the IoW, which we also won.
Sums it up for me!
We managed to get up to 22 knots surfing waves in the Channel off the French coast. I loved helming in these conditions, but it didn’t half take its toll on my arms.
Winning our first race, which we smashed at 23 hours and 9 minutes.

Le Mans race starts:

…No, nothing to do with motor racing! In yacht racing these involve a ten minute countdown and at one minute all the crews have to be behind the forward coffee grinder and the engine has to be turned off (my role in both practice races!). Prior to the 10 minute signal all boats have their mainsails hoisted, headsails hanked on, halyards and sheets attached, but NOT hoisted. On the gun all crews rush forward (well as much as one can rush when attached to a Jackstay with a 3-way safety tether!) to get up their headsails. Due to the wind conditions and direction the sail plan of choice was full mainsail, staysail and Yankee 1. Le Mans start rules dictate all boats must keep the same course and sail plan for the first ten minutes, after which they can do what they want.

Roles on deck:

When I am not cooking on mother watch, cleaning the heads and emptying bins into the lazarette on cleaning duty, completing the hourly log and hand-pumping the bilges and grey water tank on navigation duty or doing engine checks on engine duty (all duties rotated daily among crew) or, actually conked out on my bunk ‘off watch’, there’s an awful lot to do on deck; be it a change of sail, change of tack, the constant attention required for maintaining maximum speed with sail trim, tidying the snake pit to avoid meters of knotted rope and constant repairs! …Here’s a few of the tasks I was involved in during our week sailing offshore in the English Channel:

Learning to helm, which involved understanding how to surf the waves to maintain maximum speed.
Putting my back into the primary winches grinder
The woman in pink on the grinder with me is called Melody. She hails from America and is an experienced ocean racer. I was so impressed by her strength, knowledge and agility and I was slightly in awe if truth be told. Team Zuhai are lucky to have her!
I always seemed to end up on the grinders; exhausting work!
Impressive grinding on the mainsheet winch from Skipper, Nick, and Mate, Ryan…I’ve got an awful lot to improve performance wise!
At the bow learning to trim sail with my Skipper coaching me in the proper use of Bowman’s hand signals to communicate with the helm.
Sweating the main halyard.
Team Punta del Este and Team Zuhai’s Mates (AQPs) doing spinnacker sail repair in the galley; painfully slow and uncomfortable work.
Hanking on headsails.
Pre-race man-overboard drills.
Dropping and flaking the mainsail .
Kati doing the hourly log in the nav station; the geek in me quite likes this task as I enjoy learning about COG, SOG, true and apparent wind speeds and directions etc. (something the landlubber in me never ever thought about before).
Night watch…somewhere off the French coastline.
A cold night watch.
The Bowman is constantly checking sail trim.
Illustrate’s Skipper’s warning: “High side, happy side. Low side, suicide!”
I made myself climb to the top of the 90 foot mast at night whilst sailing so that I didn’t find myself having to do it for the first time under necessity during the race next year. I took my mobile phone with me to the top but then didn’t take a photo as I was afraid I’d drop my phone. You just have to trust me that the moon beams on the water were magical, but that the view of the deck looked uncomfortably tiny below!

Life on Board:

On mother-watch with another crew member, Robbie, from East coast America. We both felt very seasick and didn’t fancy eating what we were cooking at all.
Making tea on Mother Watch on a gimbled stove. At night we only use red lights to avoid night blindness.
We tied a rope across the gallery to help us move down below when heeled over – going to the toilet is quite a challenge!
My favourite watches are always the ones that mean I get to see a sunrise or sunset whilst on deck. This photo is taken off Sark I believe.
We’ve just won our first race and barely slept for 24 hours.
A bit of fooling around when it’s quiet on deck to keep morale up so we don’t all focus too much on being cold, wet, seasick and tired.
The same goes for the Clipper Race Skippers too! Here Nick (L) and Jeronimo (R) pose with Bob, our MOB dummy.
My inspiring and relentlessly positive race Skipper, Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez, all smiles after winning both practice races…long may it continue!
Proud to sail her and crew in Team Punta del Este!
Punta del Este is finally moored in Gosport after our epic sailing race week where we sailed between France, England and the Channel Islands, winning both races…an auspicious start?

On reflection Level 4 taught me precisely what sacrifices and adjustments need to be made in order to be a competitive racing crew member and it also made me start to wonder if the majority of yacht owners probably don’t know how to sail their boats properly or for maximum speed performance. Just slipping the lines to cruise offshore in light airs for a day will never be quite the same again!

Going Solo

Just grabbing an hour between unpacking from Poole Harbour boat show and re-packing for my Level 4 Clipper Race training, in order to tell you about an inspiring person I met at the boat show over the weekend; Pip Hare.

In November 2020, Pip will be racing around the world, non-stop and single handed in the Vendee Globe Race. That’s the same race that the likes of Ellen MacArthur and Dee Caffari have also competed in. Pip’s racing yacht was moored alongside Ocean Youth Trust’s boat, Prolific – they couldn’t have been two more contrasting ocean-going vessels in many ways!

When I stepped aboard Pip’s ocean racing yacht, I was immediately blown-away by it’s simplicity. These photos I took do not do justice to quite how bare and stripped out her yacht is and, therefore, how mentally and emotionally challenging her race will be for her, as there’s no allowance for comforts. Seeing Pip’s yacht is the only time I have thought the Clipper 70s are luxurious (relatively speaking).

Pip’s ocean racing yacht for the Vendee Globe
She will have to operate the deck all alone and in some conditions that will take courage and fortitude beyond measure. I cannot even begin to comprehend…
Pip’s sleeping arrangements twenty precious minutes at any one time!
Pip’s galley! Re-hydrated rations all the way; yum, yum. No ‘pick-me-up’ meals onboard then!
That bucket is her toilet!
More electric and comms equipment than domestic, that’s for sure.
Zipped up behind that plastic could offer a teeny bit of protection from the elements I suppose.
I endorse the sentiment on Pip’s notebook!

Given I will have shortly returned from my own inaugural ocean racing experience, I will be fully-supporting and following Pip as she heads off next November. Where for me, one of the challenges of the Clipper RTW Race will be living in cramped conditions with others (i.e. no privacy), her challenge will be the opposite; almost too much privacy with very little interaction with other people. I am in awe of what she’s embarking upon.

No help, no stops, no turning back.

Follow and support Pip’s race and Vendee Globe race campaign at: https://www.piphareoceanracing.com/ @pipoceanracing