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.