Get set, ready…vamos!

Today all the race crews will be assembling for race start and setting off from Punta del Este for the 2nd leg in the circumnavigation. The 2nd leg is also the shortest leg, involving a crossing of the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa. Whilst all the crews focus on what lies ahead and have everything to play for, I thought I would share this footage taken from across the fleet from Leg 1. Captured is my team’s Skipper, Jeronimo, looking very happy at the helm with his feathered companion; one of the quieter, more relaxed moments from the race before the full force of the Pampero hit.

The Clipper Race fleet experienced everything on Race 2, Leg 1. From days of going nowhere in the doldrums, to the heat of the equator, where King Neptune came to visit. Finally, with the race finish within sight, an almighty storm descended, testing all the crews to their limits.

The ‘River of Birds’

Seven days ago, when I sat in the Guildhall at Portsmouth with sweaty palms, racing heart and hardly able to breathe because I was full of expectation and overwhelming emotions for the news I’d waited so long to hear, little did I suspect my team and yacht sponsor would be a country located on a continent I have never had the pleasure of visiting!

Enthusiastic to learn more about Uruguay and Punta del Este in particular, I wasted no time going to a public library when I got back to Bristol and taking out all available books on Uruguay. As a result I now know that my team and yacht is named after Uruguay’s premium beach resort (and for the people of Argentina too), Punta del Este.

According to the Bradt travel guide to Uruguay written by Tim Burford, Punta del Este, has numerous bars and nightclubs that debut tunes setting the musical fashions of the holiday season for Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Travelers to Punta del Este are reminded to: “Note that in January people (Argentines in particular) have a nap when it gets dark and eat around midnight. Bars and clubs only get really lively around 04.00, and it’ll be broad daylight when many people head home.” …It looks like the sleep deprivation and stamina we build up at sea on our watch system could come in useful when ashore in Punta del Este! It also explains why our Skipper, Jeronimo, was keen to identify our boat with fun and set the bench-mark for the happy, party boat (I just thought my reputation had proceeded me!). The challenge now is to come up with a team tune that encapsulates all this and currently my fellow crew are submitting their nominations on our closed Facebook group to be finally settled when we all meet for a team building weekend in July (feel free to suggest a tune I can nominate to the team. All our Skipper said was that it must be upbeat and preferably, Latino).

If truth be told though, I am not a nightclub nor resort kind of person, but two things about Punta del Este stood out for me in the Bradt travel guide: Firstly, that the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda lived there in the early 1950s, so visitors can now have a guided tour of his manuscripts, books and personal effects in the Museo Paseo de Neruda. Secondly, from August to October, migrating right whales can be seen from the beach, hence, the whale-watching towers for viewing them on the mansa (calm) side of the peninsula.

Of Uruguay I knew nothing about it, other than on what continent it is located. So reading about it is presenting a fascinating learning opportunity and some great armchair travel, which, for now, is how it’ll remain, as I am not crewing in Leg 1 of the race (from London to Punta del Este). This means I will miss this opportunity to be aboard the homecoming leg for my team and yacht…maybe one day I’ll visit Uruguay. Who knows.

But for now, my armchair travel to Uruguay has revealed that ‘Uruguay’ means ‘River of Birds’; what a beautiful name for a country! I love to go birdwatching with my mother on the rare occasions she is able to visit us in Bristol. She’s quite physically disabled from a severe car accident when I was young, so car or train travel is hugely challenging for her in a way that few able-bodied people will ever fully understand. I admire her so much for her sheer determination and ‘survivor instinct’, which has got her through her adult life thus far. She courageously makes herself drive to bird hides around England and Wales where she knows she can park nearby and use her walking aid on a flat surface to get to a hide. We have spent some great times together over the last few years in hides in the West Country and she has taught me a lot about bird identification and encourages me by advising on what binoculars to buy and giving me bird identification books for Christmas. So I suspect mum, with no interest in sailing, would like the fact I am representing the River of Birds in this ocean sailing race!

I also suspect that many British people reading this do not equate a Fray Bentos pie with a place called Fray Bentos in Uruguay. Neither did I! One of my husband’s ‘guilty pleasures’ is to go to our corner shop when I am away and buy himself a Frey Bentos pie for dinner. Since I have to manage my oral Crohn’s/ orofacial granulomatosis (OFG) with a cinnamon and benzoate-free diet (to avoid flare-ups and steroid medication), there’s absolutely no way I would be able to eat such food. He claims they’re very tasty and taste even better because we don’t normally buy them.

Corned beef Frey Bentos pies originally came from the El Anglo meat-packing plant in Frey Bentos, which opened in 1859. It is now an industrial heritage museum and in 2015, the entire El Anglo complex was recognised as Uruguay’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Over the coming months I am sure I’ll write further posts about Uruguay’s history, culture and politics as I discover more for myself, but for now, I am just happy to represent a country just over the size of England, the second-smallest country in South America (after Suriname) and with near-total literacy and minimal corruption (allegedly). Uruguay won the first soccer world cup in 1930; here’s hoping we win its first entry in the Clipper round-the-world yacht race in 2020!

For those “who paint their lives in bright colours, not pastel shades” all was (finally) revealed at Crew Allocation.

[Drum roll please]

…After two years training in the dark I now know my team!

I’ll be representing Uruguay in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2019/20 under command of a Spanish Skipper, Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez. This is Jeronimo’s debut in the race and also Clipper’s 1st Spanish Race Skipper, as well as being Uruguay’s debut into the race sponsoring a yacht – Punta del Este. All these debuts mirror my own into sailing and certainly amuse me.

I love the sentiment from the Commodore of Yacht Club Punta del Este to the team: “Prepare yourselves for the challenge, be a good companion, help each other, do your best to win, and enjoy – because, after all, that is why we are alive.” Wise words and they certainly match my own values and hopes in this race of my life.

Now it’s time to learn some Spanish (in addition to learning how to sail) and for all 64 crew to pull together as a team, despite hailing from 14 different countries, and decide on a team song – for our podium wins of course! 😉

Punta del Este team stats

To see all the crew racing aboard Punta del este see:

My ‘official’ ugly mug for ‘Team Jeronimo’!
I don’t like seeing myself without my glasses. I have worn glasses since I was a child and didn’t like being asked to remove them by the official photographer; only immigration officials have requested that from me up until now!

I can’t even begin to describe the expectant atmosphere in the Guildhall at Portsmouth and how much my heart was in my mouth at this point! All 11 Race Skippers were individually brought up on stage before each took to the microphone to announce their crew.

This was my first impression of my Skipper as he was invited up on stage to take his seat beside the other Race Skippers; he was animated, cheerful and quite the showman!

Jeronimo announcing his crew.

After the official Crew Allocation announcements we all separated into our racing teams, so Jeronimo and Team Punta del Este’s Mate, a laid-back Canadian, Ryan Barkey, took us into the Council Chamber in the Guildhall to spend 4 hours getting to know each other and start to develop our team mission, values and identity. It was a very significant few hours and the beginning of our race campaign!

Ryan Barkey, our team’s Mate (Additionally Qualified Person), has spent the last six years in the sailing industry since moving from Ontario, Canada, to South Africa to acquire his Yachtmaster licence. Since then he has racked up in excess of 30,000 nautical miles and most recently has been based in Airlie Beach, Australia, as skipper and engineer for ex-maxi racing yacht, British Defender
My own significant moment with my Skipper; this time next year I’ll have already spent 2 weeks at sea in the Pacific sailing with him and my fellow team mates! I like him already. We can count Aberdeen university, Galicia, Hastings and a love of dancing among our shared connections. I think I might have met my match on the party front though!

We ended this momentous day by all the crew from across all 11 teams gathering outside the Guildhall in Portsmouth for an official photograph.

I really hope I do!
Here I am at the helm of CV25 moored at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth during Crew Allocation. It turns out CV25 will be the very yacht I race/live aboard next year! In a few weeks she’ll get her Punta del Este sponsor’s branding…In 50 weeks time I will be helming her for REAL!!!!
Looking tired but thoughtful as I process all the news and adrenaline from Crew Allocation day. The sun sets not only on me sat here, but on the beginning of a team I already know I’m going to love and be proud to represent in the race of my life.

Although for me the big news of the day was finding out which team and skipper I had been assigned to, so that I could develop my own team spirit, another crucial bit of information all crew and their supporters were waiting for was when the race would actually start and from where. I can now announce that St. Katharine Docks in London will be the location for the official race start and end.

The eleven strong fleet of 70 foot ocean racing yachts will be berthed in the docks’ Centre Basin for a week-long event from 24 August 2019, before they depart for their 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation on 1 September 2019.  This means you can all expect to see me and my team sail home into the docks in early August 2020; I really hope to see you there cheering us in.