10 Things I Learned during Level 1 Training

  1. Your little fingers are less important than your thumbs. When using a winch, make sure your hands are the right way around (little fingers towards the winch) or risk the Skippers’ wrath. Still, being told it is better to lose a little finger than lose a thumb is not overly comforting.
  2. Learn to bake bread. Then you too can take part in the ‘Great Clipper Bake Off’.

    Spelt, fig and walnut bread
    Here’s one I made earlier…
  3. Sometimes there are too many Chiefs / cooks. One mealtime there were 4 people in a very small galley discussing the best way of heating up quiches (in the oven?!). My suggestion of serving them cold wasn’t very well received. Funny thing was it was actually my turn to make the meal – and I couldn’t even get near the galley!
  4. Sometimes there are too many Indians. There was the (rare) occasion where no one person took charge of an evolution (sail change, putting in a reef etc.), resulting in long discussions about how something should be done and ending with the Skipper just telling us to get on with it as we were getting close to the beach. There are times when you just need to get on with things.
  5. Never turn down a cup of tea or coffee – you don’t know when you will be getting another one!
  6. Don’t leave your gear lying around. I managed to ‘temporarily misplace’ my head torch on the first night; it reappeared under a pile of sails on the last day during the deep clean of the yacht but it would have been much more useful earlier on in the week. Even more concerning to me was the number of times I lost my lifejacket down in the ghetto. Those extra minutes spent looking for it could have been extra minutes in a warm sleeping bag.
  7. Pay attention when someone is showing you which taps are fresh water and which are salt water. Yes – I did end up brushing my teeth with marina sea water with a dose of diesel and goodness knows what else on the first evening; the taste lingered for a good while afterwards.
  8. Make friends with your crew mates. They will be helming the yacht and carrying out manoeuvres whilst you are in your bunk below sleeping, spotting you if you have to climb a short way up the mast, cooking your dinner and making you coffee when you get out of bed at 1am and it is cold and wet.
  9. Physical fitness and upper body strength will be important. Sails are heavy to move around, winches need grinding, halyards need sweating and it can be hard work even climbing into and out of your bunk when the yacht is going upwind and everything in on an angle.
  10. Don’t forget your earplugs! With up to 18 people sleeping in the ‘ghetto’, the odds are that someone will snore. We were fortunate enough to have 3 such individuals and whilst earplugs didn’t totally block the noise, they certainly helped!

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