On Friday 7th September 2012, I set off to Gosport to undertake my Level 1 training for the Clipper Round the World Yacht race. I had heard earlier in the week that I was to do my training on De Lage Landen CV8, one of the 68 foot Clipper yachts that had just returned from its last circumnavigation at the end of July. Another Level 1 crew as also on Visit Finland CV11 and we would be spending the majority of the week sailing in close proximity to each other.
Arriving at the yacht on Friday evening, I was joined by seven other crew members. Our skipper for the week was Jan Ridd, who had skippered the Cape Breton Island Clipper Yacht around the world in the 09-10 race; he was joined by Simon Layton as first mate. With eight novice crew members on a yacht that has a racing crew of approximately eighteen, these two were going to have their work cut out for them!
The evening started with a tour of the yacht, including instructions on how to work the heads and the really important bit of information about which taps had freshwater and which ones were salt water. I obviously missed this vital piece of information but learned the lesson the hard way when I found myself brushing my teeth with saltwater mixed with diesel later that night. Lovely.
Next item on the agenda was a safety briefing, including how to fit life jackets which were to be worn at all times on deck, use of safety lines, how to move around the yacht at sea (keep to the high side) and the location of and how to launch the life rafts if required. Other hazards on deck were pointed out to us, including a raised area on the cockpit floor known as ‘The Ankle Breaker’, which will unfortunately feature again later in the post. There was a lot of really important information to take in; luckily it was revisited over the next few days so I think some of it started to sink in (No pun intended :))
Once we had had complete information overload, it was time for dinner (Slow roast pork – yum) and drinks in the local pub.
Saturday started early with instruction on how to use the winches safely and how put the head sails on and hoist all sails. The sheer weight of each of the sails is phenomenal; it was hard enough to move them around the yacht whilst we were still tied up alongside the pontoon. It will be so much harder to do the same thing whilst bouncing around at sea. We also covered how to tack the yacht (change direction where the front of the yacht is turned through the wind so that the wind moves from one side of the yacht to the other), how to put a reef in the main sail (make it smaller if it gets windy) and the procedures to follow in case of a man overboard. After a quick lunch, followed by engine checks, it was time to sail out into the Solent and put some of the theory into practise. With wind speeds of around 10-12 knots, it was perfect weather for our first time out at sea.
Once out in the Solent, it was time to hoist the main sail and the two head sails. With a mast height of 81 feet, getting each of the sails to the top of the mast took a huge amount of effort. We then went through a series of tacks, putting reefs into the sail, shaking them back out and man overboard drills. We returned to the marina about 8pm, at which point it was time to tidy away the sails, make dinner, get showered and go for a drink if you could summon up the energy!
We spent all of Sunday at sea in the Solent and venturing a bit further afield around the Isle of Wight and consolidating the knowledge we had gained the previous day as well as learning how to gybe the yacht (similar to tacking, except the stern of the yacht passes through the wind). As there were 8 of us on board, and 8 jobs that needed doing during a tack, it was decided that we would do a series of 16 tacks – hard enough in a Laser dinghy, but so much more work on a 68 foot yacht! At any point, there could be a man overboard drill so we had to keep one eye out for that too. Whilst I was helming, the wind dropped to about 5 knots – not much to push a 40 tonne yacht through the water. Luckily, with my dinghy sailing experience, I managed to keep the boat moving through the water – after all, this was just a big dinghy with a few extra sails :). As we had completed all of our tacks, the skipper decided it was a perfect time to put up one of the new asymmetric spinnakers to see what they were like – we were warned that this would add an extra 45 minutes to the day as it would take that long to pack it away afterwards but there were no complaints!
The day finished with the stowing of all sails once we were back alongside the pontoon – at which point I got a lesson in how hard ‘The Ankle Breaker’ could bite…