September – The Adventure Begins

Today is the 1st of September. I associate September with the end of summer, which never really arrived again this year. This is a time when week night racing comes to an end and sailing and other on the water activities are confined to the weekends as the evenings get shorter. Closing day for racing is only a week away followed by a whole month to wait before the Icebreaker sailing series gets going once more to take racing through to Easter next year.

Things will be different this year, as September sees the start of my Level 1 training in preparation for the Clipper Round the World race that starts next July. I will be swapping my 14 foot Laser Radial dinghy for 60 – 68 foot racing yacht and learning the basics of sailing again. Tacking or gybing one of these bigger boats (turning the boat through the wind) takes a bit more effort than the same manoeuvres on the Laser, and should result in less swimming (falling overboard from a dinghy – ok; falling overboard from a yacht – not so good).

The first week of training focusses on developing crewing skills and introduces the basic principles of sailing and seamanship as well as teaching personal safety techniques. There is a lot to learn – the pre-course reading contains over 46 pages of information including knots I need to know (I am hoping my dinghy instructor training might kick in shortly so I have one less thing to remember :)). I am really looking forward to learning how to sail a ‘big boat’ but am slightly more apprehensive about other aspects such as producing something edible for other crew members as we will all have to share the cooking and cleaning duties as well as sailing the boat.

I suspect that the one of the biggest challenges of the week will actually be learning to live and work on board a boat at sea with a group of strangers, some of whom will have sailed extensively before whilst for others it could be their first ever week aboard a yacht. Now might be the time to get hold of a copy of the book by Dale Carneige called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ – developing patience and tolerance skills will no doubt be as essential as sailing, safety and seamanship skills!

Signed up for Leg 1

I attended a crew presentation in Derry-Londonderry whilst the Clipper fleet were there on a stopover at the start of July. Whilst at the presentation, I met up with a few other people who were considering applying, but were wrestling with the same issues that I was (and I suspect are common across the vast majority of the people taking part). These issues include how to go about funding this dream as it is a pretty big financial commitment and worries about how to deal with being in a confined space with 20 strangers and the conflicts that will inevitably arise. When you are on a 70 foot yacht in the middle of an ocean, there is nowhere to hide.

A good friend Sandra attended the presentation with me. She had been tasked with one job; her sole purpose on the 90 minute drive home was to dissuade me from applying. Well, that was a spectacular failure on her part – and she is usually my voice of reason! After twenty minutes of silence on the drive back, I had to remind Sandra of her duty – at which point she turned to me and told me that she just couldn’t even try and persuade me not do sign up for the race.

On race start day, I drove back up to Derry-Londonderry, handed in my application form and had my interview (more like a chat over a cup of tea thank goodness and not a job interview :)). I had the added bonus of watching the Clipper yachts leaving the pontoon to start their next race to Holland before going surfing at Portrush that had been the original plan for the weekend!

I have signed up for the first leg of the race, from England to Brazil, but am hoping that I can raise additional funds so that I can stay on the boat. Any fund raising ideas would be extremely welcome!

On board a Clipper yacht

When the Clipper fleet visited Derry-Londonderry last week, I took the chance to visit the city, attend a crew presentation and get on board on of the yachts. The Geraldton Western Australia boat was open for visitors; a number of the current crew were conducting guided tours… and making sure that there were no stowaways (not sure what gave them that impression and to be honest I’m not sure there would have been any place to hide!)

Thanks go to Matthew and Norman from the Geraldton crew for an insight into their current adventure.

Afterwards, there was time to visit some of the sights that Derry-Londonderry has to offer. The city was buzzing from all the visitors, there was music in the street and the sun shone occasionally. Whilst visiting the tourist information office, I asked if I was there to take a tour on the LegenDerry Roadtrain – so I jumped at the chance to see a bit more of the city. The train reminded me of the tourist trains I had ridden on as a kid in various towns in France – I never expected to see one in Derry-Londonderry or Northern Ireland!

And then the sun came out (something of note after weeks of rain and overcast weather). I took a walk over the Peace Bridge into Ebrington Square; once an army parade ground it has been transformed into a public space and there were a number of open air concerts taking place in the square as part of the Clipper Homecoming Festival. It was a great place to sit, drink tea and look back over the river towards the city centre.