One of my lovely Clipper training crew mates (@CHarrisTweeting) recently completed his level 2 Clipper Race training and kindly shared an update with permission to re-post. Chris is going to be joining the 15/16 race which is currently off the coast of Australia. He is doing leg 5, racing from Australia to Qingdao, and will be onboard the Da Nang Vietnam boat.
Here is his summary of what you can expect from your level 2 Clipper Race training…
Firstly, we were lucky enough to once again sail with a great bunch of people. This time the crew were all competing in this year’s race and included the Olympic Silver Medalist for Badminton (Nathan Robertson) and a journalist for the Telegraph/BBC (Simon Parker). We expect to be sailing with the same people again for our Level 3.
Below is a summary of our training week, but please note that things may well be different for when you complete your level 2 so it is best to follow any instructions that Clipper sent out to you closer to the time. Please forgive the stream of consciousness that follows…
The training began with a “sea survival” course at a local school, which consisted of classroom-based learning (listening to a power point presentation) in the morning followed by an afternoon in the swimming pool (wearing a t-shirt and swim stuff). The afternoon session focussed on how to get into a life-raft (in the hopefully unlikely event that we would need to).
We stayed on the boat in the marina that night which meant we had the opportunity to use showers etc. The following morning (Sunday), we went over some of the skills that we learnt on Level One and did a dry run through of the Man Overboard exercise.
Around lunchtime, we headed out to sea and did not return until Wednesday evening. We initially all worked together as a large group, but by the Sunday evening, we had been split into two “watches” and generally worked 4-hour shifts. (For example, my watch did the 12midnight – 4am shift, then 8am – 12noon shift, then 4pm – 8pm shift and so on…). On one day this was varied so that we each did a 6-hour shift to ensure that we could catch up with jobs on the boat, like cleaning the heads(!) etc…
Sailing for this extended period meant that we were able to sail across to France – I have to be honest and let you know that on the first night quite a few people were seasick and it was very difficult to get around the boat. (I swear that this had nothing to do with the Chicken Noodles that I cooked that evening…) 😉
Cooking was certainly more of a challenge and sometimes you might need to use the strop near to the cooker to avoid slipping when the boat is tacking. I found washing up more of a challenge due to looking down at swilling water leading to feelings of nausea. For this reason, I would encourage minimising the amount of washing up as possible – for example, drinking out of water bottles as much as possible.
Some people did miss their watch due to the debilitating nature of seasickness. Of those who were seasick, almost everybody was ok again after 24 hours – this may have had something to do with the sea conditions improving but we were also told that people generally do get over it after a while.
The top tip that we were given to avoid seasickness is to minimise the amount of time that you are standing below deck in rough sea conditions. Quite often, I just got out of my foulies as quickly as possible and went to lay on my bunk straight away; by following this approach, I was generally ok. I also mastered the habit of keeping my boots in the salopettes (when taking them off) so that they were easier to slip on when I had to get up. I didn’t really change clothing for the duration of Sunday through to Wednesday – fortunately merino wool doesn’t smell, or at least my crew mates did not complain to me!
In terms of the sailing evolutions and skills that we completed during the week, this included a lot more tacking, gybing, reefing, shaking out a reef, racing headsail changes etc and sometimes this was done in the dark. It’s a good idea to have a head torch if possible but please remember not to look at the helmsman when the light is shining as this can put them off. We were generally lucky in that there was a full moon (but fortunately no werewolves) and this made seeing in the dark quite easy. However, it is still difficult to distinguish between colours and ropes were quite often not where you expected them to be. A key lesson we learned from this is that preparation is key prior to carrying out an evolution.
The boat layout was similar but there were some differences in terms of what was available and where things were located. For example, we had a bread oven, the hobs worked without using a knife to hold in the dials and we didn’t need to use a piece of string on the gimble! More seriously, the boat hook was in a different location (which was important for the man overboard exercise).
We were encouraged to fill in the ship’s log book on a regular basis and to plot the boat’s position on the chart – I quite enjoyed this aspect as it demonstrated the power and influence of the tides and winds etc.
By the end of the week, we were mostly feeling pretty tired as you might expect and I personally felt pretty dehydrated, which demonstrates the importance of drinking water on a regular basis even if you are not feeling thirsty. Despite this, we were in the mood to celebrate one of our crew mate’s birthdays on the last day with some birthday cake and we went to Hardy’s on our last night for a crew meal. Some of the more hardcore of the group made it to one of Gosport’s premier nightspots (QDs) where I am reliably informed that the capacity was doubled once our crew had entered!
The last day was spent with another deep-clean, which was a bit quicker now that we had had experience of carrying one out before (and there were no flies to deal with this time)! Someone went up the mast again and we were away by about 2pm.
In summary, it level 2 was a challenging week, but I will be carrying on and it will be nice to have some time to revise some of the evolutions and knots before the next level of Clipper Race training!