Top tips for level two clipper race training are at the bottom of this post. x
In this post I cover what you can expect from your level 2 Clipper Race training… this is how mine went.
For the week we had Skipper Chris, and first mate Chris (a twice Skipper of the RTW race). Some of my level one training crew mates had booked on to this level two week of Clipper Race Training, so there were a few of us that already knew each other, which was really nice. Clipper don’t really encourage/like this though apparently, and it’s kind of understandable as it can cause clique’s to form, and can stop people really mixing. So… we were split up! 3 from my level one were put on one boat and 3 on another. Which worked out really nicely as it did mean that we made lots of new friends, and also there was a competitive spirit between our boat and the rival Clipper training boat.
Day 1 – RYA Sea Survival training – full details of the day are here. Pool and classroom day. Over night at Gosport (including cheeky trip to the pub). Access to showers 🙂
Day 2 – Boat briefing in the morning, reminding us of key skills learnt on level 1. I say reminding very loosely… most of us had forgotten everything! We then set off for a short day sail around the Solent. Overnight back in Gosport.
Seasickness… And Big Seas
Day 3 – Prepping the boat and practising MOB. The weather looked like it was coming in, but we were eager to head out… so head out we did. And in our sights, we had the Channel Islands. Alas as we rounded the Isle of Wight the swell got larger and the clouds got darker, the wind started to pick up and frothy white caps started to appear. We decided to carry on. Our ‘competing’ level two boat, thought better of it, and headed back to Gosport. They were wiser than us. Clearly. After about 20 – 30 mins sea sickness started to take the crew down one by one.
My comrades started to pale, and the smiles vanished. and then the words came “I’m just popping down below for a bit”. Everyone knew what those fateful words meant. They meant that we would not see that person again for a very long time. The boat was rocking, the waves were crashing and it was nearly dark. Our skipper and first mate, agreed that as there were still four of us on deck that we should continue our voyage.
Two more people disappeared down the hatch. And by 8pm it was just myself, the first mate and a crew member (Peter) from my level one up on deck. Our first mate was at the helm, Peter and I were in the snake pit, and in a split second Peter turned his head and promptly welcomed his lunch back on to the deck. Without saying a word, he carried on tidying and sorting ropes, all the while getting absolutely soaked and clearly he must have been feeling very ill. What an amazingly strong man!
Miracles of miracles I was the only person aboard not feeling ill. I was wearing seabands, and had also popped a pill before we set off. And I am sure that that’s what protected me.
9pm, I took the helm and by this point we’d made the decision to head back to a safe haven on main land. It was pitch pitch black. The waves were crashing. There was just myself, Peter and our mate on deck. I was struggling to steer the boat with the boat getting thrown all over the place, crashing in to huge waves, as the next sprayed all over the deck and then falling in to huge ‘wave holes’. I was clinging to the helm for dear life, smiling inside, but all the while thinking ‘please don’t capsize’ and questioning whether I was really qualified enough to be at the helm of this huge boat in such a storm. There was the occasional groan from below deck, and I did really really feel for my crew mates. I was more than aware of the carnage down stairs, and how ill people were feeling, but there was little I could do to steady the boat. I was just trying to keep the course, and get us there safely and quickly.
10.15pm and we were now sailing in a force 8/9 in the pitch black. Something none of us had experienced before. I was still clinging to the helm for grim life, and with that BAM!!!! We plough straight in to a massive wave which crashes over the bow, fills the snake pit, washes Peter (who was on his hands and knees) along the deck, and then crashes over me and knocks me completely off my feet. The tether pulled tight, but ouch, I could certainly feel that impact. I re-took the helm as quickly as possible, surveying quickly for any damage and checking everyone was ok. Our mate shouted below to check that the rest of the crew were alright, and a couple of weary yes’s came back. Pots and pans, and bits and bobs were everywhere, and there was watery vomit sloshing back and forth.
20 or so minutes later and the winds calmed as we approached our destination, Weymouth. Finally. Gradually one by one my training crew mates started to re-appear on deck, the smiles returned and their colour came back. Now to put the sails away!
Battered, bruised, soaked and exhausted we had to flake the mainsail and put her to bed, followed by the stay sail, and Yankee.
An 8am start, breakfast and re-counting what the hell happened to us last night we then set off, with MOB drills a plenty. Getting in to the watch system. I head below deck for some much needed sleep in the afternoon. Only to be woken 30 mins later to shouts of a MOB.
As I’m below deck, I know that I must stay there. So as not to crowd the deck. I don some wet weather gear just in case though, and await my orders. With that the sail locker/ghetto/bedroom hatch opens and I glimpse frantic cold wet faces up on deck juggling halyards and our body ‘Ruth’- Ruth is duly winched down to me, so I can ready her on to the hospital bunk, and whoosh the content of her boots empty over me and my bunk. Perfect. But at least she’s saved. And all is well. A nice MOB completed in 12.5 minutes.
We sail in the Weymouth area, practising drills and exercises, and finally drop anchor offshore. And then it is the joys of Anchor watch.
Cold, wet and dark. 2 by 2 you sit on deck for 2 hours at a time checking pilots, looking for big ships, and discussing the meaning of life. The stars are incredible, the big ships are incredible, and the company is pretty good too. The hot drinks and cake at the end of a shift also help.
The watch system continues, and we set off in the direction of Gosport. Practising our racing head sail changes, we are a busy crew. The off watch aren’t impressed, as they try to sleep in the sail locker, with us in and out, hatch open, hatch closed. It is not an easy life on-board a Clipper yacht. But if it was easy, then everyone would do it. And if everyone didn’t, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun.
By evening we head back in to Gosport. The other level 2 boat think we were crazy for our night in the storm. So do we. But it was very exciting!
A quick drill on further nav station operations, and more training on various elements of general navigation, charts and plotting.
Then we head out and play with sails, and our spinnaker in the Solent. There were quite a few boats about and as such we quickly learnt a lot about the impact of other boats in terms of creating wind holes! Note to self: Do not fly the kite when there are other boats about, or you shall forever be trimming.. and shouting… and getting shouted at.
Time to deep clean the boat. Everyone’s least favourite part of the week. A few hours later, we are done. It’s de-brief time. And then time for a final beverage before heading home.
Top tips for level 2:
- Sea sickness seems to be the norm. Most level two crews seem to get struck down due to the off shore routes taken. Be prepared. Don’t try and ‘be a man’ – take the pills, and take them early (like before you even set off), wear sea bands and eat ginger nuts!
- Turn up well rested. The watch system is exhausting.
- Mix your crew up. Having some level one people there is lovely, but definitely make new friends too.
- Read your wet notes from level 1 before you come, and read your level 2 crew notes on the online manual. It means that half the knowledge will be in your head before you step aboard.
- Take food to your RYA sea survival course – when they say there is no food, there really is no food. Take extra food, and you will make new friends quickly!
- Knee Pads – I forgot, and I really shouldn’t have after the state of my knees from L1.
Look me up on twitter @SheWhoSails and let me know how your L2 or any other training is going.
Want to hear more Level 2 race training stories? Read about Chris Harris and how his level 2 training went for the 15/16 race here.