14. On With The Motley

To continue post 12 where I was so suddenly cut off. Who was missing? George of course, here he is enjoying another outdoor sport.

You’ll be glad to see he is flying the flag for Clipper! Thankfully he didn’t damage any limbs so his berth is still safe on whichever yacht they assign him to.

There were over 200 applications for Race Skippers, of which only 11 are needed. We should know who they are and which ones will be looking after MBB in May, as well as the boat sponsors. For the first time this year there will be an Additionally Qualified Person (AQP) on each boat, all of whom are qualified to at least Yachtmaster Offshore. This is to improve safety for the crew, as last time one skipper injured himself seriously and had to be medevac’d by the Portuguese Coastguard. It’s on youtube but I can’t find it at the moment. This meant that they were on their own for a while. This happened previously when one skipper ended up looking after three yachts. Read “Team Spirit” by Brendan Hall for the full story.

What I did find is that the Crew Allocation Day was streamed live last year. If you are doing nothing important on May 11th this year, watch it to find out who George and John are sailing with. You may even see us in the audience if you watch carefully!

An indicative coastguard ship

The Coastguards around the world do great stuff, mostly in dangerous conditions. This instance used a helicopter to remove the skipper from the Ocean. Quite amazing. If you can find the video.

Back to January 19th. We found out there are five types of partners to Clipper. Team partners (the name on each yacht), team supporters (not us but local companies or organisations at each port), the Host Port Partner (could be the town, city, region etc), and the Fleet Partners / Official Suppliers, both of whom support the whole fleet not just one boat. At each stopover there will be activities the crew are expected to get involved in as part of the sponsorship.

We then heard about the clothing that will be given to crew. Those people at the event collected their jackets, here’s two more crew with theirs.

Musto were at the meeting with examples of the outer clothing for all to try on.  Some of the clothing will be bespoke to Clipper. I found out us supporters also get stuff! At the 2018 return to Liverpool we saw lots of “old” jackets from previous races, worn with great pride. Team kit is identical across the fleet, although each yacht has its own colours so watch out for the polo shorts and jackets of the team you decide to support once they’re on their way! Most of the clothing will be handed out either at Training Level 4 or when they join the boat for the race. There will be three short films by Musto to show you what’s worn in different climates. If you go to http://www.musto.com/en_GB/clippre-race-event.html you’ll see the full kit and some interesting articles, including Donna (in the photo above).

Many of the crew have personal charities they are supporting but the main Clipper one is Unicef, who hope to raise at least £300,000, which would make it over £1 million raised by Clipper whilst they’ve been supporting Unicef. it was suggested I could knit a woolly hat for each crew member and raise funds that way. Need to start now!

What do you think?

In addition to the four weeks training there are other courses the crew can take. More on these in another post. I’ll also be giving more details on how the race works.

13. Very superstitious

So the last post went out early on a cliff-hanger. You’ll have to wait for post 14 as I have to do superstitions for number 13. Sailors are apparently REALLY superstitious! Here are a few.


A is for Albatrosses (albatrossi?). It is exceedingly bad luck to kill an albatross. They carry the souls of dead sailors so you’d be shooting one of your own kind. Remember what happened to the Ancient Mariner?

Looks happy enough!

B is for Bananas. Don’t know why but they should not be allowed on board. Could be due to spiders hiding in the bunches, the fact that they go off so quickly and smell / taste horrid (and let off noxious gases) or who knows.

C is for Cats. You can see Tessa on the header.  Ideally you want a black cat for luck, she was grey (blue?) but the good news is she was polydactyl (extra toes) which apparently is super lucky. You can see them here on her front paws.

D is for Dates. Not the type you eat but in the calendar. You should not set sail on a Thursday (Thor’s day, you’ll have storms and thunder), Friday (Jesus was sacrificed then?), the first Monday in April (Cain slew Abel?) or the second Sunday in August (Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed?). If you’re really superstitious, the only good day to set sail is Sunday (presumably after you’ve been to church and asked for a good voyage). This is good news for us as in May we’re off for a sail on a Sunday. More in a later post…

D is also for Dolphins. It is good luck to have them swimming with you, and even if not lucky they are a lovely sight.

E is for Earrings. Preferably gold hoops. John must have known this as he gave me some for my birthday this year with lots of hoops. Maybe the hoop miraculously becomes a life belt if you go overboard. Gold is said to have healing powers, and if all else fails you can barter with them. (I read the other day that our RAF pilots are still issued with gold sovereigns when they fly over enemy territory so they can buy their way home. Honestly?? Anyone out there know if this is true or an urban myth?).

Plenty of hoops here

F is for Flowers. These are bad luck to bring on board. Obviously the crews on cruise ships are not superstitious as these vessels are always shown with loads.

A flower girl

G is for Girls. Well, women actually but I have another W. Despite the fact that women were often on board (and if they gave birth then a boy would be a “son-of-the-gun” on warships), we supposedly bring bad luck if on board. The picture above is doubly unlucky then. HOWEVER, naked women are OK and often figureheads on the bow. Hmmm…

H is for Hair. It is considered bad luck to cut or trim hair, beards and nails whilst at sea. So not only are MFB (see Post 02), going to be very smelly after a month with no shower facilities, they will be unrecognisable with long lanky hair, beards and witchy finger (and toe) nails. May be time to reconsider my travel plans and go elsewhere.

Business is slack.

Thankfully, there are some letters of the alphabet I can skip. If you know of any superstitions I’ve missed then we can add them at another time. Meanwhile, on we go.

M is for Mast. Specifically, if you attach a horseshoe to the mast it will calm storms. As does a bare-breasted woman on the bow of the boat. As long as you didn’t set sail on a Thursday. Or whistle (see below). Thing is, it’s often stormy at sea, just listen to the weather forecast.

R is for Red Sky. We all know the saying “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” obviously also for sailors. This is an indication of good weather coming from the West, so probably only applies to the Northern Hemisphere. There’s no one down under who is superstitious surely?

This red sky is in NZ

S is for Sharks. Unlike the friendly dolphins, sharks are Bad News. We’ve all seen “Jaws” after all and know they eat small boats. If you see one following your boat I guess you’d be pretty nervous anyway.

Shark attack!

T is for Tattoos. Oddly I have no photos of tattoos and I’m not planning on getting one just for this blog. They were the sign of a sailor, I seem to remember when I was young that only sailors had them (or maybe everyone else covered them up). Having the North Star means you’ll come home. Only applicable in the Northern Hemisphere again I think. There is a rumour that MFB will be getting one or more during or after the trip. All I ask is that they go to a reputable tattooist as you can become allergic to the dye used if it’s not done correctly and DIE (dying to die is the slogan used by one of my clients when I was working).

FINALLY, W is for Whistling. This may be good or bad luck depending what you need. If you are in the Doldrums and need some wind, whistling may help. On the other hand, you may whistle up a storm if there’s already a wind.  If you whistle for long enough one or other of these will probably happen on a round the world trip.

To end, here’s a more likely view of an albatross.

Next time, the mystery is solved and continuation of the Crew Briefing.

12. Brief Encounters

I know, you’ve not been able to sleep wondering about the crew briefing last Saturday. I’m afraid that all was not revealed although we did have a good day. You can see the crowds on the header, there were 240 crew and 150 supporters in attendance at Lords Cricket Ground.

The first thing everyone involved in the race was to pick up their soft-shell Musto jackets. Here’s John looking very proud.

They all wore them with pride, we could see from the back who was who (apart from us poor souls).

We did not manage to meet Keith (see his blog prettymuchallatsea for lots of good details on sailing) but Heather found us, I think she went round with her phone looking at all the men to see if they matched the photo George had sent her (they were on level two together). I have to confess that I said “oh, that looks like our kitchen” rather than “oh that looks like John”. Heather’s blog is dreamitnowdoit and that’s exactly what she’s doing. For me it was great to meet a landlubber in the same (non) boat, being left behind whilst they go off around the world. Mind you, everyone I talked to said they preferred the sound of my adventure (turn left on plane and check into five star hotels with nice bathrooms) than the rough and tough of the boats.

Heather and Darren and John

Before we even arrived, John got into the mood by buying a magazine we’ve never tried before.

Article on Wendy Tuck

So what did we learn on the day? Everyone can expect to have an injury at some time during the race, with luck not serious but enough to keep the “medics” on board busy.  Now there’s only 7 months left we all need to start focussing. This means KNOTS: Sir Robin said he goes round at each port with a piece of rope, if you can’t tie the knot he asks for you’re on the plane back home! The crew will end up not just sailors but all-round seamen.

Regarding the actual race route, it’s still being formalised. It will be roughly the same as last time with a UK start.  The start date is probably mid-August to early September depending on the ports chosen. As soon as destinations are known it will be posted on the Clipper website.

Leg 1 will have two races to South America, potentially two stopovers in South America or one in Europe and one in South America. It will be the first equator crossing so anyone who’s not done it before can expect to be involved in a ceremony appeasing the Gods (don’t know why, maybe I’ll do a bit of research and get back to you on this).

Leg 2 is one race to South Africa, most likely stopping at Cape Town. Leg 3 is one race to Freemantle and Leg 4 one race to the East Coast, port not yet confirmed. The fleet will NOT join the Sydney-Hobart race on Boxing Day (December 26th) as they’ve done the last few times.

Leg 5 is probably three races, across the top of the Philippines to Sanya, a short fast race to another port with a pit-stop then a short sprint to Zhuhai where there will be a longer stop and crew change for the leggers. Leg 6 is two races, to Qingdao (short but tough) then over to the West Coast of the USA (port not yet finalised).

Leg 7 follows down the West Coast to Panama, where the race finishes and the fleet meet up for the Panama Canal transit. They then race up to an as-yet-unknown port on the US East Coast. Finally, leg 8 is back to the UK, possibly consisting of two or three races with all ports to be confirmed.

A bit of light relief before more details: even though I did not get a supporter’s jacket (may suggest they create these?) I did have some very appropriate earrings in my collection that I wore for the day.

Racing earrings!

Back to the race. The fleet is currently in Gosport being refitted. Each yacht needs about eight weeks to be fully fitted: everything is ripped out, checked, serviced or replaced as necessary. This will take until June, in time for the Level Four training (racing in the right boat with the correct crew and skipper to get used to each other).  There is no need for anti-fouling as a copper coating was put onto the boats previously and this works well: in earlier races, someone would have to dive under the boat to remove all the barnacles and seaweed and mermaids trapped there.

Once this is done, all that is needed is fuel, water, gas, food and the crew. Talking of which, you may have noticed that someone is missing.

11. Winter Holiday

Continuing from the last post, we spent New Year in Valencia trying the local wines. Not quite yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, but plenty of casks!

We met (surprise, surprise) yet more yachting enthusiasts who will be watching our every move come August on (a) the Clipper round the world yacht viewer and (b) this blog (I hope).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

After that we came home for a couple of days to sober up before heading off to Marrakesh for my birthday treat.

It was a wonderful trip, very relaxing although those of you who know John know relaxation doesn’t come easily.

Just practicing.

I’m only glad that it wasn’t the sort of hotel where they unpack your bags for you, goodness only knows what they would have thought to see lengths of rope in his case. Even when he did sit down, he was able to find the most uncomfortable chair going!

Not much to find that relates to boats in Marrakesh so to end here’s a shot of me flying the flag for the official sponsors of Clipper clothing this year (I bought it in 2012) and of a boat we saw in Valencia which is not very watertight!

10a. It’s A Small Small World (2)

Another quick post before I get to the next one. As a hangover from my old day job, I have a big photocopier (not big as in floor-standing but bigger than you’d normally have). My contact came to check it over the other day. Not only is he into sailing, he has other clients who have sailed with Clipper AND have been sponsors.

Then, a day later, one of our pals in California who we plan to see on the trip (early 2020? we should know tomorrow) dropped me a line. He has recently moved to a new house which is at Dana Point, named after the chap who wrote “Two Years Before the Mast” as featured in post 10 earlier this week. Just looked up Dana Point, must be worth a visit: danapointharbour.com.

Not only that, but one of his family has a vineyard, sadly destroyed last year (or was it the year before?) but they are bringing it back to life. Another good reason to visit!

Cheers! And hello to two new followers!

10. Deck the Hulls

So Christmas has been and gone and here we are in 2019, all ready for the off. Needless to say, Christmas was somewhat nautically themed.  First, the cake:

I know it’s not beautiful blue seas but it’s probably nearer what they’ll see. I suspect the underwater creatures are not that accurate either in such a sea. Unfortunately the colour of the sea presaged a storm:

One poor boat dismasted totally! You may note that there are only ten; the eleventh is obviously the one John is sailing in and has made it to port already. I’m happy to say that the remainder were unaffected by the storm and made it safely into our mouths, oops, into harbour.

Then the tree. Unfortunately I didn’t get a decent photo but I had bought a dozen or more (remotely) Clipper-related baubles (Santa in a boat, dolphin, anchor which I managed to break!, mermaid tail, penguins, tin of sardines etc). Here’s one:

Then the presents. First from the family there were boats:

There were books on sailing which are to be swapped between them (Team Spirit about a previous Clipper race,  the 1840 classic Two Years Before the Mast and another that seems to be a thriller along Riddle of the Sands lines but I’ve forgotten the title!). We have ALL the Swallows and Amazons (doesn’t every house?) and ROTS already. There was one useful thing (two actually if you count the pack of wet wipes):

An identical watch for both from Gill (other makes are available). I went onto http://www.boats.com and researched the best watches for sailing. Didn’t want to spend silly money as they will undergo some rough treatment, but wanted something that has a chance of lasting the incredible journey. This one has a countdown timer with sync, alarm and alerts. I’m sure they’ll be useful.

Then, a bit of a competition for them, although they didn’t get to do this over Christmas (and someone has not yet even opened the box):

Here’s the finished article which took about 2 hours I’m told.

But just to prove it wasn’t all boats, here is another present:

A clarification to the last post: there ARE three Yankee sails on a Clipper but they are only used one at a time, depending upon the size required.

Coming up next: either more landlubber guff or details of the Clipper Crew Briefing happening on Saturday 19 January. Depends when I next get some free time.