22. Sitting on The Dock of The Bay

THIS is the post you should have had before I went doolally about you-know-what yesterday. Although I do rather fancy having an Independence Day BBQ, if only we knew when (if?) Independence Day will be.

Today you will be learning about the Arrival and Activation Windows and more. I know I said we didn’t want no education but I can change my mind can’t I? No-one can take over my blog!

So there we landlubbers are, sitting around looking out to sea to see whether our loved ones are on the horizon.

I see no ships

Sarah, the Clipper Race Manager, gave us a taste of what will happen at each port when she spoke at the January meeting. As each leg generally has more than one stop I’m not sure if this applies to every stop or just each leg-end. At this stage I’m also not sure if I’m just going to go to each leg-end or to the other stops too. For example, Leg 1 from somewhere in the UK to somewhere in South America is currently reported to make up two races and three ports, i.e. there is an interim stop, which may be in either (mainland) Europe or South America before the end of the leg. Probably I’ll pick and choose where to go, because I can.

A ship!

The back up for the yachts is about four shipping containers that travel around the world to each port with the maintenance crew from Clipper. They need to be in place before the boats arrive as they have all the publicity banners, support staff, replacements bits of kit etc. Therefore, the arrival window for MBB is not an absolute date. If the containers get delayed there could be an extra local race to keep The Eleven busy or they may just hang around out at sea until the support staff are ready for them. In addition, each yacht will have taken a different time to cross from the start to the finish and may have hit delays. We don’t have a pretty picture of them all arriving together as happened at Liverpool last year (when they were “held” outside until the tide was just so then raced in for the last few miles). The arrival window could be three or more days.

Liverpool 2018 finish

We could be lucky and John or George arrive in the first boat, or they could be tail-end Charlies. Many years ago when we had a holiday on the canals in England and Wales, I drove to meet John at one marina and waited and waited. Eventually out of the gloom I heard an engine then saw a light. He was hours late having left his wallet in the pub at lunch time. You can’t easily turn a canal barge around so he’d had to run along the tow-path back to the pub then to where he’d moored the barge. At least I know that won’t happen this time, although I am being softened up for waiting. When he originally signed up it was “no more than a month between ports”, then five weeks and last weekend I heard him say to someone that the longest leg is six weeks. I’ve just gone onto the Clipper website and (nominal) days at sea vary from 18 days (Leg 2) to 38 days (Leg 7). Anyway, I’ll be quite happy waiting on the quayside with my pals and a glass of wine.

Waiting patiently

At each port they schedule in 7-10 days. These are not days off. First the sailors will be greeted by Clipper staff then taken away for immigration, photos and interviews with local press and the Clipper media team. We the supporters will not be able to be with them during this, but I’m not too upset at that. Someone else can have the pleasure of being the first to smell them after at least three weeks at sea! The yacht (as well as the crew) will need a Deep Clean. This takes on average three days until they become experienced, when it may be possible to do it in only one day. Don’t forget though that each leg has new crew who are not going all the way “around the world”.

When exactly a yacht docks can depend upon the port, as they may have other things going on or may not want boats motoring in any time of day or night. The crew will have to take the sails down and put them away then get themselves looking good for motoring in to their berth. There may be a Welcome Ceremony, depending on the port and its sponsors.

Motoring in

The immigration and custom requirements vary with each country but Clipper staff sort out as much as they can beforehand to minimize delays. At the end of the arrival window, with luck after all the boats have made it safely to port, is prize-giving. As previously stated, there are pennants for first, second and third places and other occasions such as Social Spirit (see Post 19). After this the crew are free to go off and shower and have a beer and see their loved ones (not necessarily in this order). I think partying is the order of the day:

Not quite a sailor’s hornpipe

The activation window lasts for several days, on average two we were told. However, I forgot to write down exactly what happens in this period, oops. I THINK it’s when the crew have to meet their obligations of corporate activities, showing people around the boat, maybe taking sponsors off for a day’s sailing etc. At each port a couple of the boats will be “open” for visitors, and at each port there will be sponsors of a particular yacht or of the port. I’ll tell you more about sponsors some other time, when we know who most of them are.

The most important part of each stopover will be maintenance. After the deep clean, where everything that moves is moved and cleaned, there will probably still be the need to repair things. As far as possible crew will do running repairs at sea in order to not lose any advantages they have, but some will not be possible and need to wait until parts are brought in. Before they set off again, there will be preparation for the new race: provisioning the boats, getting the new crew members settled, crew and team briefings, and tactics the Skipper wants to follow for the next race. This all happens on the last day before they set sail, which will be a set date. After that I can go off for my next adventure.

All of this means that the crew may not see much of their supporters, depending upon when they arrive in port and what needs doing to the boat. Some crew can decide to stay on the boat whilst in port but I am expecting John and George to sleep in comfortable beds for the duration, even if they are busy all day, so I can at least spend a couple of hours over dinner with them.

Next time: maybe some details on the training MBB have had and will be undertaking before they set off. I don’t think I’ve given you this information yet. There are also Clipper updates I’ve not shared, you can either go to the Clipper website or the blog prettymuchallatsea where Keith gives more technical stuff in greater detail than I intend to.