37. Be Prepared!

Nothing to do with the Tom Lehrer song of the same name, but go and give it a listen if you want a laugh (depending upon your sense of humour). I promised last time to let you know what MBB were up to. The header to this post is Suhaili berthed in Gosport, the boat that started it all 50 years ago. (Most of these pictures have been provided by John and George’s crew mates so if anyone wants to claim copyright just shout at me). This is the last week before the current Clipper fleet set off for London. They’ve been racing each other in Training Level 4 over the last couple of months (unofficially, so no results posted). They all know how they’re placed though! George was there last week, he says Qingdao was winning at one stage then hit a wind hole and finished 10th. Here he is before then I guess.

There is a management saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. None of the Clipper crew are prepared to fail. After George’s level 4 he stayed on to start preparing the fleet (well, maybe only Qingdao, we don’t want to give the opposition any help do we?). Officially “prep week” started on Saturday 10th August. All RTW’ers and those crew embarking on Leg 1 to Punta del Este are encouraged to go and get the boats ready. As they’ve been racing, all rigging (bits of rope and steel that you see all over the boat) and sails need to be replaced. Everyone with a role will have extra training. I don’t think I’ve told you about the different roles people have, I’ll check and make that another post if not. John is Medical Assistant on Unicef and George Social Secretary on Qingdao. John had a couple of days earlier in July learning about what he may need to do, such as hand out sticking plasters or contact Praxes, the official supplier of 24/7 remote medical advice. They will also be at each stopover providing support if needed. More on that and other official suppliers at a later date if there’s no room here. Gosh, there’s so much to say and so little time suddenly!


The main item on this week’s agenda is victualing, pronounced more like “vit’ling” than the spelling. This is getting all the food for 22 people for almost a month stowed on board. I’m not sure how long they will have fresh food, but I know from a phone call with George that they have bread mixes so that’ll be pretty fresh. I’m useless at making bread so let’s hope John becomes an expert over the next year. This must be a major job as it’s taking place all week (vit’ling, that is, not bread making!). Possibly two or three boats a day rather than a free-for-all every day.

Where’s our grub?

Various members of the crew get specialist training as well as the medical training that John did last month: Garmin navigation equipment, Media Crew, Sail repairs with Hyde Sails, Spinlock life jackets, Marlow ropes, Engineering, Fundraising co-ordinators with Unicef and Sat-comms. I think every boat has two crew attend the training then they’ll pass onto the others what they need to know (like how to put your life jacket on). In addition to this and the victualing (which I want to spell with two “l”s but this site KEEPS CORRECTING IT!) there are sails and rigging being issued and race start briefing. Fundraising is going well, as I type the whole fleet has raised over £77,500 with the Unicef crew hitting their target before they have even set sail.

John in his element

If you go onto the Clipper website they have the complete race details there. Notice of Race (the official details), Sailing Instructions (how the whole race is controlled with forms to show they’ve not broken the rules or incurred penalty points by, for example, losing a sail) and Course Instructions (how each leg is controlled, not yet posted on the website). There’s a one page form to be completed before they can race. This confirms that they (consider they) have enough food and water, all equipment is working, they’ve practiced their MOB drill, everyone knows what they’re doing etc. There’s a six page form of which charts and publications they’re taking, the intended route with distances and timings planned, when they’re likely to leave with weather forecasts for the first three days and any weather or navigational issues they could encounter, ports of refuge, exclusion zones and who is on board. At the end of each race they’ve got two 12 page checklists of all safety and rig checks. I’d be in my element with all these forms!

On Friday they all leave for a relaxing weekend (?), then on Monday MBB go back to start sailing on Tuesday, bringing them around to St Katherine’s Dock. If you’re in the area 22nd August (Thursday afternoon) at 5.30 you could stop by and see them come in. I’m planning on being there.

Some of the fleet

There are only 18 days left to September 1st and I still haven’t knitted enough beanies! Back to work…

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