Began with a few drinks and a sea of red jackets…
On the Friday night I met with some of my level 1 & level 3 crew and tried not to drink too much in the knowledge that I had a full day of hotel meetings to follow. Unbelievably after 35 years I actually managed to have a night out, with a large group, in a pub, and not drink too much. I think I was even in bed before midnight – I must be getting old and sensible!
The UK was a popular place at the end of April, many people had flown in from round the world to tie in their level 1, 2 or 3 training with crew allocation and I believe a few had popped over for the Royal Wedding! There were over 300 of us in Southampton for the weekend. The Wedding drew a slightly larger crowd of around 1 million. Now a million people is a lot to co-ordinate but no excuses, they weren’t quite up to our standards of coordinated clothing! (see the piccie below!)
I was much more excited and nervous than I expected to be at the prospect of finding out who my crew and skipper were going to be for a year. Initially I had thought that it didn’t really matter and that I’d be happy to be on any boat with any skipper and any crew but as time went on and I got to know the skippers better, made friends during training and thought about the prospect of there being a Scottish boat, it began to matter a lot more, especially the Scottish boat. I would have found it really hard to see a Scottish boat come into port with a Saltire and the crew wearing kilts and not be part of it.
We sat through a number of presentations during crew allocation. I’m sure no one really took them in as we were all focused on which boat we were on and who we’d be sailing with. I only remember a few key points; the race will last 12 months instead of 11 (it would have been nice to know this before hand as for some of us – well me! – this has a bearing on whether or not I will get my work sabbatical, we will leave Eastern Australia on the 24th December – Christmas day at sea! and that there would be a Scottish boat – woo hoo! Now all I had to do was hope I was on it. The minute the skippers got up to announce their crew the tension in the room rose a bit higher. Gordon Reid, the skipper for boat CV1 got up first, he is Scottish and lo and behold he was to be the skipper for Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. The crew names were called out in alphabetical order so I had to wait a while to see if I was on the boat. Yet again, I was surprised at how tense I felt and how much I wanted to be on the Scottish boat. I had put in a request for it but with so many permutations and requests to manage it was never guaranteed, so I had to sit through the A’s, B’s C’s etc until it came to the R’s and my name wasn’t on the list. I watched the rest of the names come up with a bit of doom and gloom and wondered what boat I’d end up on, until, the second last name on the list wasn’t in alphabetical order and neither was the last name – mine – I’d made it, I was on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. I’ve never been so happy to be associated with Edinburgh in my life (there is a bit of a friendly rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh).
I watched happily as the rest of the crew were allocated to boats and skippers, eagerly awaiting to see where the friends I’d made from levels 1,2 and 3 were being placed. It amazed me that there were so many names on the allocations list that I didn’t know. After 3 weeks of training and meeting numerous people I thought I’d met quite a percentage of the Clipper population but it seems not, there are many more yet to meet!
We moved from the main room into breakout groups with our new skipper and crew. Another highlight for me was that on the Edinburgh boat were the transplant tag team including Jussie, as I’ve mentioned before, it’ll be a real privilege to sail with her. The only other crewmember I knew was Cath from my level 1 training, the rest are all strangers. It’s odd to think that I’ve made some great friends on training and that we’re not all on the same boat, but one of the benefits of doing the whole race is that I’ll see everyone again whereas for some others who are just doing legs, this is perhaps the last time they’ll ever see each other, even although they are all part of this race and may even be sailing on the same boat but just on different legs.
The rest of the afternoon was spent listening to the Skipper’s inaugural speech (sadly done competing over the voice of the Ozzie skipper due to us being in the same room, I’m not quite sure why we all ended up in the same room and some of the crews having briefings in the corridors, but I’m sure Clipper had their reasons and whatever they were, they didn’t share them with us!) and introducing ourselves to our new crew mates then off down to the marina for the official team photos. There is a lovely lady called Karen on my boat, she is the only other female round the worlder on Edinburgh (there are only about 20 women in total dong the full circumnavigation across all the boats) so I expect we will end up getting to know each other quite well and share our female dilemmas of tampax and mascara (perhaps that’s just me!).
Once all our photos had been taken we retired to the nearest bar like a group of freshers. Pints disappeared rather quickly as people mingled with their new crew and old friends from training. I felt a bit sorry for people who were there to have a quite drink, as they became swamped by excited people all sporting the same jacket! In true student style, dinner ranged from bar snacks and chocolate to curries or chips or no dinner at all ‘eating’s cheating’! My splendidly responsible behavior the previous night came to a swift end as I moved from wine to shots and was still drinking in the hotel bar at 2am – a few drinks turned into a lot of drinks in a sea of red jackets.