Level 4 was the first time that actually sailing round the world seemed quite real. I spent the week with some of the people who will actually be the crew on the Edinburgh boat along with Gordon our skipper. The week was split in two, a few days in the Solent practicing drills then all the boats racing for 3 days along the coastline of England, over to France and back.
I’d picked this week for level 4 because we’d get to sail on the longest day of the year, as it turned out we saw no sunrise or sunset due to the weather being overcast and windy. We had plenty of wind all week, enough to make our race quite interesting at some points and to test the old sails to the limit and beyond in some cases. We ripped our mainsail one evening. Our on-board sewing genius Margaret spent most of the wee small hours stitching it back together. The sails will be retired at the end of sailing and we’ll get a full new sail wardrobe (get me!) for the race.
In the first couple of days we practiced towing other boats, an accident on board and some boat-to-boat transfers. We moored of The Isle of Wight for the first couple of nights on a mooring boy not too far from our Official start line. Although we slip lines from Southampton, the actual start line is outside the Royal Yacht Squadron IOW. Crossing that line was one of the weeks reality checks for me, in a year I will be crossing it again having sailed round the world, given that I still don’t rally know my arse from my elbow on a boat it’s quite a daunting thought. This was also the first week I’d actually worn my race oilskins. You need to be Houdini to get in and out of them and allow yourself a good 10minutes extra when you need the toilet. On the upside faffing around in and out of them does help warm you up when you’re cold and they are fantastic at keeping the wind off and the rain out.
A few other highlights of the week were; Helming in strong winds – it’s a real buzz driving a 68foot boat full of crew, with lots of sail, strong winds and big waves. I can only imagine it might be like driving an F1 car round Silverstone. Racing with all the other boats for 3 days – again, a real insight to the race, seeing all the other boats around us made me realise quite how big these boats are and how I was actually going to be taking part in a yacht race, just like the ones you see on TV (naive, I know, given that this is what I’d signed up for, you’d have thought I’d have realised that by now). Having Anne make us all lunch including fresh scones whilst we were racing round a mark in a force 9 wind and big seas – this is what the race will really be like, whilst the crew on deck are working like mad to keep us in the race, there will be people down below coping with the violent boat motion, dodging all the cups/jars/plates/containers etc that are being flung around inside the boat and trying to make lunch for 18 people at the same time with only one small surface to work on that keeps changing it’s angle!
The best bit thought was honestly the people. I feel very lucky to be sailing with such a great team. Here’s a little introduction to them below:-
Mike our quiet maths teacher and Janet who is just amazing on the helm.
Keith (RTW) and Gordon were fantastic helping me helm. Gordon would encourage me to get on the helm then Keith would stand with me giving some advice on which way to steer.
Martyn, our oldest crew member, although you’d never know. Alex one of our surgeons and Marcus our boat finances manager.
Barry (RTW) our Bosun, he spent most of the week not only being fantastic at sailing but fixing all sorts of things. David, a lecturer.
Margaret our sail repair queen.
Nick another RTWer, in real life he’s a marketer.
David, Martyn, Anne our food planner extraordinare and Me