As of September 1st, The Clipper Round the World Race has begun and, unfortunately, I’m already behind on my updates. So I’ve devised a way of recording and posting snapshots of my experiences on the race to give you, my readers, a picture of what it’s like to sail, race, maintain and live aboard the twelve 70-foot Clipper Racing Yachts that are competing against each other in 8 Legs that will take them in a full circle around the world starting in London, UK.
Since I am transmitting these updates via satellite phone, text and images must be kept to a minimum to keep the cost of transmission affordable. So I’ll be posting fairly frequent but succinct updates while I’m at sea on Legs 1 and 3 of the race.
In the meantime, here’s a little picture of what it was like to deliver Clipper Yacht CV21, Henri Lloyd, from Gosport to London for the start of the race.
After six hours of motoring through the industrial landscape that lines the Thames River, The Millennium Dome appears around a bend and marks the start of what finally feels like the beginning of the Clipper Round the World Race.
14 Henri Lloyd crew members, some of whom are round-the-world racers, and others who are doing just one or two legs, are taking pictures of each other posing on the bow with some of London’s most famous landmarks in the background like the Shard, the Gherkin and, of course, Tower Bridge.
Like me, many of the crew have been preparing for this race for more than a year, so arriving to London on our branded race boats feels like the culmination of months of stress…even though the race has yet to begin. After what seems like countless training laps sailing around the Solent, I seem to have forgotten that at some point Clipper Race Training will end and the actual race will begin. Sailing into London is a reminder that, despite how it feels, this is just the beginning.
As the Tower Bridge grows larger, looming over the bow of our black and yellow boat, cheers are heard from the crowds lining the Thames River to watch our entrance to St. Katharine’s Docks. And it dawns upon me that I am about to race 5,100 miles to Brazil via France (Leg 1) and roughly 5,000 miles from South Africa to Australia (Leg 3).
I’m feeling simultaneously grateful to have this opportunity and anxious about the unknowns of this journey.
“We’re thinking of changing Clipper’s strap line from ‘Raced By People Like You’ to ‘Built By People Like You’” Ryan jokes as sweat mixes with the sawdust glued to his neck. He is using a hacksaw to cut through pieces of plywood on the docks.
Unlike my boat, Henri Lloyd, which has been in the water for at least six weeks, Ryan’s boat, PSP Logistics, was launched just three days ago. Which means their sails haven’t arrived yet, almost nothing on the boat is fully installed, and they only have six hours to go before the entire fleet is meant to depart for London to make their grand entrance to St. Katharine’s Docks. Hence the hasty recruitment of paying Clipper crew to finish building the new fleet of 70-foot racing yachts.
The docks are abuzz with paid workmen and paying crew installing bowsprit supports, drilling holes in the deck, filling holes with Sikaflex, installing new stanchions, servicing winches, taking inventory of sails and spare parts, and doing countless other jobs that ideally wouldn’t be done just a few hours before the scheduled departure..
Ryan looks up at me with a look of frustration and defeat, covered in sweat and streaked with Sikaflex. He rubs his temples as he nods his head towards the workmen on board PSP Logistics who are now packing up their gear at 6 pm, leaving the remaining work to be done by Ryan and his fellow crew. I could just about read his mind – if he’d known that volunteering to deliver the race boats from Gosport to London would mean he’d first have to build his boat, he would have stayed in Ibiza for another week and enjoyed a few more cocktails on the beach.
“We really should give Clipper’s business model a try one day,” I joke, thinking of our own education companies. “We could get our students to pay for their English classes AND teach themselves! That’s genius.”
“I’m sorry the boats weren’t ready on time for you,” says Sir Robin Knox-Johnston at crew briefing before race start. “But when your chief laminator is murdered by the assistant laminator, who was then put in prison… well, you have to make do with what you have.”
I start to laugh, thinking Robin is making some kind of weird joke, but then I look left and right and realize no one else is laughing. “Wait. Is he serious?” I ask one of the crew sitting next to me.
“I think so?”
I knew the new fleet of Clipper boats were built in China and that there were issues with their production. But production-line murders? This was the first I’d heard of it and, well, what an awkward way to exonerate Clipper from being responsible for any delays in the race start, I thought.
I had so many questions and a rising feeling of uncertainty about the readiness of these boats.
Finally! Ready to Race
By 10 pm on delivery departure day, ready or not, the fleet of Clipper yachts are shoved off the docks and pointed towards London with the understanding that work will continue when we get to St. Katharine’s Docks and start preparing our boats for the first race on September 1st.
The crew are feeling tired and frustrated, but as soon as we leave the Solent, I start to relax. It’s been weeks of training and months of preparing for the race, but this is the first time that I know for sure my boat will not be returning to Gosport Marina. For the first time, we are sailing the Henri Lloyd boat to a new destination.
Sure, we’re not headed to Brazil just yet. Or even Australia. But we will be. And, for the first time, I feel like we’re on our way.
Tasha and Ryan are competing in Legs 1 and 3 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which started September 1st, 2013 in London, UK. Tasha is competing on CV21 (the Henri Lloyd boat) with Skipper Eric Holden and Ryan is competing on CV28 (the PSP Logistics boat) with Skipper Chris Hollis. You can read more about the crew and the boats here at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/