Oscars time. Well, that was what it felt like. More than 300 Clipper crew descended on the Action Stations museum in Portsmouth to find out which boats they had been assigned to and which people they would be living in a confined space with – some for 11 months.
There were inspirational speeches from the race director, Joff Bailey, who has skippered a round the world Clipper, and the founder, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. There was nervous anticipation and excitement in the auditorium. And there was 10 skippers, suited and booted, waiting to be given an envelope, step up to the microphone and read out a list of 40-odd names of their new crew.
It was strange day. I arrived with my CV1 crewmates and stopped to chat to friends from Black Adder. We were all buddies. And then the names were announced and suddenly we found ourselves mortal enemies.
OK, so I exaggerate, but there was something of the feel of a military campaign about what happened next.
Up until crew allocation, it had all been about the learning experience. The minute the 10th skipper read out the final name, it became about racing.
Each of the 10 teams were squirreled away into different rooms, where we spent three and a half hours meeting our new crew mates (I have had more than 60 crew mates in two weeks), discussing boat rules and tactics and working out how we are going to win.
I was assigned to Hull and Humber, skippered by Piers Dudin, a 6ft 6in 31-year-old former maths teacher. It is a boat with a distinctive orange livery and is the only English Clipper so far. We gave the boat the nickname Bob (Big Orange Boat); other teams dubbed us B&Q and easyClipper.
It’s a great boat to be assigned to as Hull and Humber is where the race will start and finish and there is bound to be a lot of support from the locals when we set off and arrive back (hopefully the first back!). In our team powwow we also met a representative of one of our sponsors, the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, who assured us they would be welcoming us on stopovers with plenty of drinks and food.
And so we went to meet our new boat in the marina and to have team and whole crew photographs. Yorkshire Forward had given us Hull and Humber branded T-shirts and baseball caps. Believe me, 45 people wearing bright orange on a very sunny May day is certainly a sight to behold. At least people will be able to easily spot us when we’re on the water!