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Setting sail: Our first casualty [May. 21st, 2009|12:31 pm]


We’ve suffered our first casualty. George, from Northumberland, has had to pull out of the training week because he’s not feeling well (it was the chicken curry cooked on board last night, he jokes). He says he’ll becoming back in a couple of weeks to do his part A training course. One fewer person on board means there’s a spare bunk on board.

After the first night, a lot of crew members have only managed an hour or so of sleep. The bunks are stacked two or three high, which means it’s impossible to sit up in them. They are basically 3ft wide wooden shelves with foam pads on top of them. Tom couldn’t lie flat on his back as his shoulders were too wide for the bunk he’d chosen. I had to sleep with all of my things pressing against my legs as my dry bag is too big to fit into the cubby holes which are at the back of each bunk. (Tip for anyone taking part in the race and training weeks – bring earplugs with you.)

Despite the lack of sleep, everyone was in a pretty good mood this morning and we woke at 6.30am to eggs and bacon cooked by the mother watch, who were up at 6.10. We’ve discovered that the kettle takes 45 minutes to boil on the stove, which means a quick cuppa is out of the question. Everything has to be planned and the timings worked out.

After breakfast we cleaned the whole of the inside of the boat, including wiping down the walls to stop damp and mould developing. This has to be done every single day. We then moved on to rigging the boat for sailing, hauling ropes out of the cheese pit, tying (and re-tying) knots, connecting them to the halyards so they can hoist the sails.

The winches on boats of this size are extremely powerful and have to be released very carefully to ease the pressure they carry. Easing the running backstay (a support which stops the mast from bending forwards under the weight of the fore sails) makes the boat rock with the sheer force of letting just 1cm of rope slide through.

Calypso has never been on a boat before but by mid afternoon in a force 7 wind (32 knots), she’s up in the bow with the water spraying all over her. With winds this strong, the boat is heeled over (angled) at about 30 degrees. It’s very difficult to stand and even to remain sitting without sliding off into the sea. At one point I was sitting on the high side and if I hadn’t been holding on to two winches, I would have flown right across the boat, under the guard rail on the other side and into the sea. Tom the mate said that when he took part in the race, sometimes he would be walking on the walls of the cabins below decks, it was heeled over so far.

We arrived back at Royal Clarence Marina at 7pm but there was still the boat to put to bed, then a very welcome meal of sausages and mash, the washing up to do and then lectures on points of sail and true and apparent wind. We didn’t finish until 10pm… and we’d been up and at it since 6.30am. Compared to what we’ll be doing in the actual race, this is a short day.