Monday, January 20, 2014

Clipper Race day 8

Experiences from a racing boat in the tropics;

Crew Blog 
Things that you don't realize about ocean racing, until you go ocean racing:
1) Clean clothes and washing really don't matter. I currently sit here in a pair of shorts I've worn for ten days, a Henri Lloyd long sleeve "white" shirt that has been on for seven and no pants as this morning they reached their limit of sweat saturation from us still being in the windless zone near the Equator. The last shower I had was seven days ago, but I have been maintaining the baby wipe showers to take the edge off.In normal company, on land, near "normal people", I would be classed as a tramp. I'd be told to take a shower and sort my act out. On the boat, no one has commented anything, in fact I'm positively clean in comparison to some of the other crew. Tomorrow I'll put on a clean shirt and that's my last.2) Food becomes the most precious commodity in the world. We need to eat over 5000 calories a day with the physical exercise. As this is a new venture for myself, the mental strain is also demanding a calorie intake.  When the tuck box comes out, the crew gather around it like pre-historic dwellers feasting off the hunt that has returned. People squat to eat rather than sit, and grunt rather than converse.

3) Sleeping at an angle, in hot or cold, or in extremely loud situations is easy. The only worry we have on board is to make the boat move in the direction the skipper wants it. We pull on 3 lines per sail and steer, job done. All this though is exhausting with shifts over a 24 hour period being up to 14 hours. As soon as you hit the pillow, your mind shuts off and the zeds quickly come.  It's only when you wake do you hear the galley stereo, the people chatting and the winches being worked above your head that you realize if you were looking for a spot to sleep, this would not be one.
4) The ocean is a beautiful place. Like a fire you can watch it for hours.  The endless shapes and periods of waves transfix you into a daze. The sky at night is either blacker than black, bright with the moon, or a picture of a million stars all laid out for your private viewing. You feel it's just for you and you just take it all in.
5) You don't actually know people that well. We are all crammed on this boat with little room to spread out.  We chat and joke, but very rarely do we ask about people’s backgrounds, family, friends etc. There are many stories of funny moments and jokes to be told, but we mainly have banter about the crew and the skipper over open hearted chats about loved ones, maybe that's just my boisterous Starboard Watch though,  which is more lads on tour than the tea and cakes of Port watch!
6) You have to go through a lot of bad moments on board to be rewarded with one amazing one. You are often cold, wet, hungry, tired etc. Lumping sails around, getting told off by the skipper, but then, from no-where, the sun will set beautifully, a pod of dolphins will come and the boat will sing and proceed through the sea like it's on rails.
It's a special place out here, that until you have been, you don't really understand. A mix of danger and fear, backed up by stupidity makes you push the boat and the crew to the limit. The reward is out there, but who knows what it will actually be. A moment, a podium, a friend for life - who knows.
This is the emotional roller coaster of the Clipper Race and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

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