Well Saturday May 20th meant that Crew Allocation day had finally arrived and I would know my skipper and boat for the next 11 months. This is a big event for Clipper with around 500 of the 680 crew attending in person at Portsmouth Guildhall along with around 100 crew supporters. The event is also streamed across the internet for those not able to attend in person.
This was all now getting very real. There is less than 3 months to go before we set off.
Linda and I slept on Songbird in Gosport the night before and Saturday morning, we were up early reasonably bright eyed and bushy tailed to get to the event. We had all been asked to wear our crew jackets which are bright red and allow you not to get lost on a mountain and made it obvious who was heading to the Guildhall
We met our first crew member queuing for the Gosport ferry. By the time we were on the ferry there were 7 or 8 of us and our first picture opportunity. This included Nate one of my crew from level 3 training. While it was great to meet other crew, it was even better to meet someone you knew and sailed with, giving a level of continuity and reassurance around the event.
I’m pleased to report that no one suffered sea sickness during the arduous crossing from Gosport to Portsmouth.
We got to the town hall and again there were friendly faces from previous courses. Talk was very much about people’s hopes around which boats and skippers they wanted as we filed into the hall. Some of us had asked for specific skippers’ boats or even crew. I was trusting to the gods (after all when had they ever let me down before).
As we stepped into the auditorium the scale of the event became apparent. There on the stage were the placards for the 12 skippers. The room was buzzing with anticipation.
First Sir Robin Knox-Johnson stood up and gave his introduction followed by the race director who brought the skippers on stage. We were given a presentation about what to expect during the race, sponsoring partners’ roles, the official race charity UNICEF and finally the route.
I would love to share the details of the route however as some of the negotiations with the ports are ongoing we have been asked to keep this out of social media. Very much on a need to know basis. I will share the full route and dates as soon as I can. Suffice to say we will be enjoying, quality beef followed by wine, ice cold larger, noodles, coffee and a large piece of fruit before we make it home.
Next we moved onto the crew announcements. As you can imagine going through 680 names takes a little time, particularly if your wife shouts out ‘woohoo’ when you are named, to the amusement of all. But there were many shouts of pleasure and excitement.
My name came off as about number 15 and I was allocated to Andy Burns’s boat. I was pleased to know early and very happy with opportunity to sail with Andy. He’d been the training skipper on my Level 3. Although not a classical racing route to doing the Clipper (having sailed super yachts) he has bags of energy and enthusiasm and wants to ensure we are prepared as best we can be to enjoy the experience and succeed.
We then set off to separate rooms to meet our individual teams. Here Andy told us the team name and sponsor. This is starting to sound a bit like a John Le Carre novel because I’m also unable to reveal the name of the sponsor or boat. Suffice to say I was very happy with the team I will be sailing with.
Yours, Andy had some presents for us. These were in reality to underline what we can expect from the race and what he expects for us. They included a sail tie (always be ready), electric tape for temporary rigging repairs (arrive on deck prepared), a vacuum packing bag (be organised) and a sick bag (not sure what this one meant). We were also given a bandana of the boat sponsor, which again I’m unable to speak of here.
We next got together in groups to discuss and (hopefully) agree on some key questions that would set out the ethos of the team. Like many events where groups of relative strangers are thrown together this was done in a very polite and collaborative manner. Very early days as a team and there will be lots of dynamics with this group as we progress forward.
I certainly agreed with the outcomes which in summary were that we were willing to make sacrifices to be competitive but not at the expense of respect for other crew members.
We also debated the important topic of a team song. My preference would be the Archers theme tune but I haven’t been brave enough to put that forward.
The team session drew to an end and we went outside to the steps of the Portsmouth Guildhall to have our photo taken. 500 Clipper crew, the 12 skippers and Sir Robin Know Johnson. Just before our photo Sir Robin spoke to me. His words are imprinted on my mind he said ‘Get you jacket done up.’…….. Well it made my day anyway.
Following the photo session, I took Linda down to one of the Clippers that was at Gunwharf Quays to show her around. Remarkably I think she thought it spacious based on the photos she’s seen and my tales of nautical deprivation. (not the case but is this your idea of humour?
We then met up with Team Andy in the Customs House pub before going as a group for dinner. It was great to sit down and chat to my crew mates and their supporters in a social environment and we were last heard of being refused to be served after last orders in the Castle in Gosport……
Yours under the yardarm….