Diary of a Clipper Racer

Around the world in 333 days with Mark Osgood

Supporting my chosen charity - "Dreams Come True"

Final Diary entry, 54, added Monday 6th October 2003.

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7 - Profession – Ocean Racer - early October 2002

Retirement by the age of 30. Can’t be bad.  I’ve already been instructed in no uncertain terms to get back to work when I return home next year but for now, I’m done with sailing a desk – and it feels great..

I left work at the end of September to complete the final month of preparations on board the boat and to take up my new job as an Offshore Ocean Racer.  No more telephone calls, emails, deadlines and paperwork.  No more suits, ties and endless ironing of shirts.  Bring on sail trim, fresh air and blue seas.

And no more comfortable bed, warm showers, lie-ins, good food….why am I doing this?? 

My leaving presents included a CD walkman and some DVDs for entertainment onboard.  And a pirate kit - which will no doubt prove useful.

Part C – Part Deux

As a Round-the-Worlder, I was required to take part in two Part C training periods.  My second week involved sailing down to Torbay in order to see the start of the Around Alone race, which is also run by Clipper Ventures. 

With the race start only three weeks away, detailed practice was underway.  The Admiral was keen to have the boat running as it should when we start the race for real.  So, we were arranged into watch systems and a mother watch rota was set up.  Although there was no race planned, the fleet was due to run non-stop to Falmouth, several days away.  The boat was readied for action!

The watch system is an important part of life on board.  During the race,  the boat is on the move 24/7 and needs a crew on deck at all times.  There are many ways to run a watch system but the Admiral is keen to run a two-watch system in the first run down to Portugal, so that’s what we practised.  When on watch, you do everything required to sail the boat as quickly as possible.  The watch was split into two six-hour shifts during the day and three four-hour segments at night.  You grab something to eat and a couple of hours’ sleep when you can and you stay out of the way when not on watch.  It takes some getting used to.

Each watch has a leader, whose role is to run the yacht as second in command to the skipper.  It’s a role I’m keen to have because of the responsibility that follows.  Jazz and I took those roles for the trip.  My watch was named the “Numpties”.  Jazz’s watch was named along similar lines but it can’t really be printed in what is a diary designed for family viewing – I shall call them the “Nit-wits” for now!

Each watch puts one of its members on “mother watch” every day.  The “mother watch” looks after the catering and cleans the heads and galley each day, although clearly not all at the same time.   The bonus is that they can get their heads down for a proper night’s sleep and can clean themselves properly, including a shower in the boat’s en suite facilities.

So we set off from Liverpool on Sunday 7 October and immediately rolled into our watch system.  It was a testing few days.  We had no option but to motor for most of the first day and although the wind started to blow towards the end of the day, it moved round to the south, meaning that we were sailing pretty much straight into it.  This is known as “beating to windward” and is not a very comfortable ride as the boat pitches over every wave.  As the wind picks up to a force 5 or 6, the speed of the boat increases, as do the size of the waves, and sleep becomes impossible (particularly if you’re on duty)..

As we reached the Bristol Channel and sailed on to Land’s End, the wind increased to Force 7 to 8.  The crashing of the wind through the rigging and the feeling that we were riding a wild, wet rollercoaster is exciting in retrospect, but that’s not how it felt at the time.  This was the first time I’d experienced this type of weather, so I was apprehensive about how we, and the boat, would cope. 

We were all exhausted and seasick but eventually we arrived intact in Falmouth at 5am on Wednesday morning, over 24 hours later than expected.  We had a day there to recover before a final push along the south coast to Dartmouth, via Plymouth.  What I discovered was that finally - in the final 12 to 18 hours of our journey - I was becoming more accustomed to life on board and was able to sleep regularly..  By the end of the trip, I was actually quite enjoying myself, which had seemed an unlikely prospect only a few days before.

My Dad sent an email shortly after I arrived in Dartmouth.  It read, “Sorry to hear you felt a bit seasick this week….it will get a lot worse you know.”  I found that was a real morale booster.  Thanks, Dad!

Anyway, back to the boat.  We popped into Plymouth on the way from Falmouth to pick up a TV reporter and cameraman from the local ITV news station.  They were on board to publicise the race and to interview the Admiral, who is a local boy from Teignmouth.  They were also there to make film stars of us all and we were more than happy to oblige.  Some were grinding, some trimming sails and some helming.  Some, like me, were more than happy just to be interviewed.  I’m sure I answered every question correctly and resisted the temptation to gurn at the camera, but for reasons unknown, I was cut from the broadcast.  My five minutes of fame will have to wait.

It was a good week as it gave me a good taste of what to expect when the weather gets more lively.  I was pleased to see how well the boat reacted to some fairly extreme weather, especially when we got to hear about the rest of the fleet.  New York took on a load of water through a leaky hatch, which left her without electricity and gas.  Liverpool lost most of her crew to seasickness, Cape Town lost her gas supply and Jersey lost two crewmembers – not overboard, I hasten to add – they just decided that the Race wasn’t for them after all.  By contrast, London came away with a slightly dirty galley and a crew in slightly dampened spirits.  We were all still happy with our new home.

And we even had some time to write a few songs between our watches.  My watch, the Numpties, became quite adept at the “doughnut”, which is stalling the boat by sailing too close to the wind and having to turn 360 degrees to get back on track.  Two members of my watch achieved a hat-trick of doughnuts, something not to be proud of, and so the song written for us was based on Kylie Minogue’s “Spinning Around”.  Jazz’s watch, the Nit-wits, were forever reefing the mainsail (although they too got in on some doughnut action).  The song we wrote for the Nit-wits is as follows, to the tune of Rawhide:-

 

"Reefing, reefing, reefing,

How they like their reefing,

The Nit-wits like their reefing,

Rawhands."

 

"Round and round together,

In all sorts of weather,

The Nit-wits like their reefing,

Rawhands."

 

We finally arrived in Dartmouth on Thursday to a fantastic welcome and became the talking point of the town.  But all too soon the preparations started for the journey back.

One final fun part of the weekend was London’s involvement in a Search and Rescue (SAR) demonstration in Brixham in front of a large crowd when the Coastguard helicopter came and winched several people off the boat.  Have a look at the photos below.

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for part 8 - Final Preparations - mid October 2002

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