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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8 - Final Preparations - mid October 2002

The race is due to start on 27 October from Liverpool and after the fourth training period had finished in Dartmouth, the fleet had to be returned to Liverpool for final preparations.  The Admiral had required the crew for leg 1 to be on board for a final practice sail and, with a couple of exceptions, they were.

The question of watchleaders is one that the Admiral has been mulling over for some time and London is very lucky to have a number of people who are both willing and capable of taking on the role.  Whilst it is not essential for the watchleader to be a round the worlder, it is more likely, and the candidates had been whittled down to four:  Foxy, Jazz, Cookie and myself.   Foxy is an experienced sailor and well suited to the role, so he took one of the two positions.  With Jazz away from the boat for the week, the second position came down to Cookie and me and I was pleased that it came my way.  I have a lot to learn about sailing but I think that it will come together more quickly if I am put in a position of responsibility.  Pressure is still on though, so I will have to keep working hard to keep it.

The fleet had visited Dartmouth and Torbay to support the start of the Around Alone single-handed yacht race, another race run by Clipper Ventures.  Due to strong winds and heavy seas, the Around Alone was delayed for 24 hours and, therefore, so were we.  When we finally set off, the VHF radio crackled into action giving all ships a severe weather warning of Force 10 gales around the South Western approaches, meaning the seas around Cornwall.  It was decided to head for port to protect the boats before the Race starts and we soon found ourselves running round Falmouth at 1am trying to find a late night drink to ease the frustration Ė Remedies provided our amusement.  Those Cornish locals certainly know how to dance!

The weather was particularly bad that night and I was pleased to be out of the worst of it.  Further depressions were forecast and it was decided that the fleet would stay in port until the depressions had passed.  Crew were allowed to leave if they had appointments to keep so I left the boat in Falmouth and travelled home for a long weekend to fit in some quality time with Rachel, promotional interviews in Portsmouth and a final weekend of normality.  The extra time at home felt like I was getting something for nothing Ė a chance to relax from the stresses and strains of preparing for the race.  A blessing in disguise.

Final Preparations

Weíre now in the final countdown to the race start.  All the boats have experienced ups and downs already, not only in terms of the weather, but also in mechanical and personnel terms.  London boat has had its fair share.  Weíve lost a crew member - a round the worlder - who didnít see eye to eye with the skipper, and although the  incident was difficult for the rest of us, it did at least bring us closer together and demonstrated the depth of our support for the Admiral.  Whilst he is not slow in letting us know when we are not doing something quite right (some would say a little too forcibly at times) his passion to succeed and his emphasis upon good seamanship and safety seems to me to be an essential part of our quest for the holy grail .  In other words, when we get it in the ear, we know that we deserve it.

Thereís a lot of work to be done on the boat.  Weíve been preparing the ship for sea, lots of maintenance work and ideas to make the place feel a more homely.

In addition, there is the personal preparation for being away from home for eleven months.  Iíve packed up the flat and handed Rachel the keys.  Iíve completed all my paperwork, had all my vaccinations, got all my visasÖthere were a million and one things to think about and a large number that I will probably think about for the first time when I set sail on 27 October Ė but it will be too late to worry about it by then.

Having spoken to people who did the race last year, this is one of the most difficult and frustrating times.  Itís like the final hour before the party starts when all you can do is worry about whether youíve got enough food and booze and you can only hope that everyone will enjoy themselves.  I am, of course, excited about the Race but the excitement that Iíve had since I became involved nearly eighteen months ago is now tempered by a mixture of emotions.  Iím apprehensive about what is for me the unknown.  I have no idea what itís going to be like in the middle of an ocean, miles from anywhere and beyond help should anything go wrong.  Iím apprehensive about being on a small boat with up to 15 people, none of whom I knew before I signed up for the Race.  Iím apprehensive about the lows Iíll inevitably suffer away from the people who care for me.  Iím sad to be leaving behind the people that really matter to me, especially when I see the concern or sadness in their faces Ė this trip is a very selfish enterprise on my behalf. 

I rationalise it all by imagining the sense of achievement that Iíll feel on 27 September next year.  I donít think that Iíll really relax into the sailing until we reach Cuba when we will have completed our first ocean crossing.  Weíll then have several shorter passages to look forward to in the lead up to Christmas and New Year.  I imagine the enjoyment of what Iím doing will really flow from then.


The Fleet at Sea



Click here for diary 9 - scheduled departure

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