last week I finished my level 1 training for the race. it was BRILLIANT! I was a bit nervous about joining as it had always seemed comfortably far away... got my instructions in an email the other week and discovered I would be on 'visit finland' - the second placed yacht in the 2011/12 race :)
there were 9 of us on board learning and 2 grownups (skipper and mate) teaching. the first few days were skills'n'drills in the solent and returning to gosport in the evening. on monday we raced a square-ish course going from gosport to le havre to cherbourg to poole and back against 'qingdao' who had another level 1 course on board. they thought they won but they rounded the last mark the wrong way. so we won really :)
the wind southbound was pretty strong and we did a racing headsail change from yankee 2 to yankee 3 as the wind got up which was good fun. I went into the pulpit on the bow to hank the new sail on and unhank the old one. this is the business end of the change and you get really wet - especially when your skipper dunks you intentionally...
most folk were sea sick on the way over as the motion can be quite extreme. I was ok then suddenly went 'I don't feel well' threw up and then was fine again. I stayed on deck as long as possible then when I went to bed, got in very quickly. the less time you spend standing up below deck the better! on the way back, folk were recovering so it was more sociable and we learned about the spinnaker poles and used them to pole out the headsail as the wind dropped.
cooking was interesting...the two mother watch on sunday had to do a roast! they did a great job and we all really enjoyed it. the chickens took a long time to roast and the smell ruined my concentration :) I was on mother watch with rob, who thankfully knows a bit more than me about cooking. we had to make beef stew for tea, then sausage and egg butties for breakfast. by this time, the cooker was waning a bit and it took ages to cook. I am not that patient in the galley it turns out...
it had been in the back of my mind for a few weeks that I might not enjoy living on a yacht and I had been a bit worried that level 1 might change my mind. this could have been disastrous as I have kind of started fundraising for my charities and telling everyone that I am doing the race. this was more so I didn't back out than anything else! fortunately, I settled and really enjoyed myself. the people I was learning with were exactly what I had hoped for so that made the week really easy. also, we had two great instructors in nathan and matt. they never shouted or got annoyed - they had infinite patience it seemed.
yesterday I finished my basic navigation and seamanship - the theory part of this week's course. today and tomorrow we are with mick, who is one of the technical support team behind the race. these guys keep the boats going before we get our hands on them and teach us how to look after them during the race. they also appear during stopovers to do repairs we can't manage ourselves at sea. they are shipwrights and electricians, plumbers and sailors, dark magicians and engineers. above all they are the guys who answer panicked phone calls or emails from us when it's all going wrong on the race.
we are being trained so well in everything by clipper. it's not just how to sail the boats - it's team building and engineering. what strikes me more than anything else is how much the folk who work for clipper believe in the venture - to get as many people as possible into sailing. I have had an absolutely fantastic two weeks here learning loads and putting people to the emails or phone calls I've made since I joined up to this amazing race. it's a shame that I won't be back until June next year, but I'm now looking forward to levels 2 and 3 of training and living on board our 70s for nearly a year. I'm excited about the route, the skippers and the boats being announced and crew allocation even though they are both next year.
until then, I need to publicise more and get some events done for my charities. also the sponsorship letters need to be written and go out. everything I've been putting off because I was scared I would decide I wasn't up to the challenge after level 1.