I arrived into heathrow a bit confused on friday morning, having had a pretty good flight - films were ok (and ON DEMAND which is new for british airways so very exciting), got some sleep, food was predictably bad (vegan food prepared in the middle east, so beware) - and went straight into london town.
met gemma, her girlfriend and my mate steve - who once introduced me with 'this is claire, she's my system engineer and dark magician' - and had breakfast in the amazing breakfast club in soho. finally somewhere you can ask for a decaf soya latte and not be stared at like a freak. and the best eggy bread in the uk I reckon :)
as steve had prodigiously slept in, it was swiftly onto the 1030 train heading for portsmouth, but with a stop en route to see my mate laura, her wee girl and the bump and have some life-giving tea (she had soya milk. stage manager you know, very prepared...)
got to portsmouth about 1500 and straight onto the gosport ferry to get across to the clipper office. had to go and try on the rockport trainers we get issued with, as there is nowhere in oman to try them on. I also had some cheeky post to collect from the marvellously patient clipper folk :)
while I was in the office, it was really important to me to speak to carol, the crew manager, who had been so fantastic when we found out about leigh not being well. it was really good to say thank you to her in person, before the insanity of crew allocation, and I'm really glad I got the chance to do it. they really were brilliant at the end of last year, when it looked like all my plans could unravel.
finally got to the travelodge in portsmouth about half four, with a completely dead mobile phone, and lisa had arrived already. was really great to catch up with her. we hadn't seen each other since the end of level 1 in august last year, although we had been emailing it's not really the same!
unfortunately, the ellen macarthur talk we'd been looking forward to had been cancelled due to illness, so after putting some charge onto my mobile (and finally speaking to my mother) we headed out to the pub to get some tea and perhaps a light ale or two. the white swan was pretty packed, but we had food and I drank some crafty, which is a very tasty IPA. saying that, me and lisa were back to the travelodge by about 2100 and spark out shortly afterwards. I had been up for almost two days by this point...
by being so knackered, I got a great night's sleep. I had decided not to try and turn myself around for this 72 hour visit, so I was awake at 0330, but I did get a bit of a doze in til about 0530 when I gave up and started surfing on my phone. lisa's alarm went off about 0700 and I've never seen someone go from being asleep to being vertical that quickly before. it was a bit terrifying.
but this was it. crew allocation. oh god. who were we going to get? each other? 1 in 12 chance I reckoned. we walked down to the guildhall and arrived bang on 0830. registered, photo taken, red jacket issued and breakfast an hour later. the place was packed, and it's not really designed to take that many folk in the foyer...
eventually, they called us into the auditorium. my nerves started to go at this point. we were sitting waiting to find out who our skipper was and hear those magical names of the folk we would be sailing with. all very exciting. we hid at the back (so I could viber leigh all the way through, mainly) and settled in for the talks and information we would get before the skippers went up and read all the names out.
even though I was really nervous, I can't sit in a venue without looking around at the kit. this job really destroys your overall sense of enjoyment and, as leigh will testify, other people's too. on that note I'm eternally sorry to lisa, the lovely pauline and the folk who sat in front of me...
we had talks from the race director, media guys and sir robin. then a break (450 folk through the toilets in 9 minutes - optimistic), then.....the big moment. the skippers came up on stage, six on each side. the first one stood up and read out his crew. not me. the second and third too. still not me. and weirdly, we'd noticed there was nobody on the boats with a surname starting with N or later... fourth - nothing. fifth, sixth also nothing. oh god. had they actually forgotten me? this was mine and heather's twin nightmare. seventh - my name! it was matt, our eternally patient training mate from level 1. ahh, the relief!! immediately after my name came pauline's! excellent. we are on the same boat. then, the eighth skipper called out lisa's name. perfect. lisa has vicki, the only female skipper in the race.
once we were called, we kind of stopped listening for a while, congratulating ourselves that we'd got really good skippers. by this time, it was obvious that the later half of the alphabet were going to have to suffer a bit longer. all 12 skippers had to get up again and announce those guys once we were all done. heather is also with vicki, so her nightmare hadn't come true :)
everyone seemed to have been allocated, so it was off to the breakout rooms with our teams to meet each other and discuss vital boat things. none of which I can reveal here due to its sensitive nature. suffice to say, we are going to have a great year, we are going to work hard, we are going to get on great (most of the time!) and we will sort stuff out when we don't. quickly. we will be a fast, happy team under matt. everyone in that room was so excited about it. we talked for ages, then it was off to the front steps to get the mass photo taken:
|I am in there somewhere! honest!|
this is just as it started raining. there were loads taken, we were moved in and back and all over the place. once the mass photo was done, they took a team one. we don't have our official one yet, but murali (another RTW like me) had one which his family had taken:
|not sure why I look so worried...|
this was only the bunch who had made it to portsmouth for allocation. we are around 53 in total I think. 11 RTWers and up to 11 leggers per race. it had been raining before this was taken, so the executive decision was made to go directly to the pub. it was (again) pretty busy when we got in, but me and orla - the celtic contingent - found the quickest route to the bar and got served pretty quickly ;)
food, beer, a quick phone call home to tell mum who I'd got and a good night in the pub with my new family. one of our RTW crew is called sophie and she is only 18. this is her gap year, what an amazing year it will be! she was there with her dad, loads of folk had brought friends and family which was lovely, and we were just chatting when he realised that he had heard of me. did I write a blog? did I live in oman? had I had particularly bad chafe recently? hahahahahaha. then he said 'ooh look, you've got a stalker'. hilarious. hello sophie's dad *waves*
another pretty early night, back to london town for a quick visit on sunday then it was back to heathrow yesterday morning to fly home. back to work this morning. I'm on camera for ballet teatro colon then it's caracalla. last show of the season, me and mariu are looking after it between us. it's massive. I will be working solidly 0900-2200 for the last two weeks of my contract! ouch. it's good practice though...
anyway, this has turned into the equivalent of about two months worth of blog! it's almost half past midnight and I have to get up at 0600 for crossfit. uh-oh. finalising paperwork to sell my car tomorrow, going running on the beach in the afternoon, then a show in the evening. it's back to the grind. I'm aiming to get my cargo packing done by the end of the week (optimistic) and shipped early next week. I've sold all my furniture bar my bed, so it's going ok.
I'm on the final straight now. fly back to scotland 1st of june at 0500. land in glasgow 1230. can't wait. then it's 3 months of training, seeing family and friends, and prepping the yacht.