"I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose but aye be whaur extremes meet..." Hugh McDiarmid

Sunday, 8 September 2013

race start!

well we had the briefing (I was late...) and an early night (kind of) and suddenly the last 20 months of my life came sharply into focus. this was the day I'd been counting down to, paying off, training for and dreaming about. finally!

mum, dad and leigh came down for the last few days and the start, and loads of my friends turned up to weep gently into other people and wave like lunatics. 
we'd been herded onto the boats by 8am having been warned that if we were late it would leave without us. the fleet was blessed by a man who used the handheld radio microphone as a talking stick so we didn't hear much but it seemed quite serious so we paid attention and looked serious anyway.

me and matt before going on stage
after that, each team was announced onto the floating show pontoon. they played the boat song and interviewed some unlucky folk on each boat then we were cheered off to leave. we were leaving in rafts of four through the lock and out onto the thames, so there were some pauses while boats were moved and locked. 

we were in the middle block, and finally we were announced. we went onto the stage and tried not to look too terrified. matt was interviewed, along with I think 3 other folk (not me thankfully!) and then we were onto the boat, leaving the pontoon and heading into the lock. 

it was a really tight manoeuvre and it looked at one point like we might be starting the race without the bowsprit, but matt can drive and with the rib in the water, we locked complete with bowsprit... being trapped in a small lock with 3 other boats while surrounded by folk was a little odd. loads of folk were shouting and waving, and at one point I thought my arm may actually fall off. I don't wave that much normally...

my mate lorna was there with my fairy goddaughter, annika was there with carrie (not sure if stephen made it or not), my parents were in there somewhere. some really good photos were taken. of me. that doesn't really happen.

thanks lorna! a good photo of me!!
bowsprit still in place :)

us leaving st kats on the 1st of september

once we were out the lock, we had to line up on the port side of the boat, having taken in lines and fenders as the official photographer was there. I think we look pretty smart, in our dark shorts and mission performance drill tops. we were the only crew to keep our lifejackets on, and someone from the RNLI complimented us on it. sweet :)

then it was back down the river thames and away to moor up overnight at queensborough. mum, dad and leigh had booked onto a spectator boat, but I didn't know which one. there were loads of them. the mission guys were on a really posh looking one near tower bridge. they did a great job of yelling their heads off and waving. it was a bit of a competition to be honest ;)

I spot leigh on the boat and nearly knock kate overboard...
eventually, I managed to spot leigh on one of the boats. the waving went a bit mental at that point! 

it was a long day, but what a great send off. I am really looking forward to coming back into london now. there were crowds all the way along the thames. my mates sas and paul were texting me their location and instructions to 'turn around NOW' so I got to wave manically at them too :)

so many people. awesome. we were totally knackered by the time we got to the mooring and ready for bed.

overnight, we kept a half watch. I did 2200 to midnight which was good as I was scheduled to be on mother watch the next day with hannah. neil showed us how to make bread that night, and a few of us decided to lighten the mood by hiding bob, our man overboard drill dummy, in the yankee 1 sail bag which was up on deck ready to be hanked on the next morning... I'm not sure what the other crews thought as they saw us drag him from the stern to the bow, but they all looked very serious and we were having fun :)

so. the next morning we were slipped around 0700 and headed back towards southend pier. everyone was up and ready, all the boats were charging around checking the line out. there was a helicopter and a few photographers boats out, as well as a thames barge who was firing her water cannons and generally looking pretty awesome.

matt had decided to hoist the main and get the code 2 ready to go a minute before the start. the code 2 is branded so looks pretty cool :) the hoist went really smoothly and the kite popped. then it was the start. not many boats had decided to use the kite, and we ploughed through the fleet.

around a minute before the start - we have hoisted the code 2 and it is just filling
now the code 2 is filled and we are storming through the fleet!
we were almost level with the leaders when the tack blew. now the kite was not connected to the bowsprit, we lost a lot of speed and direction. the guys on the foredeck managed to get the tack in and reconnected. but shortly after, it blew again. with a huge effort, the tack was remade and this time it held. we got rid of the bullet which we'd preset in the snapshackle to make taking it down easier. matt suggested throwing it in the sea, but then changed his mind and it's now in a box in the tool area below decks...

that was that. we'd started the race! race 1 was a short hop to brest in north west france, and we reckoned it would take around 2 days to complete, before a 5 day layover to finish the boat.

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