Dispatches from 30,000 feet

More mixed feelings flying out of San Francisco yesterday – both the Oracle AC72s were out on the wrinkly bay as we flew over, reminding me of what I”ll be missing. But the sunrise was glorious above the Atlantic this morning. I'll be seeing quite a few of those in the coming year, though from rather different angles.

United”s inflight magazine seemed designed to feed my mood of apprehension:

“He makes me want rip off my arm” said one crew member of another

…the article was about a 2010 reenactment of Captain Bligh's epic open boat voyage – but those words have the flavour of my nightmares. Someone might want to rip my arm off. And while all the skippers seem so mellow, who can tell which one might turn into a Captain Bligh* once we're out of sight of land? Why did I think this was a good idea?

Our holding pattern before landing took us east of London, and we flew back over the Thames. Seeing the flood barrier, the maritime museum, and the widening of the estuary away in the distance, I began to feel excitement again. Soon we'll be seeing those from the deck of our very own racing yacht!


*No offence to Captain Bligh, who was an amazing seaman. It'd be an honour to sail with any Skipper capable of turning into him. Just as long as there's not too much keel hauling involved.


My bags are packed

I'm ready to go….

In fact I'm at the airport. I have an RYA first aid course on Friday, then our team building weekend, followed by level 3, then the boat prep week, the delivery to London, and finally the race start on September 1st. This is really happening.

It's been quite emotional, packing up for a year away, saying goodbye to my DH and sons, little farewell gatherings with different groups of friends. and of course my old dog, Daisy. I was in such a tizzy this morning I gave her 2 breakfasts, so at least she was happy!

I have surprisingly mixed feelings about this whole adventure now it's so imminent. I'll miss all the preparation and anticipation – and I'm sure the year will be over in a flash.

I really am “leaving, on a jet plane” – but at least I have a vague idea when I'll be back again. If all goes according to plan, the next time I see the Golden Gate will be when we sail in under it sometime next April. Gulp!

Streamlining 3

Frantic organizing continues – only 6 days and I’m on the plane to London for the final month of training, team-building and boat prep before the big day.

If I had only known how soothing a minimized refrigerator could be, I might never have had to sign up for this crazy race!

tidy fridge

I wish my sailing kit was as streamlined as this. I’ve packed three times so far – then I weigh the bag, unpack, extract a few more things I probably don’t need, and pack again. Do I really need four hats? There’s a fleece beanie, my summer windsurfing hat with an all round brim that won’t blow away, a fleece lined Musto baseball stye cap, and my super duper warm and waterproof Outdoor Research hat, with ear flaps and a zip away ski-mask – I can’t think which one I’d leave behind. Maybe the Musto is superfluous. Then there are gloves – sailing gloves for spinnaker trimming, diving type gloves for when it’s really wet and cold, snowboarding gloves for the helm – can I afford all three? I

My lovely cushy microfiber towel is out, replaced by a paper thin backpacker style one. I can buy a cheap “proper” towel in each port. It looks like I’ll be buying T shirts in each port, too, if I want to wear something that doesn’t smell of diesel. When the chips are down, though, I’d much rather have a spare merino wool base-layer and dry socks when I need them than a glamorous outfit to wear in the bar.

Streamlining 2

What do you really need to take for an 11 month, 40,000 mile, 12 country trip around the world? The Clipper crew answer is deceptively simple – just 20kgs of stuff, plus your official crew foul weather gear and your boots.

And this year, with the leaner, meaner new boats, most crews have to include their ocean going sleeping bag in that weight limit too. It’s not easy – we’ll be experiencing everything from equatorial heat to snow on the decks, and probably anything imaginable in between. Over the last year I’ve been accumulating a Clipper “bottom drawer” – which soon expanded to an entire dresser and finally to fill most of the spare bedroom. Now the time has come to sift, weigh and consider each item. How many sets of merino wool base layers do I really need? The skipper says 2, I think 3. Is he really going to count the underwear? (He thinks only 2 sets of that, too. I am not convinced)

It”s a challenge, but what a relief it will be when I finally board the plane next week with my 20kgs (plus boots). I wonder if I can sneak some extra pairs of socks inside the boots – will anyone notice? After all, I cut my hair, surely that weighed as much as a very small item of underwear? I suspect my bottom drawer will still be three quarters full of perfectly plausible but just not packable gear when I leave.




Thursday was a big day – a big haircut day. I cunningly left it until almost the last possible minute, with nearly all my non-sailing social commitments completed so my land based friends would not be too horrified by the transformation. The “before” you can see in my official Clipper Crew photo:

…and I thought it looked GOOD that day! To be fair I was in a state of delirium after the completion of level 2 just that morning, and had been rained on crossing to Portsmouth on the ferry and walking to the Guidhall. But I”d been growing it all year, it was still barely long enough to tie back and really not much good as a disguise either. It’s clear the only possibilities for hair on an extended sailing trip are long enough to braid out of the way, or so short you don’t have to worry about it. Even at the mid-length I’d achieved, mine was driving me crazy, and it took so long to dry! I just had to change it for the race. So after much dithering and delay, this is the new, streamlined me:

If you are thinking the picture is small and blurry, damn right it is, there’s nothing there for me to hide behind. At least it’s practical! And I feel much more streamlined. Best of all, I’ll no longer be spending the early mornings on the boat picking fragments of anti-snoring silicon earplugs out of my hair.