The First Seven (Training) Days

The subsequent days of Level One (see Level 1 – Day 1. Welcome to Yorkshire) were full of lessons, stressing both the grey matter and skeletal muscles. It was part of the “new life experience” with fresh words aka sailing lingo buzzing all around the boat. On Day Two, Mark (our Level One Trainer) brought us out for an orientation around the Solent. And OHMYGOODNESS, with 40 knots of wind (Force 8 gale), choppy seas, close to 10 degrees excluding wind chill. It was one heck of an orientation for our first day out. When we had safely returned to the marina, half of us confessed to having the same thought at some point while out at sea, “What have I gotten myself into?!” was number one on the list.

Here’s a GoogleMap snapshot of the Solent.

Having survived Day Two, Day Three and Four were a walk-in-the-park in the Solent. With more manageable wind conditions and sea state, we were able to grasp the concept of reefing and headsail change without the need to hang on for our dear lives. (Stay tuned for more information on Reefs and Headsails). The following days were followed with more reefing practice, head-sail changes and tacking drills. By Day Five, we were absolutely knackered as we cruised towards our virgin moment in Cowes.
Situated on the northern tip of the Isle of Wight and packed with over 13 clubs and marinas, it can be argued that Cowes is the birthplace of sailing. It was no surprise that labels of familiar sailing brands (eg. Henri-Lloyd, Musto, Gill) litter the streets of this sailing town. Cowes emitted a strong positive vibe and at certain points reminded me of the Japanese Pirate-themed manga “One Piece“. On one of my London days, I met a sailing enthusiast who was overly excited when we spoke of Cowes, the same excitement one would receive when they speak to me about the Wimbledon. Once we had the sails packed away, dinner served and bodies washed up, it was onward to the closest pub (what else is new?) via sea taxi! (now this is new!) In our case, we called “Sally Taxi” on the VHF to ferry us across to the “main” side of Cowes. Thus putting Day Five to an end with a couple of drafts, Jägerbombs and loads of laughter.

Photo: Day Five: Cowes – Onboard the “Sally Taxi”
Sunset over Cowes

For Day Six, we linked up with fellow Level One boat “Edinburgh” to toss in some competitive ingredients into our training. As agreed between the two trainers over radio, our boats competed in a Le Mans-style start to hoist up both head-sails, fully trimmed. A Le Mans-style start is also known as the Standing start (some resources call it the Running start), where teams would have their mainsail hoisted and their head-sails hanked on and ready. The crew would then gather behind the “coffee-grinder” (in the middle of the boat) and wait for the start signal before rushing forward to hoist both head-sails concurrently. Though we lost, it was an awesome learning moment and a much welcomed adrenaline rush to end the training.

Apart from ocean sailing, the training phase has brought forth many valuable lessons (Communication, Teamwork, Respect, Integrity, Welfare), which no doubt will be made more obvious during the race. Some of these learning points were observed at the moment of event while others over the period of the course. One of the more sounding areas is in Communication.

When on a yacht, DO your best NOT to refer ropes as merely (well..) “ropes”. On a yacht, each rope is identified based on their functional name (eg. Halyards, Sheets). A Halyard is a rope that controls the hoisting of a sail (bringing it upwards or downwards). For the Clippers, you have a halyard for the mainsail, four halyards for the headsails and two for the spinnaker. On the other hand, we have the Sheets. A Sheet controls the in-and out-ward trim of the sail according to the wind angle, every sail would have two accompanying sheets with the exception of the mainsheet (which has one attached to a “traveller line”).

So with that in mind, refrain from asking someone to “hold onto that rope”. When you are on a 68-footer yacht, with over 23 ropes covering 10 different functions. Asking someone to hold onto a rope (unless you are passing it to him/her) basically leads to (at least) these three areas:
  1. Causes Confusion and Frustration
  2. Risk having the wrong rope attended
  3. Encourages ‘unfavourable’ situations or hazardous accidents

This is one, out of possible hundreds, of the examples to illustrate the importance of simple and clear Communication. More will follow in my later postings.

To sum it off, here are some photos from Level One (more photos are available on Facebook):

Day Two – Dinner on Deck.
Dinner is served - Day Two
Day Six – Night-time, in my bunk-bed.
Night-time in the bunk
Day Seven – End of Level One dinner at the Boat House Cafe @ Gosport Marina.
Level One Course Photo
The view from the Boat House Cafe @ Gosport Marina
View from Boat House Cafe @ Gosport Marina
On the Deck of Welcome to Yorkshire
On the deck of Yorkshire

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