Tag Archives: sailing

Back On The Boat 9 Jan

It is Thursday, 9th Jan. I am finally back on the boat after half a year. Lying on the first bottom bunk on the starboard (right) side, The air is cool up on deck but a tad bit stuffy down below, I fear to imagine what would happen in the doldrums. 
It is now back to living under red lights for the next few months…  
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D minus one to Race Start

1st of September 2013, London – In the early afternoon sun, twelve clipper yachts departed the St Katherine Dock (Tower Bridge), making their way down the London River pass Thames towards the official start line off Southend. Once passed Thames, these yachts would not return for another year and having traveled round the world.

Team MISSION PERFORMANCE, donned in the navy blue Mission Performance polo tees, waved their goodbyes to family, friends and the world (via Internet broadcast) as they paraded through the docks.

The current team, headed by this year’s youngest race skipper Matt Mitchell, is made up by the ’round-the-worlders’ and teammates for the first leg of the race.

Mission Performance with Tower Bridge
Though I have yet to meet everyone, our exchanges on social media platforms have granted these folks as an awesome bunch. All coming together with the love for sailing and adventure.
Boats at St KatherineYachts Lined Up. StartQingdao Leaving Tower BridgeGBR Leaving Tower Bridge 

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.
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.

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

A Journey South

Can you remember your ‘first day’ for something? Perhaps at the start of a new school term, a new job, activity group, university practical session, or delivering a speech on stage. The ‘first day’ experiences are normally filled with anticipation, a million thoughts and what-ifs, and even “butterflies in the stomach”.

For me, while I stared out into the blur of trees and houses as my train zoomed southbound towards its final stop (Portsmouth Harbour), I did not experience any “butterflies” nor had pointless thoughts hovering but instead felt a strange calm. The past few months leading to this day were spent on logistics arrangements, mental and physical preparation and sorting of office matters before my long leave. It is no huge wonder that I felt serene with all that behind me.

I had spent my first night in London staying at my hosts’ (Uncle Chong and Aunty Cheng). Coupled with a lift to Sutton station, my hosts had prepared a snack-box of; hard-boiled eggs; fresh tomato; banana; apple and; a can of Coke for my journey south.

Upon arriving at Portsmouth Harbour, I jumped on a 10-minute “Spirit of Gosport” ferry and disembarked at Gosport where the Clipper office is situated. However eager I was to check out the Clipper yachts, the sole task on my mind was locate the Bed & Breakfast accommodation in order to offload the heavy backpack from my back and neck. The Spring Garden Guest House was simple enough to find, standing at three stories high and built along the junction of Spring Garden Lane and Mumby/Forton Road, it was humbly painted with a light shade of pink. A single room for the night went at £30, it came fitted with a sink, shower and overlooked Spring Garden Lane. Once accommodation had been settled, I was well on my way to check out the 68-foot clippers at the Royal Clarence Marina. The Clipper Office was tucked away in a quiet corner off Weevil Lane, from what looks to serve as navy officers quarters.

Gosport being a quiet town, I retreated to end the day with a lovely pizza by the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quay. Thinking about it, I will be on a yacht in less than 24 hours, on a 22-day training syllabus, for a new life experience.

Here are some pictures from that day.

The view as the train journeyed towards Portsmouth Harbour.
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The snack-box for the journey south. The pasta by the side was something I bought from Morrison’s (Local Supermarket).
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Photo from the Gosport-Portsmouth ferry en-route to Gosport. You can roughly make out the Gosport Marina on the right.
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A snapshot of the single room.
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A glimpse of the Clipper 68-foot yachts from the previous races. Coincidentally, I was to train on the “Welcome to Yorkshire” for the next week.
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And lastly, pizza Thursdays (half-priced) near the Spinnaker Tower20130725-004140.jpg

Level 1 – Day 1. Welcome to Yorkshire

Took the day relatively slow and easy. Having checked out from the Spring Garden Guest House, I took a slow stroll towards the Gosport Marina after having diverted to the Clipper Office at Royal Clarence to collect my much awaited waterproof duffel bag.
At the training centre, I was warmly greeted by the two very lovely clipper staff who then assisted me to “don the red”.
By 1700hrs, we were “picked up” by our trainer and first mate (Mark and Evan) who then brought us to our training boat, the CV 3 – Welcome to Yorkshire.

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The first day was really a kind introduction of the roles, safety and below deck orientation.

The roles are depicted in the table below.

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Edgar and Fiona did an extremely good job as “Mothers” today, splendid pasta and garlic bread and setting the bar really high. I wonder if everyone on board is fine with soggy penne pasta with chorizos when it is my turn Monday.

We will spend the first 3 nights berthed in the marina before heading out sea on Days 4 to 6. One of the greatest benefit of being in berth is the access to showers! “Unlimited” heated water and proper toilets that do not require you to pump each time you use it. Such luxuries are absent during the later parts of training and the race.

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Regardless, it has been an informative first day and I will share more of this throughout the course.
For more photos, visit the Clipper Chronicles Facebook page.

The Kit List

Kit List

With training and race start just around the corner, it was inevitable for me to come up with my own Kit List.
Following the advice from Clipper HQ and past ‘Clipperites’, I compiled the following Kit List aka my “Wish-list”. (Advance thanks to willing sponsors)
The Kit List is categorised into four main areas: Storage, Protective, Accessories, and Hygiene; with an indicative cost and quantity for each item.

Sponsor Updates:
Aquapac – Has agreed to sponsor their 70L Upano Waterproof Duffel. A special arrangement has also been made for other quality Aquapac products. Thank you Aquapac!
Monash University (Alma mater) – Has agreed to sponsor Team MONASH merchandise. Cheers Mate!

You can refer to the Wish List here