First thing in the morning we learnt how to rig the clipper – running lines to hoist and trim the sails, as well as getting a final lesson on use of the winches and other deck equipment. It was my first introduction to ‘sweating’.
The Halyard (a rope that pulls the head of the sail up to the top of the mast) can be winched on the ‘coffee grinders’ all the way to the top, but that is certainly not the fastest way to raise the sails. Usually the ropes close to the mast are sweated, that is pulled backward to manually raise the sail, with the slack pulled into the winches by hand, until no more can be done manually.
I was told by Raeann that I had the perfect build for sweating – it is traditionally a job given to the bulkiest sailors. We set sail about noon and almost as soon as leaving Gosport harbour we cam into “a little weather”, as Skippy put it. Skippy was our name for Simon, the Skipper who had done the race twice, once as crew like us and in 2007/8 he had skippered Jamaica, one of the ten boats.
The “little weather” was freezing rain and hail and winds blowing at force 7 and gusting to gale force 8. It was extremely cold and the waves made it extremely difficult for a novice like me to walk down to the bow of the boat with any confidence. And it seemed that whatever job I did resulted in me having to face to directly into the hail.
At one point the boat was leant so far over to the side water came into the cockpit – not having a clue about sailing I naturally though we were about to sink.
I looked around the cockpit and no-one else seemed in the slightest worried, which led me to conclude it was perfectly normal (if extra cold!) What I will say is that the wind made for some exhilarating sailing – we only had one part of the main sail out and the smallest head sail, yet we still made some really good times – at some times we were moving at 15-16 knots in some of the biggest waves I had ever experienced – and we were still in the Solent!
When we came back into harbour at around 6.30pm we were all freezing. I had made the mistake of coming not particularly well equipped, and my gloves were useless.
They had been brilliant the week earlier in all the snow, allowing very long snowball fights with my family without letting any cold through to my hands-however in the conditions we experienced on my first day under sail they were awful. It was the equivalent of putting my hands into a freezer and keeping them there. One of the jobs I was given was to hold a roving fender – as we were “parking the boat” I had to follow the widest part of the boat with a fender to ensure we did not bump any of the surrounding boats.
However when we were safely parked up I was unable to use my fingers enough to tie the buoy onto the guard rail! We then had to moor up, tidy away all the sails and ropes, and get dinner ready – any tinned masterpiece! And then the de-briefing. I must confess I was seriously wondering why I was doing this – I was paying for the privilege to sit in the hail with hands that would not work, feeling thoroughly confused, our of my depth and thoroughly cold! Still I stripped off all the wet clothes and replaced them with all my remaining dry clothes, got into my sleeping bag and went off into a deep sleep.
David Harper is director of consultancy Leisure Property Services and has been working in the hotel property world for more than 10 years. He is a Chartered Surveyor and member of the Association of British Hospitality Accountants and author of Valuation of Hotels for Investors. He was previously head of international hotel brokerage and hotel valuations with CB Richard Ellis.
David is taking part in the Round the World Clipper Race 2009-2010. A complete sailing novice, he will take part in the 5,100+ mile (8,200kms) leg from Australia to China via Indonesia, through tropical heat and near arctic conditions. The six week race will start on 2nd January 2010. Over the next few months David will undergo a rigorous training schedule, which began last week aboard a boat named "Blackadder".
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