Crew Allocation day – the build up has been unbelievable.

I had no real desire to be on any specific boat, though of course there were friends I rather hoped I might be sailing with. Originally I had though that it would be nice to be on Singapore or Qingdao as I would be racing into both ports, but after speaking to Charlie, a friend from Savills who completed the last race I decided not to request any particular boat. As such there was absolutely no reason for me to be on edge, or overly excited as to what boat I was going to be on…but I was!

The day started with an extremely early train ride down to Portsmouth – I met up with a couple of clipperites and managed to share a bottle of bubbles before 8am…just the way ocean racing should be!

The day started with a number of presentations…Joff (the race director) talking about the race, sponsors talking about what they were after from the race etc. Then came a moment of magic. Colin de Mowbray came on to speak about the Clipper sailing club. I had never met Colin, never even heard of him, so I had no idea what to expect – the brief was to talk about a club that had been set up for people who had sailed on Clipper. He brought the house down – a fantastically irreverent speech which culminating in him ripping a skirt off his co presenter ala Bucks Fizz, followed by her ripping his trousers off. I must say I felt very sorry for the Hull & Humber representative who had to follow him!

One interesting statistic that came up was that for the race so far there had been 5,300 training days completed. Although this seems a massive amount, another 14,782 days of training would be undertaken before the race starts!

We then had an address from Sir Robin Knox Johnston which was inspirational.

He said “When you come back I want to hear you say two things. One – That’s the best thing I have done in my life. And the next thing, because then I know you really have benefitted, is to turn around and say “so far”.

Then came the moment we were all waiting for. Each skipper got up one by one to announce his crew mates. I think the fear of everyone there was that their name would not be read out…that they had been missed off somehow and would not be able to race! I was sat with Simon and Ian from my Part B course…and would have been delighted to sail with either of them on the race. Simon was first picked on CV1 – a boat with no name. I was really hoping my boat would have a name (Singapore, Quindío, Cork, Hull & Humber, California or Cape Breton) as it seemed a slight let down to be just a number until the sponsorship deal was completed. Needless to say both Ian and I started to rib Simon about being unnamed!

We sat on the stairs (the room was well oversubscribed) waiting with baited breathe as we heard many friend be allocated other boats. As each boat went by it seemed more likely that I would either be on a boat with Ian or that my name had been missed off the list. Then up came boat 8 of 10, Hull & Humber. Loads of my friends had been extremely keen to get on this boat – it was the start and finish port, probably the best followed boat in the race, and many people were local. I was the first name I recognised on the boat and could not help but smile. Following on came Paul from part B and Ali and Raeann from part A and Part B. I was thrilled, I would be sailing with some good friends (albeit that those three would not be on the boat at the same time as me).

All that was left was to wait until Ian knew what boat he was on…and the wait just continued. We were almost convinced he had been missed off when he was one of the very last people allocated to California, the last boat.

So it was just Simon without a name!

We had a twenty minute break to phone loved ones with the news and then we straight in to the team briefings. I had raced against my skipper, Piers Dudin on part B – he was the one who seemed to think it was OK to keep the engine running whilst sailing! He was by far the tallest of all the skippers (we were winning already) and seemed a really nice bloke.

However we had what appeared to be a slight problem – one of the crew members was just listed as “One Ambassador” and I had no idea what this was all about. Those from Hull had heard all about the program, but being from out of the region I had no concept of what the program was about. I discovered that we had about twenty kids (around 18 years of age) running about in our team briefing, not listening to what the Skipper was saying, and generally showing off. One young girl in particular would not take no for an answer and kept asking the same question and not listening to the answer. I feared this would cause immense problems and could be a real hindrance to the team’s ability to win the race…if we had to babysit people we would not be able to concentrate on doing the things needed to win.

I think it is very important to say that my first impressions were spectacularly wrong. The One Ambassador program will put two of these youngsters on each leg of the race. They all have had disadvantaged upbringings, and are having their places paid for by Clipper and the team sponsor. The idea is to give the selected youngsters a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something inspirational, but more importantly experience the benefit of team work first hand, as well as hopefully finding a mentor or two on board. During the course of the day I spoke with every one of the Ambassadors, and without exception they all seemed great kids (if slightly uncertain how to act in public gatherings). One of our team mates Maggie had been on part A with a number of them and had experienced first hand exactly how hard they all seemed to be trying and as such all of my initial doubts were proven to be completely wrong.

The Hull sponsor was at the team meeting – Jonathan wanted to be a full part of the team, albeit that he would not be sailing. The idea of the sponsorship was to promote the Hull & Humberside region – the area has had some really dreadful press, and he wanted all of us to embrace the city and for those of us not from the region to learn all we can about the area and become ambassadors for the regions ourselves. He, for his part, promised to spend all of his accommodation budget at each stop over on drinks for the crew…which ensured he was the most popular fellow in the room! It certainly seemed like a fair exchange to me.

We were issued with bright Orange T shirts and baseball caps, as the boat livery was Orange – it stood out better than all other colours, according to research carried out by the sponsors. However it led to one or two of us thinking of Easy Jet (we were called easy clipper later in the night by other teams) and B&Q. We decided to name the boat BOB (big orange boat).

We talked tactics with Piers for a while and then soon it was time to go down to the boat for some photos. The day was extremely hot, so we were thrilled to see that Jonathan had decided to fill the boat with champagne and beer…we knew he would be an invaluable part of the team.

We then went off to our team meal where we had three long tables reserved – we all swapped seats each course to try and mix as much as possible and I think by the end of the meal we all had had a chance to speak to most people. Then came a very important moment from my perspective. We were trying to build a team here, but had only had a short time in which to bond.

The plans were to go up to a nightclub which involved going past the bouncers and into the club. Unfortunately a number of the Ambassadors were underage (by days rather than weeks) or did not have ID and were refused admittance. So it was decided to sit at an outside café/bar – the underage guys would not drink but would still be able to stay with us, rather than being separated. A number of our crew had successfully managed to get upstairs, where we were meeting up with all the other crews, so effectively we were split up. Whilst I was arranging the drinks (I seem to have been typecast in this role as well as for the grunt work on board the boat) Raeann and Ali went upstairs and told the rest of the team what had happened – and within ten minutes we had the whole crew in the café instead. It bode really well for Piers ability to mould us into a superb team!

However about 11pm the staff at the café realised a couple of our team did not have ID, and they were not happy about having minors (even tee total

ones) on site, so all the Ambassadors decided to go back to the boat and leave us all to head off to Tiger Tiger. We met up with loads of our friends and I kept winding everyone up who did not have a name…it was my second worst fear (after not getting a boat at all!)…though many people told me to be really careful and not to gloat…and how right they turned out to be.

Anyway I caught up with Simon and Ian and quite few sherbets were had…I think my evening ended at about 3am in a kebab shop in the old part of Portsmouth…the following day I had all but lost my voice.