Induction Sail - Day 1

Cambridge, 15th March 2001
Well I'm now safely back in Cambridge, and although the horizon still seems to be slowly moving from side to side I'm back in one piece. So how was my first proper sailing week? Pretty awesome really; I'll try and go through the whole experience. I might well have the ordering of events wrong, or even get the days mixed up - so apologies if you were there and I've made a complete cock-up!

After a tense morning ringing up delivery firms, my sailing boots arrived about 2pm - I had hoped to get off by midday, but they were worth waiting for in the end. I finally got to Plymouth at just gone 9pm and was directed to the boat - my first look at the real boat. All but one of the crew was there already, and tucking into some food. I joined in at the table and soon was trying to get to grips with names and faces. The inevitable question of why I was doing the challenge came up, and we talked a bit about the difference in attitudes from just taking part in the challenge of sailing around the world to actually competing in the race. I think that although I accept that the former is a huge achievement, I'm also very excited by the prospect of the competition side of it, but as we agreed you obviously are only one out of a crew of 18 and a fleet of a dozen or so - the chance of actually winning the race is pretty small!

The first night was interesting - trying to work out a way of wedging my various limbs into the coffin bunk I had and get to sleep. I was in a 3-man cabin with Charlie and Andy. Charlie is at Sheffield University and was the youngest on board (following by myself). Andy was one of the real characters of the crew, but had one of the most regular and loud snores I've ever known. Not a lot of sleep that night, especially since the engine & generator were right next to our cabin making the whole thing akin to a sauna. Generator got turned on a 6am: everyone outside for a quick run and various exercises. The mate on board, Paul (Peanut) had said that he'd never been beaten on the run before. However, seeing Charlie and myself set the pace he took the decision to look after the back markers in the crew!

Anyway, then was breakfast and the first job of the day - clean the boat. We divided into two watches; port and starboard (depending on which side of the boat your cabin was in). Our watch, port watch, was myself, Charlie and Andy together with Nicky and Jenny. After a pleasant time washing the decks we got the official tours around the boat. One major component of the deck tour was learning how to operate winches - those banes of existence. They are responsible for controlling the tension on the end of a piece of rope - whether that rope is responsible for holding the mast up (the runner), holding a sail up (the halyard), controlling the angle of the sail (the sheet) and a few other jobs. Lunch followed, then the below deck tour - the sail locker, water & waste systems and the engine and communications systems.

The next hour or so was taken up by rigging the boat for a sail; not the easiest of jobs. 6 or so ropes had to be fitted to the right set of blocks and winches (downhaul, yankee sheet & staysail sheet for each side of the boat), and got to cross over in the right way. Mooring lines had to be changed so we could get out, sails out, etc. Then we were ready! It was quite an exciting moment really, the first sail in (almost) the proper yacht. You got the feeling the whole week that the boat was silently despairing of our efforts and was dreaming of a well-drilled crew to push it to the limit. Anyway, it had to be content with us... The first day we mainly got used to the idea of tacking on the way out of Plymouth, and gybing on the way back; starting to learn the responses to the verbal calls from the helmsman from the various positions on the boat. However, on the way back I started to feel pretty dodgy, and just when we were about to gybe I was going to be sick - thankfully someone was there to take over and I was free to dispose of my lunch over the starboard side. Not much fun, but by this time we were starting to come closer to Plymouth, so although I still felt pretty useless it didn't last much longer.

The boat moored again, we tidied up and settled into some food. Everyone was feeling hungry and tired, and preparing for another fairly early start.