Corporate Sailing

Cambridge, 31st August 2001
Without having stepped into a sailing boat since March, apart from a day trip in my uncle's small yacht (which was blighted by a serious lack of wind), I once again travelled down to Southampton and then onto Ocean Village for two weeks of corporate sailing. One of the perks of being a boat sponsor is that you get a number of days where you take your staff or clients for a day sail on your race boat. I was to be based on the winning boat, LG Flatron, for two weeks of these sails, working with Oliver Browett (Olly) and the skipper Alex Johnson (Alfie/Skip). He was subbing in for the race skipper, Conrad Humphries, who was racing in the EDS Atlantic Challenge.

This was to be my first chance to set foot and sail the 72" race boats that I will use for my race in 2004, so was a really good chance to get acclimatised to the boats, and also to cement in the basics learnt on my Introduction sail.

As I arrived, I once again got to look at the marina, with 11 of the 12 race boats all tied up - flags fluttering in the wind, proudly showing sponsors logos. I waited until the boat that Olly was on got back - they had been taking some of the catering staff sailing for the day, managed to introduce myself and then moved into LG. The layout both above and below deck has been altered from the older 67" fleet, and seems to make much more sense. I chose my bunk for the fortnight, and in what now seems like routine, paid a visit to the local bar. Charmingly called 'Los Marinos', serving food and drinks at London price levels, it looks over Ocean Village Marina and the race boats. Slightly less charmingly nicknamed 'Los Bimbos' partly due to the clientele and partly due to their policy of only employing female attractive serving staff.

It was slightly confusing at first, since I didn't know anyone but Olly, and had to work out who there were Crew Volunteers, who were catering staff and who were Challenge employees. Still, I made a start, and sated my thirst. A night out was planned, to a karaoke club called 'Jumpin' Jaks'. I should have known by the name really... It turned out to be mainly full of 17 year old girls dressed up to the nines, dancing on the chairs and tables. Entertaining, as were some of the people that took to the large stage to parade their talents. Highlights were definitely the compare joining in an Abba song with one girl, a brilliant camp version of Boyzone, and Bohemian Rhapsody by a regular. Although several people thought otherwise, I was very amused by the whole show, although I did catch a lift back a few hours and a good few pints earlier than most others... well, you have to try and make a good impression on your first day at work!

Eight o'clock arrived, and I was on board, showered, shaved and changed for my first day to welcome Alex and Dan, the first mate, on board. First duties of the day were cleaning - as new boy I got the heads to clean, and made sure that they thought twice about asking me again by taking quite a while to do a good job of it. Moving the food on board was the next job - several crates of cutlery and crockery, several trays of food - food which was to become ominously familiar over the next two weeks, two boxes of drinks and a couple of bags of ice. I spent a lot of time asking basic questions, trying to get an idea of how they ran things. By the time I arrived, Olly had already done several weeks on the boat with Alex and Dan, so pretty much knew the score. Other jobs to be done were sorting the boat out for departure - singling up fenders and mooring lines.

Once the tasks were complete, time to read the papers (both Olly and Alex typically bought a paper, although they would almost always conspire to buy the same one), catch a bite of breakfast. Once the guests had arrived and had some breakfast in the marquee, we'd send Dan to fetch them, helpfully issuing them with name labels. Guests on board, bags down below, and Alfie would start his welcome speech. By the end of two weeks I pretty much knew it word for word; the interest lay in spotting where he accidently start to say things differently, and corrected himself. Lifejacket briefing, and winch demonstration followed; I paid particular attention to the lifejacket briefing since that would to be one of my jobs for the fortnight.

Once that was complete, we'd ask the marina for permission to leave, start the engines, lose the mooring lines and motor out into Southampton water.