One Week in China
I arrived in Beijing just under a week ago, and am feeling relatively at home, except for the disconcerting illiteracy that being in China brings to a non-Mandarin speaker/reader. There’s quite a lot of signage in Pinyin, Chinese written in the roman alphabet, but most Chinese people don’t use it, can’t read it, and Pinyin doesn’t tell you how to say the word correctly, as the same sounds can have very different meanings if you change the intonation. Horse, numb, mother and to swear are all ‘ma’ but intoned differently.
I travel again tomorrow, and in just a few short days I’ll be joining the crew of the Clipper
yacht Edinburgh Inspiring Capital to race across almost 6,000 miles of North Pacific Ocean. It’s winter and the Pacific, the largest water mass in the world, is renowned for ‘big’ weather at the best of times.
The last edition of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race saw more than twenty consecutive days of gale-force winds on the Pacific crossing. In conditions like that, life at sea in a 68ft boat becomes an exercise in survival and safety. Look after boat and body, and live to race another day, is the sober mantra.
The fleet are all now in to the safe harbour of Qingdao in Northern China, and they’ve had their fair share of battering as they ran up the east Asian coast through the China seas from Singapore. One crew member on the Gold Coast-sponsored boat snapped his leg in two places working up at the front of the boat, on the foredeck.
When conditions are bad, keeping your feet on deck whilst completing whatever urgent and necessary job is like standing on a soaking wet bucking horse having litres of ice-cubed salt water thrown into your face.
In honesty, I’m as scared as I am excited.
I haven’t ever experienced conditions worse than Force 6 in the North Sea. Which is, frankly, a bloody boating lake compared to what the Pacific might throw at us. How can I prepare? In practical terms, it’s well-packed kit and a good supply of sudocrem antiseptic cream for both sets of cheeks. But the key is psychological preparation. The boat will survive and thrive with an efficient and strong team. If our team dynamic is lacking, the passage could be more difficult, more dangerous and feel like forever.
I haven’t met any of my crew yet – all I’ve been told is to bring chocolate and a pair of socks to wear with my crew kilt. Edinburgh is bringing up the rear of the fleet, having accrued just 17 points in the Formula-1 style leader board, compared to the 83 points of current leaders, Gold Coast Australia. I’m yet to find out why.
It’s either because the crew of Edinburgh are not very competitive and would rather have a nice time than kill themselves winning; it’s possibly because they all hate each other, or perhaps the skipper, and are living through a floating nightmare where sailing slowly is the least of their worries; or it might be because they’re rubbish at sailing and keep messing up things.
What I know is that their facebook followers love them, they seem pleased to have me on the team, and their team culture is soon to be my team culture. More than five weeks in a 68ft floating pressure cooker with 18 strangers? I can’t help but think that the people are going to be as much a challenge as the Pacific.
www.clipperroundtheworld.comTagged in: adrenaline, Adventure, clipper round the world, fear, ocean challenge, pacific ocean, sailing, yacht race
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