Survive Across the Ocean
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 11-12, the longest yacht race in the world, finishes THIS SUNDAY 22nd July in Southampton. Go down from 11am for a day of music, festivities and to welcome the ten battered, bruised 68ft yachts and their triumphant crews back to Blighty. A flotilla of boats will be escorting the yachts in to Southampton Ocean Village. It will be an emotional and mighty spectacle.
On my own leg, a relentless 6,400 mile epic across the North Pacific, from China to the US, I learnt a few things about myself, about my crewmates, and a little about sailing.
Boiled down into the bare, briny knuckles, my advice for would-be oceanic adventurers:
There’s a knot for every occasion, and I’ve discovered that I really do like a good knot, well used. Of all the usefulness you learn at sea – how to make a Mayday call, what the TV weather forecast actually means, the best way to boil potatoes in sea water – it’s the knots I love the most.
If there’s one knot everyone should learn at school, it’s the BOWLINE. It’s pronounced ‘bow-lin’, and it makes an indestructible loop that will never slip but can always be released even if it’s been under very heavy loads. If you ever need to tie yourself on to a line to perform a Bear Grylls-style rescue of a baby up a tree, it’s the bowline you want. If you want to tie your dog to a lamp post, use a bowline. If you want to show off, you could even bowline your Christmas decorations. People who use sailing as a way of reaching disenfranchised young people often lay down the challenge of a fastest-bowline-behind-your-back contest. It’s like a duel, but without any dangerous weapons.
And because the easiest way to teach someone how to tie a bowline involves a story about a bunny, a tree, and a rabbit hole, it’s even got a rich narrative element that can capture the imagination of the non-practical dreamers amongst us.
What Not to Wear
The 21st century deep ocean sailor needs carefully packed, technical clothing that will survive the demands placed on it – clothing that prevents you from chilling dangerously after a sweat-inducing frenzy of activity on deck; clothing that will prevent freezing water reaching your skin when you get drenched by breaking waves; clothing that will remain bearable after what might be more than five weeks at sea without a proper wash. The best gear is high spec but eminently versatile – who, frankly, needs a wardrobe full of Captain Haddock thermals that won’t be used very often? So if you’re going to buy a few items for your deep ocean adventure – Jack Wolfskin Activefit trousers are quick-drying, don’t smell, are cut nicely for normal shaped women, and have a cunning, slight rise at the back of the waistband so that when you’re bending over, you don’t show your knickers to the world….Which leads me to: Cut the gussets out of your knickers. They’re the bits that won’t dry when your pants get wet. I don’t know what the boys do. Buy sudocrem for cheeks above and below. Arcteryx soft shell high loft jackets are awesome! Warm, cuddly, and in great fitting bright colours. Emminently reuseable for the pub too.
Not a Problem
In the tin-can confines of the yacht’s interior, you need to be creative about making space. On the old tallships, crew would climb out to the yards, 30m up, to get a bit of peace and quiet. That’s not an option on a yacht in a Force 9. You’ve got a saloon that you can wedge yourself into, or your (possibly shared) bunk. So, just as normal folks do on the bus, crew use personal music players to create private space, even if they’re physically proximate. It’s a social conceit, like the laws of going to the toilet – you pretend you’re not here, and we acknowledge the demand for studied social inattention. Anything technology that helps make space is, in my book, a useful bit of kit on a racing yacht.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of surviving the worst that nature can throw at you, and experiencing the best of human nature, check out www.clipperroundtheworld.com. They’re recruiting for the next race, starting in July 2013. You don’t need to have any experience sailing, you just need to be up for the challenge. And boy, what a challenge it is. Just ask the crews on Sunday in Southampton.
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