When I wrote my first blog on 13th May this year I closed with the promise that “what followed … interview, contact, medical, insurance, off to the Little Ship Club in London with Ruth, and Level 1 training (including a small accident)” would all follow in subsequent blogs ……. so here goes. Time to do some pre-Level 1 training catch up.
Firstly, the interview. I drove down to Clipper HQ in Gosport early on the morning of Friday 3rd November last year. With me were 11 other hopeful-Clipperees. Some, like me, had not told anyone other than immediate nearest and dearest what we were up to that day and at least one brave individual hadn’t even told his wife he was attending the interview. I was, quite frankly, still at the “let’s see if I like Clipper (probably), let’s see if Clipper likes me (hopefully)” phase. My fellow adventurers were a mix of ages, backgrounds and sailing experiences, with 2 contemplating the full circumnavigation, most others considering a single leg, and me looking at 4.
It was refreshing that the Clipper team who spoke to us did not pull any punches. Nothing was sugar-coated. Little or no talk about champagne sailing, glorious sunrises, the majesty of the seas or exciting encounters with marine wildlife. More about cold and wet plus physical and mental challenges (perm any one of the major ocean crossings!), baking heat and insufferable temperatures plus physical and mental challenges (the doldrums/equator crossings), sea sickness, exhaustion … oh and a bit more about cold and wet … moving about at a 45 degree angle, using the heads (toilet) at a 45 degree angle, cooking at a 45 degree angle, watchkeeping, no showers, no mirrors ……. sail, sleep, eat, repeat…. oh and a bit more about wet and that was INSIDE the yacht. The only good news was that I had, by now, been following the current edition of the race pretty much daily at http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com and had already thought most of this stuff through.
The interviews were one-on-one. Mine was conducted by David Cusworth, the current Clipper Reqruitment and Development Director and himself a previous Clipper Round The World yachtsman and Watch Leader. Relaxed, informative, gently probing, he covered background, yachting experience (this didn’t take long), maritime experience (this took a little longer!), expectations and aspirations, crew roles and extra responsibilities, training, medical, payment plans, what could be expected from the “Clipper family” and closed by saying that I would hear in a few days whether they would be offering me a contract.
The day in Gosport also included an opportunity to meet members of the Clipper support team and to crawl all over one of the Clipper 68ft training yachts and talk to a training Skipper. First impressions of a Clipper 68 – very good condition for a yacht that had completed 4 circumnavigations of the planet; big alongside in Gosport but, I imagined, small in the North Atlantic and even smaller in the North Pacific; sparse internally; packing my kit was going to need careful consideration. When could I get started!!!?
About 3 or 4 days later David e-mailed and told me I had been successful and that a contract would follow. When it did it was impressively thorough. More thorough in fact than any of my post-military contracts of employment and much more thorough than anything I ever signed in the Royal Navy, including the Official Secrets Act!
in pretty short order thereafter I went through the contact in detail, joined the on-line Clipper Crew Hub and accessed a wealth of additional information, completed a detailed medical questionnaire followed by a medical with my GP and more medical forms, applied for and was accepted for Clipper specific personal and travel related insurance, arranged my training and fee payment (all payment must be completed by May 2019) and booked my Clipper 1 training, the first of 4 assessed training periods I must complete prior to race start in the summer of 2019. Then Ruth and I went to watch the Ashes cricket in Australia over Christmas.
On Sunday 14th January Ruth and I joined other successful applicants and supporters at The Little Ship’s Club on the Thames in London for an afternoon session of briefings (Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, David Cusworth, Ben Rowley – the Director of Training, Grace Kitching – Media and PR) and a panel discussion with 4 crew from the current edition of the Race who had, by then, completed Leg 1 (Liverpool to Punta del Este) and Leg 2 (Punta del Este to Cape Town) of the Race. Lots of “top tips” about training, fitness, personal kit, living onboard a Clipper 70 and, in one particular case, losing one and a half stone in weight over two legs of the race!
It began to really feel that the “YOU?” in the Clipper Advert posters should be replaced with “Yes, ME!”