88. We’re A Funny Lot Us Sailors …….. And The Morn’ Of Race Message From Our Skipper

We are a funny lot, sailors. I’ve been one, lived with many and been privileged to have commanded a few in 34 years in the Royal Navy. I continue to work with them at Harwich and at the HHA. And now I rub shoulders, in some cases quite literally, with more at Clipper and team Unicef.

We work hard, we play hard. We are not adverse to the odd grumble. It is sometimes said you should only worry about a sailor if he or she has nothing to complain about. But woe betide anyone from the “outside” who criticises our ship, our crew mates or our unit. We can be fiercely loyal, make friends for life, and have an ability to pick up a long lost friendship as if we have never been apart.  Generally we are always up for a challenge, we are robust, determined and live life to the full. The old adage “When the Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He marks not that you’ve won or lost, but how you played the game” could have been written for many sailor I have known and do know. Sailors can also be superstitious, romantic and sentimental. Many, even those who never get over being sea-sick, have a deep, deep respect and affinity with Mother Nature and the Sea.

For those lucky enough to have been in charge of a boat or to have commanded a ship there is something else. Something special. A particular link, a particular connection with the ship herself. You talk to her and she talks to you. You get a feel for her and her moods. As I mentioned in my previous blog, someone standing next to me in St Katherine’s Dock as the Clipper yachts were slipping their lines commented to me that of all the yachts, Unicef – the yacht herself – actually seemed eager to get started. She was actually physically straining to be “released.” I made no comment but I had noticed the same thing myself.

The next day I read Ian Wiggin’s morn’ of race message on the private (Unicef Crew only) crew hub. I’ve never quoted from the crew hub before and I hope Ian won’t mind. Here is his message in full:

Today is the 1st of September. Today is the day we slip lines and parade under Tower Bridge. Today is the start of our racing adventure!

I had to get up a few times in the night to try and calm CV31. I said “Easy girl, shhhhh, eeeasy girl” as I rubbed her top sides. Her nostrils were flared and she was pulling on her mooring lines. This morning she is like a fully charged race horse and is restless. St Katherine’s Docks have been great, but I know she wants to stretch her legs and that the worlds oceans are calling her.

The Unicef crew were calm last evening. We explained how our first race is going to be around 7-8 days and that 1300nm is very similar to a L4 training course. Once we get away from the London excitement and adrenaline we are looking forward to settling into an ocean racing routine. I am sure emotions will be running high today, but that is completely natural. We will soak in this great experience today and then once we get to Southend tonight we will drop anchor and regroup. Tomorrow morning at around 10am we weill start our race. As I said to the team, the race cannot be won tomorrow……. but it can be lost. An ocean racing mindset is all about consistency, focus, and looking after everything. We will not be trying to win this first race at all cost. We need our sails to last 40,000nm. We need to look after our crew and equipment.

Lots of people have been asking if I am nervous. I am not nervous. We are about to sail 1300nm, most of which is near coastal. We have an amazing support team on shore, we have a great boat, our crew is unbelievable, and our boat speed has been good in training. I am not thinking about a round the world race. I am mainly thinking about getting to Portugal.

We have a great team and wider team of supporters. We have had so much support over the week. You have managed to build such a buzz over the past few months. Our “movement” has built great momentum. I have been very proud and flattered by the kind words that our visitors have said about our team, our attitude, and our performance. Very few people think that we are crazy!! In fact, many, many people are envious of our team dynamic and would love to be part of what we are doing together.

When William Ward (CEO) checked the JustGiving fundraising tally page for the first time the other day …. he thought the system was broken because we had raised so much!! On the same morning Sir Robin signed our C3 spinnaker. He knows about our team efforts and was very complimentary. Unicef UK are so proud and grateful to have us as a team.

Sir Robin wrote on our C3 “Everything is possible, anything can be.”

From the poem:

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child

Listen to the DON’TS.

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me –

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be!!!

Thanks again for such a great start. If you are supporting in London today please make lots of noise. I look forward to updating you all once we get to Portugal.

Portugal….. HERE WE GO!       Ian”


The Clipper Round the World Race fleet leaving gosport for the race start in London.
Free for editorial use image, please credit: Matthew Dickens/imagecomms The Clipper Round the World Race fleet leaving gosport for the race start in London.

Like I said, we’re a funny lot……..

and as if more proof were needed …….

I note that I landed in Uruguay, my Clipper Race departure country, yesterday – Saturday 12 October. It was my first landing in Uruguay, indeed my first landing from sea on the Atlantic coast of South America. I couldn’t help but note that the date was the anniversary of the first landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. Now I know I was a pretty good navigator in my time, and I am NOT likening myself to CC, but I also note that in some Latin American countries the 12th of October is also known as “Dia de la Raza” or Day of the Race!!! 

What do you think? Good omen?????




Please take a look. Thank you.

5 thoughts on “88. We’re A Funny Lot Us Sailors …….. And The Morn’ Of Race Message From Our Skipper

  1. Brilliant – as usual ! Yes I too said and felt at St Katharines Dock that the Unicef boat seemed to want be let loose from its restraints. Ian’s words repeated by you brought tears again .


  2. Hi Keith
    Good luck with the race, looking forward to reading your accounts of the journey. “We do not remember days , we remember moments” – Cesare Pavese
    Lesley xx


  3. I admire your determination on this unforgettable journey of a lifetime and will be closely following your progress.

    Godspeed Keith


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