So long Cape Town. It’s been a blast! Leg 3 (Race 4) starts TODAY!


In the words of the UNICEF team song, “Here We Go” .. again, as today we finally say goodbye to Cape Town and South Africa. Next stop, fingers crossed, Fremantle Australia. The Leg 2 team have been joined by Tim, Rob, Thomas, Seb, Anne, Andrew Toms and Sophie – or I should say REjoined in Sophie’s case as she only left the team in Punta at the end of Leg 1 – and we have said our planned goodbyes to Gareth, Christian, Sheila, Joe (until he returns for Legs 7 & 8) and Jeremy (until Leg 8). We are back to a (near full) complement of 22.

So, once again on the eve of a race, how am I feeling? Well perhaps not quite as nervous as last time and certainly ready to go. The Southern Ocean is one of the reasons I first signed up for Clipper. I have never sailed in the Southern Ocean, and I will be rounding the Cape of Good Hope for the first time. The Southern Ocean has a fearsome reputation. Clipper have imposed an ice limit for example and yachts are not permitted to sail south of 45S for example. I expect it to be cold, wet, rough and tough. Extremely mentally and physically challenging.

So, what will it be like this time? Again, here’s what the official race magazine has to say:

“Cape Town to Freemantle is also referred to as the Southern Ocean Sleigh Ride. This leg offers some of the most extreme and testing conditions of the entire circumnavigation, with teams dipping into the notoriously strong winds of the Roaring Forties. Once clear of Table Bay, which is stunning but well known for its tricky, fickle wind patterns, teams will head for the first Great Cape, The Cape of Good Hope. It’s then on to the Angulhas Bank, where the meeting of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans causes very disturbed seas. Spinnakers are likely to reappear and ocean racing tactics will be in full flow. Teams will discover exactly what the Clipper 70s are made of as they surf downwind on swells higher than buildings.

Despite the gruelling reputation that the Roaring Forties command, this is a place respected by sailors as one of the best places to fully appreciate Mother Nature in her most powerful glory.”

And here is what it looked like in a previous edition

and in the 2017-2018 edition when the Greenings yacht was wrecked off the South African coast and subsequently washed ashore and, very tragically, Simon Spears was washed overboard and drowned from Great Britain…….

Time to go. Here We Go. Wish me luck.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

and for UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank you.

And this is what Leg 2 was like this time out

Words don’t really do it justice. The South Atlantic was everything I expected and remembered. It was tough. Some of my colleagues describe it as the toughest thing they have ever done. I would caution them to add … “so far!” Getting a podium finish for us was undoubtedly the icing on the cake. That it turned out to be a 2nd place was really special.

20191112_095922
The 2nd Place pennant flying from the UNICEF mast after prize giving

IMG-20191113-WA0004


And this is the official Clipper “take” on our Leg 2 across the South Atlantic. Put together with footage from across the Fleet, keep an eye out for team UNICEF – our sail number is 731X. I promise I was waving!!!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

for UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank You.

Captain’s Log, star date 291019

Those of you following this blog will know that I have quoted our skipper, Ian Wiggin, once before (see blog 88: We’re a funny lot us sailors ….., published 13 October). Those of you following the “action” on the official website will know that one member of each crew blogs to the official website on a daily basis AND that each skipper blogs every day. For those who might have missed it, here is the UNICEF skipper’s blog from 29th October (Leg 2, Race 3, Day 6 – somewhere in the South Atlantic:

Good Morning,

‘It is another crisp and clear morning down here for us. Excitement is building for some stronger winds which are due later today. The smooth seas and gentle breeze of the past few days have been most pleasant but we are all now ready for what will hopefully be a wet and wild ride all the way to the finish (KW Editorial note: IT WAS!)

Yesterday during our rig check, we found that the cover on our old main halyard had snapped. We were able to lash the sail to the top of the mast and conduct our repairs without any drama or loss of speed. Big respect to the guys and girls who race single handed and have to conduct all repairs on their masts solo.

Personally I think there is something quite reassuring about having a team to help and look out for you. To show our team how cool and down with the times I am, I even took a virtual 360 – slow motion video of my face on the way down. I say virtual because I didn’t have a video camera. But, imagination doesn’t require any batteries and my “epic selfie face” still got me some respect from the millennials. From the top of the mast I was able to see a few small white dots on the horizon. UNICEF getting points at the scoring gate is looking unlikely at this point but we will keep pushing as hard as we can.

You may notice that I often tend to avoid discussing food. So please indulge me briefly. It was pointed out (KW Editorial note: NOT by me it wasn’t!) that my dinner was made by one of the (former) most senior ranking officers in the Royal Navy. Now who can say that 1. they have a Commodore on their team and 2. that they personally made them their gluten free pasta. “Come dine with me” eat your heart out!!

The food this trip is bittersweet …… not because the chefs are confusing the sugar with the salt but because our amazing victualled, and valued RTW crew member Angie was not able to join us on this leg. Having sailed 5500nm on Leg 1 sadly she took a slip in the shower ashore in Punta del Este on the first evening and injured her wrist. In spite of this, Angie helped us organise our provisions which is above and beyond anything that we could have asked. We are thinking of you, can’t wait for you to rejoin.

Here we go.

Ian and Mike.

PS ….. we also produced the first cakes of leg 2!

For Diabetes and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

for UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank You

 

 

Message in (South Atlantic) Bottle

The departure from Punta del Este was exciting and emotional. I finally reached the stage when I just wanted to get on with it and get started. Have moved all my kit on board on October 22nd and weighing in very comfortably inside the target for multi legged crew members all my kit to last me until Fremantle not just Cape Town came in at 13.4kg including my bag!

Just  a few highlights from departure and first few days. Firstly we were happy with our race start. First across the line and a close run race particularly with Quindao who just pipped us to the first mark. We “finished” third but of course none of that counts. We then had a bit of a tactical slow patch while we sorted a few things out and watched the fleet divide.

Since then we have been racing hard and have watched ourselves claw up the leader. Board from 9th, through 7th and 5th to the morning of 25th when we were 2nd. We still have over 3000 miles to race. The weather has been sporty to say the least and we have been clipped on ever since leaving Punta. With the wind and sea on our starboard quarter we are surfing and rolling quite a bit and 3 of our number have been laid low with seasickness. Sadly 2 in my own watch. We are giving them every encouragement and support.

Life on board has settled quickly into watches and a sail, eat, sleep, repeat routine. Sunrises and sunsets have been beautiful and my first night watch was under spectacularly clear skies with the entire Southern Hemisphere star system on display. We had a dolphin escort in bioluminescent trails on night one and have seen plenty of bird life including albatross.

Our watch system runs fairly simply. Typically I would be shaken at 22.30 with just enough time to put on socks, 2 layers on my legs and 3 layers on my top followed by Musto sailing sallopettes that go over both and then my UNICEF jacket and sailing boots. These have waterproof gaiters that roll up over my sallopette trousers and stop seawater getting into my boots. My life jacket goes on over this. Add a hat, gloves, knife, headtorch and bingo- there you have sartorial elegance Clipper style. Probably best to brush over the fact that I haven’t actually changed any of my clothing yet!

The watch runs from23.00 until 0300 with the next watch being woken at 02.30. I then get some sleep before being shaken at 06.00 to dress and have breakfast before going on watch again at 07.00. I am then on watch until13.00 with the oncoming watch being called at 12.00 to dress and have lunch. I get my lunch at about 13.15. I’m then off watch until called again at 18.30 to go on watch 19.00-23.00. And so it continues this time off watch from 23.00 to 03.00 and on watch 03.00-0700.

Leg 1 – a 2 video recap

By the time you read this, thanks to clever programming, I should be 48 hours into a 3,555 nautical mile crossing of the South Atlantic. Those of you watch the Race Viewer via the official Clipper Round The World web site will have a good idea of exactly where we are, and how we are doing.

Meanwhile, here are two videos of what Leg 1 looked like. Enjoy:

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

for UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank you.

Leg 2 (Race 3) starts TODAY!

IMG-20191022-WA0019
Sunset, Punta del Este, 22 October 2019, the eve of Leg 2.

I will be onboard the team UNICEF yacht, the big blue boat from about 10am Uruguay time this morning (around 2pm UK time) ahead of race start for Leg 2. Ian, Mike Miller, Dan, Danny, Holly, John Dillon, John Dawson, Mike Willis, Anthonie, the other Keith, Alex, Andrew, Sandra, Joe and Geoff who all completed Leg 1 plus me, Christian, Gareth, Sheila and Jeremy joining for Leg 2.

I’ve been at sea in the South Atlantic before and indeed I’ve been around Cape Horn twice, but it’s been quite a while – about 27 years to be more precise – and I’ve never crossed the South Atlantic west to east before.

How am I feeling?

Excited. Nervous. Apprehensive. Keen to get down to the yacht. Keen to get started. Worried not to let anyone down. I’m used to all these feeling immediately prior to going to sea. I’ve been here before, but again it’s been quite a while. Strangely it never seems to get any easier. I’ve never liked goodbyes either. And today, somewhere on the jetty of the Punta del Este yacht club, or more likely somewhere a little more private, I will say goodbye to Ruth, at least until Cape Town. I’ve done this before too. Again it’s been a while. Again it doesn’t get easier with time or previous experience. So why do I do it?

For me Clipper is really all about two things. I have spent most of my adult life as part of maritime teams. Groups of people, be they military or civilian, who share a common bond, a deep affinity, a huge respect and, let’s admit it, in some cases even a love for the sea and all things maritime. This is what has always “floated my boat” and “spun my props.” Clipper does this again for me. Secondly, as I wrote when first setting up this blog, sailing west to east across the 4 big ocean crossings of the world is my circumnavigation. It represents an enormous personal, physical, emotional and psychological challenge. I have rarely if ever settled for the easy way out in anything I have undertaken and I don’t intend to start now.

20191022_190029

What will it be like? Well I’m tempted to say, “watch this space” as I intend to blog when and if I can and should anything get in the way I’ll be writing down as much as I can in order to blog more fully from Cape Town. But for the record, this is what the official Clipper 2019-2020 magazine has to say about Leg 2:

“Upon leaving South America, teams will encounter the trade winds and rolling swells as they head towards the Southern Ocean with spinnakers flying. Big tactical decisions await; previous editions have seen podium places decided by just 15 minutes. Heading south before turning east will be the longer route, but may offer more consistent wind conditions. Heading east shaves off hundreds of miles, but could leave the yachts too close to the windless centre of the St Helena High (South Atlantic High). As the fleet ducks south, long rolling swells will provide fantastic conditions for surfing down waves. An exhilarating leg, boat speeds will easily be in excess of 20 knots. Previous teams have recorded speeds of more than 30 knots as impressive fountains of water emerge over the bow. The Asymmetric Spinnaker features heavily in this leg, although crews will need to be careful not to overpower it as a blown spinnaker will compromise performance for the rest of their race.

Mighty Table Mountain will be visible from quite some distance away, but the race is not over yet. The wind shadow of Table Mountain offers one last hurdle in a race that is known to be a closely fought battle right until the very end.”

And this is what it has looked like in a previous edition and the 2017-2018 Leg 2 recap:

Time to go, and as the UNICEF song says, “Here we Go!” Wish me luck.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

For UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank you.

Am I Ready????

Am I ready??????????? …………..

Safely arrived in Punta del Este ………. CHECK

Registered and passport surrendered ………. CHECK

Clipper crew assessment passed ………. CHECK

Welcome ASADO and Uruguayan hospitality sampled ………. CHECK

IMG-20191019-WA0029

Tango moves practiced ………. CHECK

Old friends from previous levels of Clipper training bumped-in-to and a first drink with the other Keith W on the UNICEF team ………. CHECK

Assisting in the sail repair of the team UNICEF Code 2 Spinnaker (with plenty of help from crew supporters ………. CHECK

Up at 0415 to watch England vs Australia in the rugby World Cup ………. CHECK

IMG-20191019-WA0033

Clipper Refresher sailing complete ………. CHECK

Packing the food for the next 20 days or so (again with help from crew supporters ………. CHECK

Tour guide for visiting Punta del Este school children …………. CHECK

IMG-20191022-WA0008

Late evening return of the UNICEF mainsail to the yacht ………. CHECK

IMG-20191022-WA0010

IMG-20191022-WA0015

Ruth adding her signature to the list of people who have kindly donated to at least one of my JustGiving pages whose names are now recorded inside my Musto sailing smock ………. CHECK

Bags all packed ahead of the weigh-in and bag drop in the morning ………. CHECK

20191022_002356

Am I ready?????????????

 

IMG-20190720-WA0000

……… I guess I must be!!!!!!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

for UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank you.

Postcard from Punta

20191017_110121

This is now the end of my first full day in Punta dal Este and tomorrow, Friday 18 Oct, I “register” at the Clipper office to formally join the UNICEF yacht for the beginning of Leg 2. The weather today has been very ………………. South Atlantic! It’s been raining pretty much all day, cold – certainly much colder than the 27 degrees C experienced in Buenos Aires last week – and windy. Excellent preparations I can here you say. Thankfully the forecast for the rest of the week is for improvement.

Ruth and I arrived yesterday in time for the Leg 1 prize giving ceremony at the Punta del Este yacht club. It was great to catch up with my UNICEF crew mates and to bump into old friends from Levels 1, 2 and 3 training who are racing with other crews.  Line honours went to Qingdao in first place and as they were playing their Joker they doubled their points, picking up 22 points plus bonus points from the scoring gate meaning they are the current overall leaders. Sanya finished second, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam third and UNICEF a very creditable fifth. No news yet on penalty points for race 1 and race 2 of  Leg 1 which may yet alter the overall race standings before we sail again on the 23rd. Plenty of rumours flying around about other yachts – none of which bare repeating here – but I can report that Holly and the UNICEF sail repair team have been busy repairing our Code 2 Spinnaker which did suffer damage during Leg 1. In breaking news (DEFINITELY NO PUN INTENDED) Angie our circumnavigating Chief victualler …… has broken her wrist and will have to go home to New Zealand for an op. Heartbreaking news as it means she will miss at least the next leg, and very likely Leg 3. She was still in good spirits last night but we will miss her very much as a team. Sheila, one of the joiners for Leg 2 will take on the role. The skipper of Seattle has also left his boat in Punta. Regular followers of Clipper news will be aware that he fell overboard in the North Atlantic during Leg 1. He was on deck at night and not clipped on. The only gossip I am prepared to repeat is that last night I was told, admittedly at least third hand,  that on entering the water his first thought was, “I’m going to die,” and upon seeing Seattle begin to manoeuvre to pick him up his second thought was “I’m going to be sacked.”

After registering tomorrow, and surrendering my passport, Ruth and I will join all crews and race supporters at a welcome Asado – a traditional Uruguayan welcome BBQ, something of a South American meat-fest! On Sunday 20th I will do my pre-Leg 2 sailing assessment-sail afloat with other Leg 2 joiners in CV29 (Sanya) from 0900 to about 1630 and immediately thereafter I should find out my bunk allocation, who I am hot-bunking with, which watch I am in and who I will be Mother-Watching with!

The following day I am a tour guide for 3 hours showing children from Punta del Este schools around the UNICEF boat and then on the 22nd it’s time to get all my kit weighed, drop my bags off onboard, complete a briefing about the onboard satellite communications kit (that hopefully will allow me to continue blogging) and some other last-full-day-alongside stuff. That afternoon we will all attend the Leg 2 race brief in a nearby hotel before each team will complete their  team briefings onboard individual yachts. Wednesday 23rd Oct is Race start for me and Race start for race 3, Leg 2 across the South Atlantic to Cape Town. All crews must be onboard their yachts by 11am. There will be a farewell parade and yachts will slip lines at 2.00pm local. The Parade of Sail starts at 2.45pm and the yachts will cross the race start line at 4.00pm. More to follow ………..

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

The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S

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”

cropped-clipper2019-20racefleet-jpg.jpg

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?????

 

https://www.justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

https://www.justgiving.com?KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank you.

Another Time Travel blog

 

If I’ve programmed this correctly then this is another blog posts that goes back in time as I travel. Right now, as this is published, I should be at sea. Not, I hasten to add, as a crew member on the UNICEF Clipper yacht, but hopefully as a foot passenger on the Buenos Aires to Calina ferry across the River Plate between Argentina and Uruguay. The lead yachts could well be in Punta del Este by now and it will be 6 days before I must “report for duty” and 11 days to my own Race Start. Time to wind the clock back again to THE Race Start and the run up to 1st September.

RaceStartingIMG-20190829-WA0001

The Bank Holiday Monday prior to Race Start saw me don my boat-tour-guide rig to show, first Ruth, and then son Alastair, daughter-in-law-law Sarah, brother Paul, and sister-in-law-to-be Janine around the UNICEF yacht alongside in St Katherine’s Dock, London. We had a good crawl around the yacht – in some cases quite literally, and the beautiful day and hot weather only served to point out the lack of air conditioning! For Ruth it was her second look around the inside of a Clipper yacht; she remains unconvinced it constitutes a sensible means of travel, and for Alastair, Sarah, Paul and Janine this was a first. Sadly Ruth had to depart early to meet other commitments back home but the rest of us finished the day with suitable refreshments.

It was also my first opportunity to look around the Clipper Race village at St Katherine’s Dock.

Our Code 3 Spinnaker was also available to “sign” with donations going to the UNICEF UK charity. Ruth and I both signed.

Some of the UNICEF crew were already living onboard the yacht by then, most notably Holly, our sail repair team-leader and a circumnavigator from the West coast of the US and Joe, with whom I will cross the South Atlantic this year and the North Atlantic next year. Joe is doing Legs 1, 2, 7 and 8.

RaceStartingIMG-20190831-WA0001
Mike weighing the skipper’s kit as he moves it onboard. I will go through a similar process in Punta.

Various other members of the crew were around and between guided tours I helped Joe, Sarah (who I did Level 4 with in July – see Blog 81: Race 2 Day 3 latest ….. 4800 nautical miles still left to race, so let’s wind the clock back a bit, published 18 September) who is doing Leg 4 around Australia, and Thom who is doing Leg 1 of this edition of the Race but has competed in TWO previous editions  and has the t-shirts and hats to prove it, empty the sail locker of all the sails so everything below decks could be cleaned for a media event later that afternoon.

The UNICEF yacht also moved berths for this filming..

RaceStartingIMG-20190827-WA0000

which also produced this excellent, Ian Wiggin-led guided tour of OUR yacht…..

The Tuesday and Wednesday of that week saw me dashing between London, Harwich and Eccleshall before I was back in London at St Katherine’s Dock again to collect my UNICEF branded kit – a rather smart UNICEF/Musto jacket and a couple of UNICEF Clipper shirts – and join a host of UNICEF crew members for the official naming ceremony of our yacht .

Now I’ve actually only ever been to a couple of ship naming/launch ceremonies previously. One was the naming of a big cruise liner in Southampton when I was the Captain of the city’s adopted name-sake destroyer, and the second was as the Captain   Designate of HMS BULWARK as she went down the slipway at Barrow.

What all three ceremonies had in common (apart from years of maritime tradition, strong sense of family and belonging etc etc etc) was ………………. champagne!

Race StartingIMG-20190829-WA0018
The team gathers in the bow for yacht naming

RaceStartingIMG_20190829_192842_665
The bow is “christened” with champagne by the Clipper Ventures plc CEO and a representative of the charity UNICEF UK

RaceStartingIMG_20190829_192712_154
L to R: John (Legs 1,2,3 & 6), Mario (Leg 1), the other Keith W (Legs 1, 2 & 3). Angie (circumnavigation), Sue (Legs 1 & 6), Thom (Leg 1) and Sarah (Leg 4).

RaceStartingIMG_20190829_192202_217
Lindsay (Leg 1) doing what looks like, at first glance, a very passable impression of me!!!!

The following night (Friday) Ruth and I were back in London for the pre-race party only to then drive back to Eccleshall that same night (getting home at 0500 on Saturday morning) in order to be “on duty” at the annual Eccleshall Show at 0630! On Sunday we were ……… back in London! It was Race Start Day.

The atmosphere was fantastic with thousands of people in St Katherine’s Dock and many more lining the banks of the Thames. All the circumnavigators and the crew completing Leg 1 were already onboard. There were at least a dozen or so other crew members who had come down to London to see our team mates off. It was exciting and emotional and, if I’m being completely honest, made me wish I was doing Leg 1. To my very great surprise, having popped down onto the pontoon and then onboard the yacht to say our farewells, those of us who were fortunate to be present in our UNICEF branded clothing were invited to join the circumnavigators and the Leg 1 crew who were about to sail away from London, in the farewell parade and stage appearance prior to the yachts slipping their lines. A couple of my team mates who had collected their branded kit that very morning just had time to slip away and change. A few more continued to watch from the quay side. I felt honoured and privileged to be taking part. Unfortunately it did mean Ruth was left watching from the quay as once onboard we were not allowed off the yacht until it was time to parade and, as the last yacht programmed to sail, we were the last team to parade.

As is often the way at these times, as a team, we invite each other to share thoughts. More often than not this is done by throwing a knotted rope around. When the rope comes to you, it’s your turn to share your thoughts. Today’s topic, not unnaturally, was “what are you most excited about and what are you most worried about?” Not necessarily in that order. When it came to my turn it was quite easy. I talked about the excitement I felt for my team mates sailing in just a few hours and the enormous unexpected privilege I felt at being able to join in what I had always assumed would be their parade today. When it came to concerns I explained that when I left Ruth on the quay  I had told her I was just “popping onboard to say a few quick goodbyes”, but as I had not returned my real concern was that Ruth might be thinking I was about to do Leg 1 after all!

Eventually it became our turn to parade around the various basins that constitute St Katherine’s Dock and then finally up onto the stage to the “our song” – see Blog 85: Here We Go, published 7 October. A quick interview by Ian and then, to much cheering and waving, we made our way back to the boat.

RaceStartingIMG-20191001-WA0009

The event was televised and friends watching on BOTH sides of the Atlantic sent us screenshots, the cameraman appearing to take a particular shine to Ruth 😉

This time it really was time for the goodbyes (at least until Punta for me)

RaceStartIMG-20190901-WA0055
L to R: Jo (Leg 7), me, Karen (Legs 5, 6 & 8), Chris (Legs 5 & 6), and Bruce (Legs 5 & 6)

and I rejoined Ruth and the other supporters to watch the Fleet proceed out of the Dock and into the Thames.

Race StartingIMG-20191001-WA0005
Ian and Mike ready for “the off”

RaceStartingIMG-20191001-WA0004
Joe say farewell

RaceStartIMG-20190901-WA0054

 

So, a few other thoughts as I waved them off and was left looking at an empty St Katherine’s Dock? First and foremost it was admiration for my fellow team mates, and all the other Clipperees, departing today. I knew how much more I had yet to organise and sort out in my life before I would be ready to Race and all these people had already achieved that. In particular a huge admiration for those about to spend the next 11 months circumnavigating the globe. I could see the mixture of excitement, anticipation and nervousness in everyone’s demeanour and hear it in their voices and I was excited and nervous for them in turn.

In the final few seconds before UNICEF slipped her lines someone in the crowd turned to me and said, “she looks as if she is straining to go,” and it was true, the yacht did look eager to depart and was pulling at her lines. No sudden gust of wind. No impatient revving of the engine from Ian. No prop wash from departing sister yachts. Although I too had noticed it, that restless movement indicating a desire to depart, I didn’t really give it another thought …………. until that is, I read the skipper’s final pre-sailing message to the UNICEF team when I finally reached home. But a little more about that in my next blog………

 

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure

and for UNICEF UK see:

https://justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank you.