Before you can participate in the Round the World Race everyone has to successfully complete a 4-week training program.
Weeks 1 & 2 are usually on one of the Clipper 68s – the previous versions of the boats that did the 4 races between 2007 and 2012. The courses can be taken in The Solent or in Sydney. You usually have circa 10 trainees with 2-3 training skippers/mates.
Weeks 3 & 4 are on the 70s and wherever possible with the skipper you will be sailing with on the race. The 70s are based in The Solent – not Sydney.
On day one the skipper sits you down in a group and asks all of you what sailing experience you have and everyone boldly tells stories of daring do and hours on the tiller! Wonderful, he says, now please forget ALL of that as the Clipper are completely different – like comparing a Ford Mondeo and an F1 car!
Loads of safety (“Mind those fingers on the winch!”), an introduction to the boat, man overboard drills (every day!), sail plans, the heads and hygiene. Oh yes, and a bit of sailing! Actually, most days you are out on the Solent but return to Gosport at night for dinner with your crewmates swopping highlights of the day.
This is the hard week. Into watches and off into The Solent practising newly learned sail evolutions around the clock. 4 hours on, 4 off, 4 on, 6 off and then 6 on! That really hit us all very hard and gave us a real insight into what was to come. More “mind those fingers”, more sail evolutions and man overboard drills including an “all hands on deck” at 4am just as I had got into my bunk!
The principle here was effectively to beast you. Many of us got off the boat at the end of the week ready to give up – it was very hard! However, by the time I had got halfway home in the car I had rationalised in my mind that they were telling you not only do you have to be physically fit, you also have to mentally fit to handle everything that WILL be thrown at you.
Weeks 3 & 4
Weeks 3 & 4 are usually on the 70 you will be racing on and usually with your own skipper and crewmates. It is all about team building, safety and understanding of what is coming! It is also about an introduction to racing with all the 70 participating in formally organised races in and around the English Channel.
The boats are at sea 24/7. One night you might be moored up in a bay sharing observation watches but mostly you are sailing around the clock building teamwork and understanding what will be demanded of us.
By the end of the program we have learnt a great deal but you soon realise you are still amateurs and the learning process will, and must, continue as we join our boats on the real thing!