The Clipper training continues - Gosport swimming pools, mal de mer and party times

The time had come to do my level 2 training. I was excited but also quite nervous about this…I did feel a bit more prepared this time though – I had all the gear but no idea. When I was packing, I was getting particularly excited about things like baby wipes and flap jacks, there’s nothing like keeping clean and having a little treat to keep you going!

Our training started with a sea survival course in a school in Gosport. It was a rainy August day and was just like being back at school. We had a lot of information drilled into us about how we could survive if we were in a life raft in the middle of ocean. Very castaway, and all I could think about was “Wilson”, but also extremely important. I now know that a human only needs 0.25 of a litre of water a day to survive, you shouldn’t ever eat flesh as it dehydrates you (if you don’t have the water to make up for it) and life rafts are insulated so you will get very hot in them. The physical part was in the pool and involved us being in our blown up life jackets trying to swim around, trying to get on the life raft and trying to rescue people. One of the things we had to do was swim from one end of the pool to the other, on our backs with an inflated life jacket, with our eyes closed. Well, I thought this sounded easy and the competitive side in me kicked in. I was definitely going to be good at this (or so I thought). In I got and swam as fast as I could with my eyes closed – I was sure that I was doing really well… Then I heard people laughing, I opened my eyes and realised that I had been going round and round in circles and only got about a metre! Well that will teach me to think I’m an Olympic swimmer. Getting into the life rafts even in the pool was tricky. I couldn’t imagine having to do this in the actual sea. Although our instructor tried to make this very life like by throwing buckets of water at us and pulling the life raft up and down to re-enact waves. Well as life like as it can be in a swimming pool in Gosport.

We then got down to the boats and it was really exciting seeing the actual Clipper 70 race boats in Port. It was the first time I had been on one, so made it very real. We got to know each other – there were 13 of us altogether, and we had a great Skipper Dave and first mate Paul, Dave particularly liked cheese jokes so we got on very well. The week started with us doing some safety drills – we practised man over board a lot and also staying clipped on the whole time.

The first night of full sailing we were split into watch systems – 4 hours on, 4 hours off and it was really hard work. The inevitable sea sickness started hitting people and within a few hours, there were a few casualties. There was one moment when I went up on deck to relieve that watch and as I climbed through the hatch the words that I couldn’t help coming out of my mouth were “Oh my god, it’s like the Somme!”. Lets just say that I won’t be eating bangers and mash again anytime soon. One of my best moments was actually in this evening – I was sitting on the fore deck as I was in charge of the ‘snake pit’ – where all the ropes were in case we had to tack or gibe. Every few minutes a massive wave would wash over me – this happened for a good few hours, but there was a full moon, I was nice and warm and I just thought to myself “this is fantastic”.

Throughout the week we did a lot of sailing, lots of drills and lots more safety work. One of the main aims I think was also getting used to us being below deck – being on Mother duty and cleaning, sleeping, generally living in close proximity with one another on very little sleep. It was really difficult at times – the main thing I struggled with was the tiredness. I could cope with everything else, even the sea sick, but it is very hard to keep yourself motivated and happy when you are that tired! I definitely finished the training feeling like I was finally starting to understand sailing and maybe I would get the hang of it in time.

After a long week, our last day was in the bright sunshine sailing past the needles with the spinnaker up, that was brilliant! We had our last night in Port and we all went for a crew meal. Well everyone got quite overexcited on the drinking front – the seasickness had definitely worn off! After a few glasses of wine, we got back to the boat. I decided that I would go and brush my teeth in the Marina (there was a real loo there, so I was definitely going to favour that over the heads on the boat). I came back to the boat, got myself some water and got into bed, only to be greeted by a high pitched scream…” What are you doing in my bed”? I heard, I replied “What are you doing in MY bed?!” Only for the realisation to wash over me that I had got on the wrong boat…I had got on a boat that was exactly like ours just behind ours! I quickly scarpered with my tail between my legs and I was extremely embarrassed. Needless to say my crew found this absolutely hilarious, in fact I think it was the hardest they had laughed all week. I was told I was definitely not going to be in charge of navigation on the race. The next day I had to keep walking past the boat with my head down in shame, I’m sure they knew it was me, but I was far too embarrassed to face up to them. So, lesson learnt – after wine has been consumed, really concentrate on which boat is yours.