Race start wasn’t just a day. It was a full-on, exciting, haphazard, momentous weekend – and that was for someone who isn’t even racing the first leg! The Clipper boats were finally leaving London for Rio. What it must have been like for those leaving on Leg 1, I can’t even begin to imagine.
The weekend began by arriving at the boat ready for the 15-16 crew party. The atmosphere at Clipperland (aka St Katherine’s docks) was electric: huge numbers of people were milling about looking at the boats, but only special Clipper folk with special Clipper wristbands could go down onto them.
Our boat was completely packed. 4 weeks worth of food, 20-odd people’s worth of stuff: it was really rather warm & “cosy” below decks and this was just in the UK. Think of the doldrums! Time to meet some more crew that I hadn’t yet met (there are 56 of us after all) then it was off to do some dancing. Any excuse.
For the Clipper crew party, hundreds of the Clipperati got together in London at the rather swish Grand Connaught Rooms. For once, we actually saw each other not in sailing kit. Turns out we all own normal clothes! Unsurprisingly, Visit Seattle were the first crew on the dancefloor and the last off with some most excellent moves in between. There was also much delight on the relevation that in his “action shot”, our skipper Huw looks like he is holding a SWORD! Simply. Amazing.
For one reason or another (or just crap planning on my part) the next 2 nights were spent in a bunk on the boat, this time in my super-light sleeping bag rather than my normal super-massive Gauss bag. Lying there, it was quite surreal to think this would be my last night on our boat for 7 whole months. If I just hid in the sail locker, I could stow away to Rio…
(…I’m now writing on my phone from the sail locker. They haven’t found me yet…)
Sunday morning and it was Race start day. Although both later-leggers, Kate & I were joining the crew on the boat during the day to look after some drummers, so I joined the crew for breakfast. All dressed up in our official Visit Seattle kit (grey tshirts, green jackets), there was fun and laughter but also a little bit of tension in the air. I suppose it was a fairly big deal, sailing to Rio and all that.
The rest of the morning went by in a bit of a blur. Lots of prepping and photo taking. After hoisting our drummer up the mast, Kate & I stayed on the boat whilst the crew went up for their official send –off on the stage, processing in a line of little green men. We’re clearly going to be the party boat as there was dancing on stage and Huw admitted that we were all wannabe pirates. It was then time for goodbyes with people that I won’t see for a long time now, followed by frantic waving from supporters & fellow crewmates alike as Visit Seattle zoomed out of the marina. I didn’t want to stay and watch. That was it; Visit Seattle was off to swan about under Tower Bridge then sail to Rio.
I’m going to really miss my Clipper friends on that boat, even though we haven’t all known each other for all that long. After such a manic, sailing-filled month, it now feels a little odd the boat is gone and that my Clipper experience is on hold until April next year. I’m already filling the gap a little by making sure crew, friends & family in the UK are kept up to date with blogs etc (ie. team stalker) and that we’ve got suitable parties organised, but it’s going to be a long time tracking them now. Visit Seattle is now just a little white boat symbol on a big grey digital ocean.
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