Team Building Weekend – the unofficial write up

I feel the 450 word write-up I was tasked to do for Clipper didn’t quite do our team building weekend justice. Here’s double that with stolen pictures just for kicks.

I’d been looking forward to team building weekend for quite a while. You see, it had been a WHOLE 4 WEEKS since I’d indulged in any sailing / sailing chat so I was beginning to feel some withdrawal symptoms.

After navigating some rather dodgy country roads, I rocked up in the green machine with Jan and Amancio at a rather cute farm in Kent. By 2pm, we were all gathered. Many of us already knew each other in the room, be it from crew allocation or from prolific Facebooking, but there were still quite a few people to get to know. That was soon put to rest when our lovely team building committee split us up into groups of 3 to go on a scavenger hunt around the farm.

I was put into a team with James and Huw. Cue chicken stalking and prize hiding as we went for the ultimate chicken selfie and tried to sabotage the other teams efforts (one team and all that of course).

A feathered Team Huwer

The scavenger hunt then ended with us all playing a  “Clip on” challenge where we had to navigate the obstacles in a courtyard whilst being clipped on to a rope, each of us having an impediment. Now, I’m pretty impressed I didn’t hurt myself doing this as I was blindfolded. James, Huw and I achieved a good time getting around the obstacles, the final challenge being to use my contribution to the team building weekend: neon day-glo face paint. I’d made sure that this was suitably silly enough and wouldn’t result in any allergic reactions by testing it out on my work colleagues the day before.

The effects were GLORIOUS. I’ve never seen such a good looking bunch of day-glow lunies before in my life! My mini team went for rainbow. It was a strong look.

Looking pretty cool
Looking pretty cool

Way too happy about marshmallows
Way too happy about marshmallows
By this point, it was time to crack out the BBQ, assisted by a smidge of drizzle. Emily had done an amazing job sourcing food and we even had the delights of Spanish nibbles from Amancio – cheese and jamon. So…much…food….so…much…wine. I also did my traditional “there’s a ping pong table I MUST PLAY and get overly competitive!” bit. Cue Jonathan and I getting a bit mesmerized by table tennis rallies.

Post BBQ & Wine, we retired to the communal room for some team song selection where Joe sacrificed his arm to getting Wifi, it only being available in one spot above the fridge (we’ve picked “Geronimo” by Sheppard). This then became a rather serious discussion about how we would manage stopovers in port during each leg. I did find it a little challenging to take this seriously, however, as everyone was still covered in dayglo paint. We all got it sorted in the end.

Really, how could you take this lot seriously?!
Really, how could you take this lot seriously?!
Post-discussion, we retired to the pub around the corner. Here the conversation moved on to superheroes, jamon and I’m not sure what else. We stayed for a fair while, Pablo managing to fall asleep at the table. Our bunks then called around midnight.

Understanding the crewThe next morning, we all gathered for a personality profile session. Joe had sent us all questionnaires to complete before the session so we could understand a bit more about each other, each of us being split into Myers-Briggs personality types. I’ve done this a couple of times already, but it was fascinating to see where everyone came out and understand the strengths we could all bring  I’ve finally embraced my inner crazy lady and changed from ISFP to ESFP, but it was good to see quite a few people were similar. Cue all of those in the “SF”  group going “Oh no, he’s all on his own!” as James was the only “NT”. Appreciate that’ll only make sense if you’ve done MBTI.

Aliens in the water apparently

After all that insight, we got our walking boots on and headed out for a stroll around the delightful Doddington Hall Gardens in the sunshine to work up an
appetite for lunch. We didn’t really “work” much – cue much lazing about near ponds, discussing Swallows & Amazons and following owls around (as you do). Despite our laziness, a roast dinner was very much appreciated as our final activity together. Only then was it revealed that we needed to do a blog write-up of the weekend for Clipper to be submitted by 9am the next morning. I volunteered (I quite enjoy this blogging malarky), resulting in frantic quote & photo gathering etc. for Clipper write up.

Just chilling

Team Huw = Team AWESOME

Team building weekend was brilliant. Everyone was up for a laugh and it looks like we’re going to have a great time all together. It was a shame we couldn’t have had more of the lovely Team Huw Crew there that we’ve all met along the way there.

Looking forward to the race even more now. And hoping for a neon sponsor. 

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A whole new language

This evening, it hit home to me how I’ve begun to learn a whole new language without even realising it. It came to me as I was sharing the dark arts of rowing with newbies at my rowing club.

 

“Start at the finish, then slide up to the catch”

“Bunnyhop for the first quarter of the slide”

“Get the split down but maintain the rate”

“Tap down a bit more to get your blades out before pivoting”

I’ve been rowing since I was a teenager, so all of these terms are deeply embedded in my memory. Its completely obvious what they all mean. Isn’t it?

Today, I was reminded how the rowing lingo I take so much for granted was like a whole new language to the people I was teaching. That it takes time to get your head around it and really understand what the terms refer to – just like it was for me during my first level of training for the race. The difference between rowing and sailing, however, is the SHEER QUANTITY of new terms you have to learn. Take the parts of the boat, for example. I used to think rowing could be a bit complex, but my perspectives have now radically changed!

Not much to learn here
Not much to learn here
Parts of a yacht
Slightly more to learn here

I’m not the most patient of people so I can sometimes find it a bit testing teaching rowing. How our skipper and first mate had the patience to teach 10 of us how to sail a 68ft yacht from scratch I’ll never know!

The upside is that having recently learnt something completely new, I really appreciated today how patience and clear explanations from your instructor make a difference. It completely makes the learning experience (or breaks it – I hope I don’t find out on level 2!).

I’ve now just got to crack on with remembering and surely learning lots of new terms as part of this sailing experience. The top picture is a brain-dump of what I’ve learnt so far from just one week, although I’m pretty sure there is a lot I’ve missed off. My Level 2 training is now just over a week away so I’ll soon be back on board with plenty of time to practice it all again soon.

Sweating & Grinding on Level 1

So, the first part of my Clipper race adventure is over! Last week, I completed the first of 4 weeks worth of training I have to complete this year. 

20 of us arrived in Gosport last Thursday afternoon to be split into two boats.  I had fully expected it to be a pretty gruelling week having read other blogs. There were, however, a huge number of things I didn’t expect and that I’ve learnt since:

1. That it would be so much fun!

The crew on CV3 (our 68ft floating home for the week) was absolutely great and completely made the week. Not to forget Emily our Skipper and Paul as first mate. We were pretty much constantly laughing. Inhibitions were lost pretty damned quickly which helped, so much so we became the “party boat” out of the 2 level 1 crews sailing that week. Hilarious.


2. Lots of sweating & grinding is necessary 

Not just for late nights in dodgy clubs apparently (not that I’d know – thanks Sam!). I’ve learnt a whole new language over the last week, and apparently only just scratched the surface. Luckily,  there is a large helping of innuendo with many of them so it was highly amusing for all on board. 


3. I need to build some serious muscle and spatial awareness

This is mostly for the sweating and grinding (to hoist the sails!) and for lifting the very heavy sails & ropes on deck. On the command of “2, 6 heave” we managed to moved things between us, but it was seriously hard work. The Circuit training that I do for rowing paid off, but more upper body strength is required. Time to build some guns. Alongside that, the system of lines and knots needed takes some time to get your head around. Spatial awareness has definitely been improved after just one week.

Practicing knots on deck
 

4. That MK is apparently so dodgy that dangerous parts of the boats are named after it.

Boo 😦 clearly no one in my crew had ever visited properly. “But I’m not actually from Milton Keynes, i’m from a village outside it don’t you know”. I think my protests just confirmed their suspicions. 


5. That you can never have too many carbs

Every single meal or break involved biscuits or pasta. Now this no bad thing, carbs being my favourite food and lots of energy being required. I am, however, looking forward to veg this week (having just had more spag Bol back on land).

 

Preparing carbs in the galley
 

6. You will be physically punished.

And not just by being made to clean disgusting bilges on the last day. Through a combination of scrambling around on deck, handling ropes and lifting heavy objects, I am battered, bruised and aching, not to mention weather beaten. My hands and knees in particular felt the strain, but quads hurting too today from all bending and lifting. Ow.


7. Delayed Onset Knackeredness Syndrome

During training, I really didn’t feel hugely tired. Yes, I was weary at the end of each day, but I felt pretty chipper each morning despite some late nights. This was no doubt helped in part by my super cosy sleeping bag (still on love with it), but on reflection, I think I was running mostly on pure adrenaline. I know this because today I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Things didn’t stop swaying either until this evening. Positively falling asleep at my desk today despite being back on land. 

 

The super-snug yellow beast in action.
 

There’s so much more I could and hope to write about level 1, but DOKS is compelling me to sleep. Thanks must go to Jen for the photo of me on the deck – possibly the only one of me actually doing something related to sailing!

First piece of kit

One of the upsides of signing up for a Yacht Race is that you need to invest in some technical, yacht-appropriate kit. I love technical kit, so serious excitement today with the arrival of my new super-cosy Gauss sleeping bag!

Even though my Level 1 training is still months away, a waterproof sleeping bag seemed like a good up-front investment. Anyone that knows me will know that I love my sleep and as I won’t be getting a huge amount during training or the race, I wanted to make sure I had something cosy to retire to.

The majority of Clipper blogs recommend either a Gauss Dreamliner bag or an Ocean Sleepwear bag for the race, the main advantage of both being that you stay dry (nice touch). I’m keen to get as much pre-loved kit as I can for this adventure to keep costs down, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for both of these on ebay and fierceturtle.co.uk – a Clipper site selling new & pre-owned kit. Luckily, I managed to find this second-hand gem on ebay.

Compared to my normal camping sleeping bag (a mere 1.5kg), this is an absolute GIANT of a sleeping bag. “Looks like a liferaft” was the first comment it inspired. It’s definitely not lightweight, but I was straight in it after managing to evict it from it’s bag.

I can see many happy nights ahead in this yellow beast. In fact, I’m pretty tempted to sleep in it straight away – fleece lined, massive pillow, lots of space = extra-snug goodness.  Not sure how I’m going to wrestle it back into it’s bag or transport it, but right now, I’m seriously chuffed.

First piece of technical sailing kit – check!

What I’m doing and why…

Clipper-race In April 2016, for 3 months, I’ll be competing in “one of the planet’s toughest endurance challenges”: the 15/16 Clipper Round The World Yacht Race. As part of a crew, I’ll be racing 11 other yachts, sailing 9,000 miles on the penultimate and final legs of the race (Legs 7 & 8) from the West Coast of America to the UK, taking in the Panama canal, East Coast USA, the north Atlantic and Europe along the way.

“Why?!”

I’ve always had a slightly masochistic side to me that likes to challenge myself. I’m not talking anything ridiculous – up until now, it’s been all about rowing and hiking up mountains – but then I started passing the Clipper Yacht Race Posters on the tube.

I’ve been walking past these posters for a couple of years now, and every time I saw one, I always thought “I’d love to do that”. For some reason though, I never believed it was something I could do. Then, last November, I walked past another poster and realised the only thing stopping me from applying for this experience was me. What did I have to lose? A month later and I bit the bullet – I applied for an information pack, attended an interview and was accepted onto the race. I’m now at the beginning of a very exciting and very long journey preparing myself for 3 months at sea in 2016. So far, I’ve been on one of the boats, attended the January Crew Briefing and have an amazing “Race Crew” Henri Lloyd jacket (STASH!) which makes thing slightly more real. I’ve now got 4 weeks of training ahead of me in 2015, teaching me how to sail from scratch (I only do boats with oars at the moment) and preparing me for what is probably going to be the most challenging/terrifying experience of my life.