In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded his fellow countrymen to be bold and accept that for progress to happen, changes have to take place, with a sailing analogy:
“To reach a port we must set sail –
Sail, not tie at anchor
Sail, not drift.”
Embracing new opportunities
At the moment, I am being bold and embracing new opportunities that are presented to me. Today’s adventure was a day at sea. It’s another post that’s not directly related to triathlons, but it’s about exercise. Before I’d learned to swim, it’s something that I would never have considered doing.
My dad loved the sea, having been a sea scout in his youth before leaving his home in Falmouth to go to Warsash Maritime Academy. He worked as an engineer for P&O for most of his life rising to the role of Chief Engineer Officer before coming ashore to work as a superintendent for a couple of years before his early death at the age of 54. One of my earliest memories of my dad is when he read Arthur Ransome’s novel “Secret Water” to me on one of our caravanning holidays.
Aside from going to stay on a few bulk carriers with dad, we didn’t spend much time on the water. However, he did buy a small boat when I was a young teenager. My main memory of it is sailing around St. Michael’s Mount for a spot of fishing. I hated the ragworms and felt terribly seasick, so I had to jump off the boat and doggy-paddle back to shore!
Sailing with Blue Box
Anyway, an opportunity came up to go sailing with Blue Box Sailing a Hamble-based sailing experience company and I jumped at the chance. It was a day of match racing, with two evenly-matched Clipper 60s.
Stuart arrived at Blue Box Sailing’s HQ on the Hamble river at 9:45. The location is famous as it was the setting for the 1980s BBC sailing drama Howard’s Way. Our arrival time gave us an opportunity to meet the Blue Box team. Piers signed us in and made us some hot drinks whilst Sam sorted out waterproof clothing and life-jackets for us. We were then divided into two crews, with Piers on one boat and Matt skippering the other (keenly observed by the founding director of Blue Box sailing, Jono). We were quite a small crew with Sam as the other professional crew member and then six of us amateurs. Stuart and I were the only novices on-board; the others had significant experience!
Learning the basics
We went down the pontoon and boarded Serica. The other team was on Taeping. Once onboard, we were told a little bit about the yacht we would be sailing. Both Serica and Taeping were entrants in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race race in 1998, 2000 and 2002. It always amazes me that people are able to cope with such cramped living conditions for weeks on end.
Before we went anywhere, we had to do a bit of knot-tying. This was where the difference between the other ‘amateurs’ and us was obvious. It took me quite a few attempts to be able to tie a knot correctly. I think it may have been a bowline, but I’m not even sure of that! When I was a Brownie, I spent hours tying knots, but it’s clearly not my forte! Thankfully, Sam was very patient and I got there in the end.
Jono gave us the obligatory health and safety talk before we slipped lines and headed for open water. There was a little bit of rain, but then the clouds blew over. We had fine weather for the majority of the day.
We had a few hours in the morning to practise all of the manoeuvres that we would require for racing in the afternoon. Stuart took the helm first, but then passed to me just in time for the lunch-break – sneaky thing! As soon as I was in place, I realised why Stuart had had such a look of concentration on his face. I was always aware that the professional crew could step in at any moment if required, but no-one wants to be the first person to require help. I was conscious of the value of the yacht at all times. It’s like letting a learner driver out in a Ferrari for their first driving lesson!!!
Lunch felt like a feast with a variety of enormous baguettes (I’ve got a feeling that chicken and gammon were on offer, but as a vegetarian, I opted for cheese). These were followed up with crisps, chocolate, biscuits and a variety of hot and cold drinks. This was supplemented by flapjack that one of the others had brought along – delicious!
It was then onto the serious stuff of the day – racing Piers and his crew on Taeping. For a while, it looked like they would win, but an unusual manoeuvre by them allowed us to take the lead. It was an awesome experience having to work so closely with the others to ensure that everything took place at exactly the right time. Although most of the others were seasoned pros, Jono, Matt and Sam ensured that they used terminology that Stuart and I could understand. They also kept a watchful eye on us. No-one lost any digits, which was a distinct possibility with so much rope moving at high-speed!
We were kept busy all afternoon. Time flew by and I didn’t have a moment to even think about whether my legs were feeling tired. (I suspect that my arms will feel tired from all of the winching tomorrow, so that’ll distract me from my legs again!) All too soon, it was time to head back up the River Hamble. It was a truly amazing experience and one that I’m really glad I participated in. If you’re ever given the opportunity to go sailing, I would urge you to try it. If you’re in the UK and have the chance to come to the south coast, I would highly recommend Blue Box Sailing.