"Trust your instincts - not instructions"
It was the day we had all been waiting for, preparing for, training for and yet it was impossible to have prepared in advance for a perfect Race Start day. Although we had all basically memorized the Clipper Race Training Manual, instructions tend to fall by the wayside when you actually have to live it.
Instructions: Cook porridge for 3-4 minutes with equal parts oatmeal to equal parts water.
Instincts: This porridge looks way too soupy.
Result: Mothers attempted to burn away excess water, breakfast was 30 minutes later than anticipated, and the crew was shovelling down food as we heard the count down to race start beginning over the radio.
Learning: Make porridge like cement. Liquid can always be added later, not so easily taken away. Other option: fool crew into thinking the porridge was cooked properly by adding uncooked oats to bowls of the porridge soup.
Stir, then serve.
Instructions: Attach spinnaker head to halyard, tack to forward strop and clew to sheets.
Instincts: That's too easy, and this is our first time flying the spinnaker... something must be missing.
Result: Sheet line twisted and wrapped around tack. Lazy sheet required rerunning and lost ground within minutes after crossing the start line.
Learning: Nothing on a 70-foot racing yacht is ever easy. With lots of sail to handle, never assume all is right. Check.
Instructions: "That Yankee needs to be moved, flaked and bagged."
Instincts: That Yankee 1 not only weighs a ton, but is currently parked on the low side. There is no way we will be able to fight gravity, a wet sail and its weight to get it aft.
Result: Gravity won. Foredeck crew exhausted. Yankee 1 barely budged.
Learning: Trust your instincts. Wait until we tack over to bring gravity back on our side. You have force yourself to work with this boat, or it will most definitely work against you.