When you think of yacht racing, you probably think of high pressure moments like the ones you see on YouTube, where a team tacks around a fixed race marker with the crew grinding on the winch or scrambling to the other side of the boat, or when a string of boats are packed hull-to-hull as they beat into the wind towards the finish line.
But, despite all the pressure of performing on deck, it's the Mother Watch - the 24-hour below-deck rotation in which two crew at a time are responsible for all the day's meals -- that is the mother lode of high-pressure responsibility.
Just imagine, if you will, the look on my skipper's face at 6:40 am on Race Day when he'd asked for the crew to be fed and on deck for work by 6:30 am at the latest, and yet I and the other "mother" on duty had to admit that the hot porridge was nowhere near ready to be served.
(Lesson #267 in onboard living: When the porridge package instructions say "2-4 minutes to cook on the stove" they are NOT referring to a 20-person serving.)
Jo and I, having thoroughly disappointed the skipper during the morning shift of Mother Watch, were determined not to disappoint anyone at lunch or dinner. So we made sure to be below deck, cooking away in the galley at least an hour and a half before meal serving times.
This, unfortunately, meant missing out on a lot of the first-day-of-Clipper-Racing action (I had to pop my head up on deck every half an hour to check what the status was - essentially, were we beating or losing to my husband's boat, PSP Logistics? "Priorities, people! I'm slaving away in the galley - the least you can do is make sure we beat my husband!")
What this also meant was Jo and I spent a lot of time below deck, which is the worst place to be if you're at all feeling seasick. So, it was lucky that one of our Leg 8 crew members, Emma, had provided the boat with homemade meals to get us through the first two days of racing without having to do any heavy cooking. [Thanks Emma!!]
Today's dinner was reheated Thai Curry, courtesy of Emma, and rice made in our giant rice cooker. Thank heavens reheating and serving was all we had to do, too, because by 5pm that was about all we could handle.
The winds had kicked up, making tacking a violent experience down below with bowls flying out of the cupboards at our faces, an olive oil bottle shattering all over the floorboards and Jo (the other Mother) lying face-down on a sail, retching into a garbage bag while I crawled periodically to the head to vomit.
Let's just say we were not the same ravenous crew that the previous night had scarfed down two entire chocolate cakes in honor of Maura's birthday, which was our first Clipper Race birthday on board Henri Lloyd 50 Years of Pioneering Spirit. It may be a long time before we see chocolate cake again. But, then again, it may be a long time before any of this crew wants to see chocolate cake again.