Today started as the kind of day I dreamt of when I signed up to take part in the race - Hot cup of tea, beautiful sunrise, decent amount of wind, medium weight kite up....then down, light weight spinnaker up; and quickly turned into a rather challenging sail when we got into a wind hole, put up the wind seeker and tried to squeeze out every minuscule fraction of speed short of all hands on deck collectively blowing on the sail to stay on course. Fortunately this only lasted a few hours and we were soon back on a heading to Brest.
Looking back on the experience so far, some wonderfully creative food eaten, sails being meticulously trimmed in the light breeze, sunshine as we pass south of the Isle of Wight – a familiar coastline that we are used to seeing on Clipper Race training, but this time we aren't going in; we are carrying on...'round the world is this way', as it says on one of our bags for storing sheets (with an arrow pointing to the bow). No matter what we do and which direction we go in, we are going round the world!
This is just beginning to sink in for me – 'sailing to Rio'; getting there with our team. I can't help contrasting this with the kinds of things I normally would be doing on Monday and Tuesday – not starting a round the world race; not learning in real time about how to fly and peel both the light and medium weigh spinnakers, involved in a kind of fierce improvisation as the conditions change in line with what we initially scorned as a rather ambivalent forecast of 'visibility good, then poor with a chance of heavy fog'.
The people I am sailing with amaze me...the story they each bring of their lives so far, and the different meanings that this experience has for them – how that meaning is becoming more real and vivid, deepened through the shared experience with each mile we sail – each watch we are on.
As we sailed out of St Katharine's dock and down the Thames on Sunday, there was a feeling that somehow or other we were going on this voyage on behalf of the people in the crowd (those we love, and those we are just getting to know). And they were supporting us in being there – somehow or other their staying at home – interested, excited, swept along, moved in spite of themselves – was part of what made it possible to leave. Getting involved = skin in the game = this is really happening... One of the things that really sticks with us was the 'waving' – thousands of people waving; some we knew were waving at me – but it also felt like everyone was waving at me, at us. We were all connected by this – like the experience of ocean sailing somehow helps me to connect myself up.
Shared with strangers who very quickly become family – looking out for each other, wanting each others' joy and success, sharing risks, protecting each other, learning together. Sailing and waving have a lot in common. Got to go – another watch, another sail change – we want to improve our relationship with the wind and tide – so we have to go until we come back.
Andrew Harrison and Sylvia Chahonyo