Throwback Thursday: Final preparations for life at sea

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This week’s throwback Thursday casts an eye back to the final race preparations as the skippers and crew spent their last training days in Gosport, ahead of Race Start.

Earlier in the year, the 670 plus crew were allocated into the 12 race teams. Each team allocated individual crew members to be responsible for certain roles on board including medic, engineer, bosun, sail repairer, victualler, and media crew.

During pre-race prep week, training sessions were delivered on these roles by various experts including former crew members and some of the race's official suppliers.

The victualler is responsible for ensuring their team is properly fed and watered for the duration of the race as they are in charge of the meal plan for each leg.

As an army marches on its stomach, the nutritional and calorific content of meals need to be carefully considered, depending on the weather and duration of each race. In port the Race Office team provide budgets and local information for supermarkets and fresh food markets, and team mates assist the victualler with their shopping and meal planning duties. 

It is a huge logistical undertaking to plan each meal for every crew member on board your team for up to three weeks at sea. Round the world crew member, Greg Wilson from Dumfriesshire put himself forward for the task on board the Switzerland team.

On arriving in Gosport for a week of preparation and victualing on board, Greg explained: “I had already said my goodbyes (although was hoping to see people again in London) so the crew were from that point in Gosport onwards were the people I had to live and work with for everything.

“I come from a large family and had done a lot of cooking while still at home, so I had experience of planning menus and cooking for large numbers from early on. I then worked in catering for a few years and gained experience in designing and costing meals for bulk consumption so when the various on board roles were being discussed, I realised that my background and mix of abilities suited me for the role of victualler.

“Victualing training was carried out a few weeks prior to pre-race prep week, so the menu preparation could start before we arrived in Gosport and we were able to do a trial run. I had responsibility for menu planning and buying decisions with assistance from one of my fellow round the world crew members. I also had to plan stowage of food and supply and stowage of cleaning supplies, as well as many other tasks.

“It’s a tough proposition, to supply food for the team all the whole way round the world, but the rewards outweigh the negatives. The thanks you get far outweigh the grumbles. People always remember “Steak Night” in the middle of the Atlantic, and “that awesome Bolognese” on the pontoon in Cape Town.”

Following the week of preparation, the twelve-strong fleet and crew left the race’s Gosport base on 19 August to sail to London for the final week’s countdown to the Race Start.