Team Building Weekend - Skipper Blogs

22 June 2015

Team Ash
After battling through terrible traffic for hours, 18 members of Team Ash arrived in the middle of the New Forest just in time to get stuck into some activities.

We were split up into two groups and told to hold the hand of two different people, thus tying ourselves into one big knot. The challenge was to untie ourselves by switching places and twisting around, without letting go of each others hands.

The first half of us completed the task in record time, much to the other groups frustration as they continued to somehow tie themselves into many different kinds of weird and wonderful knots (including a bowline, a clove hitch and an admiralty knot), before finally completing the task with only slightly fractured arms & wrists.

After this ‘warm up’, half of us moved onto the high ropes course and half went to do some archery and shoot an air rifle at some targets. I am pleased to report that every crew member present managed to climb up to the platform with only a few screams of terror heard. Despite calls of ‘it’s not a competition’ from the event staff, the Archery score to beat was set early on by Kerstan and was never bettered, although a few came agonisingly close.

The nervous staff then handed us a loaded air rifle and set up some targets for us to have some pop-shots at. This was all going well until we spotted a dead rabbit extremely wide of the target. Whether this was the first victim from our time in the woods, we will never know!

Next it was time to head out into the woods to our camp site, which had been ‘Clipperised’ by our Social team. We had bunting, a big Clipper Race flag and even the scary, larger than life-sized image of myself hanging from a rope and screaming at some unfortunate but imaginary crew member.

After a thorough team meeting which was successfully ran by Andy, we chatted with Caroline and Sigri who are Clipper Alumni who had kindly offered to chat to all our crew about their experience of the race and share everything that they had learnt. They had some great advice for us and we all all learnt a lot from them during the course of the evening.

As darkness fell on the longest day of the year, with the ‘Summer Love’ festival well underway in the field next door to our woodland campsite, we drank the wine that Stormhoek had kindly provided and chatted away the evening around our campfire, on which we cooked a true feast of chicken, burgers and kebabs. As the wee hours approaches, one by one our band of merry campers drifted off to their tents to grab some sleep.

The following day, most of us brushed aside the hangovers and headed to Lymington to enjoy a civilised pub lunch in the sunshine.

Despite injuring her arm slightly whilst handling the bow, Katy particularly enjoyed the event, saying a day later: “I’m bruising up nicely and headache finally gone. Much laughter was had and that’s always a good sign so I am really looking forward to sailing with our team!”

All in all, the event was a great success and many crew are now looking forward to more events which we hope to arrange before race start. Watch this space!

Team Darren
The Shard – 306m high and the tallest sculpture in Western Europe. Enter Team Darren – 16 hardy souls – with the viewing deck in their sights. Earlier the group had gathered in the nation’s capital, coming from such far flung places as Bath, Edinburgh and Shoreditch.

Amazed at our ability to all be in the same place at the same time, we climbed the glass spire at 8metres per second, with only a lift to aid us. The view from the top is high - high in a way that leaves you wondering how safe it was and who cleaned the glass. A modest bunch, we posed for pictures and talked of the race, vertigo, and the more topical political issues of the day such as our membership of the EU; the Greek debt crisis; and the over population of badgers in the West Country.

Wondering how the day could improve we decided to repair to an Italian restaurant for a bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite. With a view of Tower Bridge and St Kat’s and a belt-loosening variety of pasta dishes, lunch passed all too quickly. Light of wallet and a souvenir of indigestion we headed to the banks of the Thames, time for a boat trip.

The coincidentally named Thames Clipper is a fast catamaran, delivering tourists and commuters up and down the aptly named river. We hopped on and headed for Greenwich. The Dome is 52m high and the only yurt visible from outer space. A pile so impressive, Genghis Khan made an offer but pulled out when his yak complained of lower back pain.

After a 250ml measure of Dutch courage, we donned a fully body harness and a fly fisherman’s waistcoat and up the Dome we went. Time for more team photos – we had a quota to meet. Exhilarated with our summit success there was only one thing left to do – eat a Thai curry.

Never was there a better demonstration of team chop slobbering. As the evening progressed the conversation led to team tactics, motivational strategy and how best to support our race charity Unicef. All too much for me I fled for the Tube and the last train home.

Over the weekend of the 19-21st June, the skipper and crew of the Derry~Londonderry~Doire boat gathered together in Derry-Londonderry to take part in a team building weekend. After a meal in the City Hotel, a field trip to a local bar was organised to partake in some obligatory Guinness sampling.

On a bright Saturday morning, we headed over the Peace Bridge to the Guildhall where a Welcome breakfast of a full Ulster fry was laid on by Derry City and Strabane District Council. The Mayor Elisha McCallion spoke a few words welcoming us as to the City and then it was time to announce that we had gained an additional two crew members, who had won a place to race on board DLD after being nominated for a bursary as a 'Voice of the Community'!

We then headed up to Creggan Country Park where a morning of team building activities had been organised. Most of us were soon regretting the breakfast we had eaten as one of the first activities involved rolling teammates down a line of crew lying side by side on the ground without using hands… it was certainly one way to get to know each other very quickly!

No team building is complete without the obligatory water challenge and the soaking that goes along with it - a good taster of what lies ahead in the coming months at sea… at least then we might be better prepared and wearing waterproofs! The morning was a huge success, highlighting the competitive nature within our crew as well as our ability to have an enormous amount of fun and laughter at the same time.

Next stop was the North West Regional College, where local chef Emmett McCourt led a victualling challenge and showed us how to cook curry, flat breads and pasta dishes with fresh ingredients before dispatching us in groups to have a go. It looks like we will be eating well on the boat if the high standard of the curries and flat breads produced on the day can be replicated during the race!

We were lucky enough to take part in a walking tour of the Walled City organised for us by Visit Derry. John, from Martin McCrossan Walking Tours, spent a couple of hours bringing to life the history of the city and its’ people whom we will be representing as we race our way around the world.

Our final activity of the weekend brought together crew from the previous race to share their experiences with us over tapas at the Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Square. Breidge Boyle, Helen Black and Clodagh Whelan shared stories, highs and lows from their race, as well as answering questions and giving advice on clothing and packing for the race. Their insight was appreciated by the current crew, as it made the whole experience of life on board more real and gave us a better appreciation of what to expect during our upcoming race.

GREAT Britain
A fantastic Crew Bonding weekend was certainly had by all 30 attending members of Team GREAT Britain in the heart of London!

With expert military organization led by Wing Commander Simon Rosbottom, assisted by his Navigator Sam Adams, the weekend started with two thirds of the group meeting on Friday evening with some early doors ‘pre-lube Level 5' training (to quote Wing Co’s words precisely) at the remarkable home of Ocean Racing – the Royal Ocean Racing Club in St James.

After several liveners, handshakes, kisses, hugs, shoulder slaps, stories of Clipper Race training exploits and photos with a rather large Union flag (not necessarily in that order), it was a short walk to Davy's on King Street for some very fine nibbles and yet more grog in tankards and wine glasses.

Following morning, the squadron assembled at 0945 hours on Potter's field. Four teams of six (North, South, East and West) had been previously selected and after receiving their mission briefings, set off in a five minute launch pattern on what can only be described as ‘a nautically themed, cryptic, mind bending, head in hands, treasure orienteering quiz’ along the Thames.

The task not only involved solving 82 Sherlock quality clues but also required crew to photograph themselves indicating something resembling teamwork, collecting a miscellany of useless items including a rusty nail, a horse chestnut leaf, a Union flag and a Henri Lloyd coat hanger.

Needless to say, all the teams arrived late at a cost of one point per minute after the exercise completion time of 1400. Team South, ably skippered by Charlotte Morton-Haworth arrived first and were well tucked into their lunch by the time the other teams arrived before being crowned winners.

After the frivolity of marking, the team then received sage words of advice on conflict management wrapped up in silly, fun exercises which put them in good stead for voting on the team song. After group dispersion it left ELO's 'All over the world' facing off against the Star Wars theme. ELO's slight numerical advantage in the room was further compounded by a fistful of additional 'postal' votes from those exercising democracy by email from overseas.

Sunday was a more sedate affair as the crew assembled on HQS Wellington. Starting with a Skype conference call with seven crew on training at Gosport and several crew calling in from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore the crew received a briefing from the skipper on various aspects of the race. Following a champagne reception, Peter then gave a guided tour of the ship and a most civilised luncheon followed. Lastly, it was deemed suitable to present the graciously donated Stormhoek wine to Team West who deserved significant recognition for actually completing the previous day’s orienteering challenge – congratulations!

To wrap up - a well organised, fun weekend was had by all and we were even joined later by some of the crew who had come up from Gosport after their level three deep clean! Good effort and onwards to RACE START!
We’ve also set up our Unicef text to donate number. Text GBNI72 to 70070 followed by a space and a number indicating the amount donated (up to £10). E.G. GBNI72 5

Team Huw
When you say team building to a sailor it generally means floating around for a day or two, hoisting some sails and racing through the Solent whilst trying to get your crew to work a little better with each other and relise the value each individual could bring to the party. So to organise a team building weekend with no Solent, sails, yacht and barely a drop of water seemed like a bit of a challenge.

The event kicked off with a scavenger hunt around the farm. Challenges included getting up close and personal with some feathered friends to capture a “chicken selfie” followed by a “Clip-On” challenge. Mini-teams of three had to clip-on and navigate obstacles across the farm, the final challenge being to see who could paint their faces the most creatively. Twenty minutes later and everyone was working the neon look, Skipper included.

The fun continued into the night aided by a BBQ and Stormhoek wine - a heavy helping of drizzle included to help create an authentic British experience. We also sorted some very serious team issues: the team song. After the original team song was nabbed by a rival crew, it was up to the Kent contingent of Team Huwers to listen to many of the remaining 55 songs and come up with an alternative.

Much debate and the odd bit of dancing later and business was concluded in favour of the pub, where conversation moved on to superheroes and Spanish ham. Everyone in the team is now looking forward to what Victualler Amancio has in store, particularly the potential for jamón on the boat. Quote of the weekend had to be from from one crew member (who shan’t be named): “I’ll go commando if it means we can have jamón on the boat!”

After a night in bunks (the sleeping platform of choice for Clipper Race crew members), the morning was dedicated to getting to know each other even better than a few glasses of wine could facilitate. Joe led a team session to help us identify the strengths of each personality type in the crew to understand each other better on the boat. We then soaked up the sun, strolling around Doddington Hall gardens where botanical knowledge was shared, owls were spotted and even ponds were dipped in. All this fresh air helped everyone work up an appetite, so it was off to the local pub for a roast dinner before going our separate ways, all agreeing that it had been a great weekend.

It was nice to see a group of people gel so well; I'm looking forward to the race even more. We are a strong and supportive unit and if we have a similar atmosphere during the race it will be a great year.

As crew member Mia Hartwell summed up: “It was brilliant to have the opportunity to meet so many of Team Huw and the coordinaters did a cracking job of organising such a fun event. Everyone really got involved and it’s nice to finally put some faces to names!”

Team Max
On Friday evening Team Max gathered in deepest darkest Kent. We were to stay in a lovely rural setting on the North Downs. It was good to see some familiar faces but the majority had only ever met at Crew Allocation in April, and for some of us this was our first ever meeting! It was really good to put names to faces, unfortunately not everyone could make it which cannot be helped especially due to the international make up of Team Max.

So Friday evening started with locally caught fish and chips followed by a trip to the village pub and a walk back in the dark which turned out to be the first navigational exercise! As you can imagine there were lots of questions people had formulated since crew allocation but it seemed like the crew song was the most pressing issue in the wee hours of the morning. As you can imagine nothing was decided.

The following morning the remainder of the expected crew arrived and at 10:00 we set off on a ramble across the Downs. This was a fantastic opportunity for everyone to really get to know one another, get stung by nettles and work up an appetite. After a brief stop for refreshments in the pub we headed back to the farm for an evening BBQ which although slightly inconvenienced by the rain was very pleasant. We followed this by some very funny team building games and questioning of my crews' bowline tying abilities!!

On Sunday morning we left in convoy and headed to Mote Park in Maidstone for what turned out to be an enjoyable morning of raft building, canoe polo and a chance for me to see the crews' competitive streak on the water!

A fantastic weekend and it really confirmed to me that we have the makings of a great crew.

Mission Performance
After a long and very delayed drive from Gosport we arrived around 1830ish on Friday with the sun still shining over the beautiful scenery in Llangorse lake in Brecon, Wales.

Tent pitched and admin squared-away, we headed to the bar to meet the rest of the Mission Performance Warriors (MPW) for drinks and food. A late night and a karaoke later, we retired for the night ready for a fun-packed and busy Saturday. I will now have nightmares whenever I hear Madonna sing ‘Like a Virgin’!

Saturday began at 0615 with ‘someone’s’ alarm going off for a very long time, unnoticed by the owner and only heard by everyone else on the campsite! With that there was nothing else to do but get up and start the day. We had bought victuals for breakfast in the Llangorse Sailing Club, situated in an idyllic location on the shores of Llangorse Lake. The brand new clubhouse had all the mod-cons having been only opened the day before!

Bacon and eggs done, we began our days training with a walk around the lake discussing a number of questions designed to get people thinking:

  • 1.What are your fears for the race?
  • 2.What is your motivation for doing the Clipper 2015-16 Race?
  • 3.What is your motivation on a cold wet night and what is going to keep you going?
  • 4.What do you think your greatest contribution to the team will be during the race?
  • 5.If there are any family problems during your leg, would you want to know mid ocean or wait until we got to the stopover?

We changed partners during the walk so everyone got to talk and discuss with other members of the MPWs. This exercise was very much about getting people talking to each other and opening up to the team.

When we got back to Llangorse SC, Steve Booker, our Mission Performance guide for the weekend spoke about Mission Performance, their roles and goals and how they can support us as a team during the Clipper 2015-16 Race. The team were then introduced to CCI - Clarity, Culture and Interdependence.

Then came the interlocker puzzle! What followed was a long battle involving skill, leadership, logic and a certain amount of perseverance! Mission Performance Warriors triumphed and by the end of the day managed to put together three of the interlocker puzzles consecutively in less than 2mins 30secs. This took a little longer than anticipated due the team wanting to constantly improve and better their performances. Well done.

After a spot of lunch, lovingly prepared by our Social Secretary Kat Law, we moved on to reflection and what we want for our team in the form of values, standards and ethos.

Then it was time to get wet! Yes it was Wales and yes it was raining on and off for a time but now was the Big Event. The MPWs were split into three groups and given a plan, two 4x8 sheets of plastic, a number of pens, scissors and lots of ‘Duck tape’!

What followed was an hour of frantic building of homemade canoes - all in varied colours and shapes, complete with paddles and support struts! This was followed by what was supposed to be in essence, a relay race on the lake, to ensure that all of the team completed the distance in their canoes. I can only describe the vessels as being puddle-worthy and definitely not ocean certified, or even lake certified!! The team did display a healthy competitive streak and utmost sportsmanship (most of the time)!

This brought the training to an end, so we took a short walk up to the village pub for tea and drinks. Somehow we managed to procure our Neptune outfit for the Equatorial crossings from a young guy, Luke Jones, from Hereford who had turned up to a family fancy-dress party at the pub. Unbeknown to him he was to be accosted by a round the world yacht race team who wanted his costume!

Sunday morning started very much the same as Saturday, minus the alarm! We had breakfast and then struck camp to walk up a local mountain. This had some added bonuses along the way with coaching skills lessons and a quiz to find out where we were going to end up before the walk was over.

The weekend proved to be thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and helpful. I believe that the whole team benefited from the activities so kindly provided by Steve and his team. This weekend has definitely improved our team dynamics and outlooks.

Thank you Mission Performance, Steve Booker and Llangorse Sailing Club for their amazing hospitality over the weekend.

Team Olivier
23 team mates decided to head up to Brittany for our Team Building Weekend. Travelling by ferry, train, car, bicycle, plane we all caught up at noon for a first BBQ.

After lunch under a warm, sunny, blue sky we went for a two hour walk in the lovely Couesnon Valley. Plenty of chat and good effort reinforced our team spirit and set us up for a nice evening.

We came back to our place and cooled down in and around the pool with some beers, BBQ preparation, table dressing and before long we were ready to have a meal altogether.

Some other team mates who could not be there in person joined with us from places as far away as Columbia via skype and by facebook.

The Menu was:
- Melon and Smoked Ham
- Spider Crabs
- Sausage, Pork, Chicken, Potatoes on the BBQ
- Big Cheese plate!
- And off course some wine (Stormhoek but French as well), beers and more strong stuff after dinner.

We had some discussions about Unicef fundraising, AIS Personal Beacon, made a decision on our Boat Song and we met Hyppo (our boat Mascot). 03:00 was time to sleep...

Sunday, 09:00 was croissant and pain au chocolat time. We spent two hours chatting about our organisation during the race (specialist duties, planning, stopovers etc). By 12:00 it was time to say "Au Revoir !"
All were just happy, they have spent a simple Team Building weekend.

It was sunny start to the day and the team met in central London for some sight-seeing with a difference. After a couple of drinks and a quick catch up as well as some introductions, teams were drawn and a briefing was given as to what the afternoon had in store.

A treasure hunt was on, along with some additional challenges to gain the most obscure items linked to 10 clues. There were various levels of points on offer for questions answered as well as photo opportunities with the highest scoring team winning the bragging rights (as well as a prize).

The starting gun went off and the four teams rushed out, all desperate to gain a head start on the rest. The first few clues were highly contested as we all seemed to head in the same direction, however within a short time the teams lost sight of each other and we're all desperate to get ahead in the scoring.

By the time the clocked turned red all the teams were back in the pub with various stories of bargaining and persuasion to get all manner or weird and wonderful things in the hope that it would be then classed as acceptable as well as high scoring.

As the points were being collated and verified, the teams enjoyed the stories of the afternoon. Then the announcement we had all been waiting for, the winning team.....well, let's just say it wasn't the skipper's day!

A few sorrows were drowned before a change of scene was in order and off we all headed to Chinatown for some well-deserved food and a little more watering. It was fortunate for the team that the restaurant double up as a karaoke room, which was in full swing after food was had, and it appears that we have a few budding singers within the crew which is going to be fun on board over the coming months!!

Sunday morning saw the surviving team members reconvene for a taste of Greenwich's maritime history. Fuelled by coffee and returning memories, the team climbed aboard Cutty Sark to take some notes ahead of Level 4 training. This was followed by an impromptu picnic in the park.

Reflecting back on the weekend of fun and bonding in London, one team member said: "Awesome, brilliant, I was surprised how much fun last night was!" Another one added: "I'm glad it's a sailing race, not a singing competition.” The team departed London tired but in good spirits, with one observing: "If waking up in a stranger's living room with two half-naked men isn't team building, I don't know what is!.”

Team Wendo
The awesome Team Wendo were gathering. The assembly place was The Barn Farm, just outside Matlock in the Peak District.

14 of the mighty crew were taking part in this fun and important weekend were Wendo, Emily, Dora, Judy, Francesca, Heather, Valerie, Matt, George, Pop, Tom, James, Adam and Alex.

The first activity on the cards was a canoe ride down the mighty Derwent River. After a few navigation issues the meeting place was located. We paid our respects to a passing wedding party by blocking the narrow country lane... thought we were doing our bit in making the bride a little late.

After our briefing we took off in canoes with a crew of two. We learnt new skills, riding rapids, riding rapids whilst standing up, ferry gliding in the current.

We also learnt plenty about our crew, mainly that Pop loves being in the water. The team of Tom and Pop won the 'how many times can you fall out of your canoe?' competition. Three is the answer - although given Pop did a lovely dive out of his once, he left Tom with no choice but to follow.

We paddled past happy anglers and so much bird wildlife with young. We played water cricket with a tennis ball we'd found… The world has nothing to worry about if canoe cricket catches on.

It was a lovely day followed by a fun evening back at the Barn Farm. The Stormhoek wine went down well, maybe too well. Wendo has decided that in Sydney we will all be having a ‘how to BBQ like an Aussie’ lesson as food should not apparently look like charcoal.

Day 2 was spent on a dam, building rafts. We decided to split into that old chestnut - the men folk against the women. The all-important test was a race on the newly launched rafts.

The women team went the extra mile by decorating their raft with feathers and themselves with feathers, as they believed the boy team were a bunch of cowboys. A high stakes bet was made prior to the race, so the girl’s boat called Flo (Florence) and the boy’s boat called Stuart lined up against each other. It was a close battle fought out with everyone putting their all into winning. The victors were the women. The prize will be announced later.

It was a fabulous weekend. We learnt a lot about each other, so much so that we had to stay up till 2am learning all about each other. Thank you so much to George who put this all together - you did a fantastic job.

Thank you to James who booked the Barn Farm accommodation, it was perfect.

And so it was that two days ago I stood in a field in the beautiful rolling landscape of rural Dorset and summoned my crew.

From far and wide they drove – sometimes for many hours – to answer the call, and by 1am on Saturday morning I surveyed by moonlight, a sea of tents cocooning the slumbering individuals there to engage in the collective process of metamorphosing into team Unicef. As I lay in the no man’s land twixt wakefulness and sleep, I was enveloped by the thought that surrounding me in the darkness were the men and women who will sail around the world with me over the next year. That realisation was a unique and precious moment.

23 team members of Unicef were able to rendezvous at Park Farm in Blandford Forum for our crew weekend, but those unable to make it were not forgotten, and we resolved to impart our learnings to them when we see them on their Level 4 training.

We opened with an exercise in communication, where paired crew members gave and received instructions to reproduce a line drawing; one describing the drawing while the other drew, neither able to see what the other could. This task is not straightforward, and there were varying degrees of accuracy. But the exercise improved the way we give and receive briefings.

Nick Golding, round the world watch leader on Henri Lloyd during the last edition of the race, continued our programme of events with an insightful two hour talk, during which he spoke about every aspect of his experience. Nick easily held the entirety of our attention for over two hours, even when we had to move undercover as the heavens opened; the rain serving as a metaphor for the information that Nick poured forth upon us.

We also had a coaching exercise involving throwing tennis balls into an unseen saucepan, before I split the crew into two watches. Each watch in turn having to move an object to a specific mark on the ground using only lengths of rope, which sounds easy until you add rules which mute anyone who touches the object or rope, and blindfolds anyone who lifts the object. I don’t know whether it was more entertaining watching the performance of the on-watch, or listening to the ribald commentary of the off-watch.

Notwithstanding the value of listening to Nick and the exercises, the highlight of the weekend was a visit from Mariam and Liam of Unicef. Mariam and Liam came to talk about what Unicef does and how we will help them as we sail their brand around the globe. It is clear that Unicef is as excited about our big blue beautiful boat and what we are about to do in her, as we are to have them as our boat partner. The crew is very excited to be representing Unicef everywhere we go for the next year.

We rounded off Saturday with a barbeque, accompanied by a mixed case of Stormhoek Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon generously provided by the official wine partner of the Clipper 2015-16 Race. As we sipped we listened to the longlist of candidates for crew song from which we selected a shortlist that the entire crew can vote on through our Facebook group.

Round the world crew member, Henry Dale said, “This has been a fantastic weekend. It was great to meet Mariam and Liam from Unicef, listen to Nick’s wisdom, and have Jim put us through the exercises. As I drove down on Friday night it was just another Clipper Race commitment, but everything has been pulled into focus, and by Sunday morning the start of the race seems very real and very near.”

Kate Whyatt another round the world crew member said, “Jim put together an excellent mixed programme of communication and leadership tasks that saw us unable to talk, blindfolded and in hysterics on more than one occasion as we tried to draw, throw tennis balls and move a jerry can of water. A great weekend and an enormous thank you to Jim, Nick and everyone else who was involved in making it a memorable two days.”

What I take away from this weekend is what a compassionate, clever, diverse, and special group of people I am going to be privileged to skipper around the world. All that remains is to bring it on – we’re Unicef and we’re going around the world!

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