Well that's it, that's a wrap and an end to (hopefully) the longest edition of the Clipper Race ever.
So my final blog, here we go. I'm not really sure where to start or how to finish - I'm not even convinced on what to put as my song of the day.
When I got the phone call to say I'd got this job I was driving over Itchen Bridge in Southampton and saw a call from the Race Director - and I got the news I was hoping for. That evening I opened a bottle of red I'd been saving from my birthday. I opened it up in silence which is rare for me as I've always got music blaring out and I just pondered my thoughts. I took some deep breaths and deeper gulps then phoned my nan and the rest of my family.
My first day at the Clipper Race office I remember very well. I walked in, recognised Wavy, as he was also on my skipper trial and Mark Burkes from training days. As for the rest, I hadn't a clue. Our first task/icebreaker was to speak to the person on our left for a couple of minutes, find out their name, where they're from and their sailing experience - then introduce them to the room. I turned to the skipper beside me only to find he'd done shed loads of Atlantic crossings already, completed circumnavigations and set various records. It was then, on day one, that I wondered if the challenge I'd wanted to complete for so long was an impossible one. Writing this now I'm glad to say my fears were not realised.
A few weeks later we were put with our AQPs and I was matched with a certain sailing Frenchman who went by the name of Hugo Picard.
Our first conversation is actually on his YouTube vlog, it went something like ...
“Ello Hugo. Ca va? Are you a racer?”
“No. Are you?”
Then shortly after that he skateboarded off.
But over the next year, I'd found an exceptional sailor and a really motivated person who I've probably learnt the most from, bar maybe Steve Jackson (but Steve was starting from scratch). Hugo and I didn't always see eye-to-eye, but we both knew we wanted the same thing - we'd just sometimes go about it in different ways.
I can't thank him enough for how he conducted himself and for all he gave to our crew. Hugo, it's been a pleasure and if you ever come to the Isle of Wight you'll always have a place to stay.
Merci beaucoup and adieu and best of luck on your future endeavours.
P.S. Sorry for making silly faces and shouting random French words in your vlogs.
Perhaps the scariest of all my days with the Clipper Race, even compared to hurricane force winds, was May 11, Crew Allocation. Ooohh. Having to stand on stage and read out 60 peoples names, then stand up in a room for around two hours and set out my stall for our team ethos, along with trying to set some common goals and ground rules. I remember this was the day I won Hugo over. I was always a bit shy and quiet and we hadn't sailed together at this point, but armed with a flip chart and a couple of bags of M&Ms, the day went smoothly and our, and the crew's, journey was set.
Over the coming months we met and sailed with our crew on their Level 4 training. We always set our target to be in the top ten for the training races and at times it was close but we did it and enjoyed it at the same time.
Fast forward to London and Race Start. I remember before we'd even sailed across the line we had our first 'faux pas'. Instead of easing the Yankee halyard it was let go completely and down it came, only an hour or so later we had our kite flying 30 meters from the boat, but with all three lines still attached. I know Mark Light has a picture of it somewhere. Then it was tacking out of the English Channel in a strong south-westerly - I remember seeing eight or so crew down with the green monster and a bucket of sick being kicked over and ending up on someone’s crumpled jacket on the floor. Again I had one of those "What am I doing?" moments.
But it all started to come together on the second race and from there we never really looked back.
So lastly I'll leave you with our crew charter. This was made with the crew and set the tone for the race.
Am I safe? Is what I am doing safe?... Safety first.
Your boat, your race, your home - have you seen our nav station?
Be kind, to the boat, to each other - what is banter?... bullying.
Don't be lazy, don't be late - Okay I might have woken up a little late to a few watches.
Clean boat, clean crew - you try spending 37 days at sea.
Stopovers are not holidays - no you're not kidding.
Make yourself available and proactive - work to your limitations, not your expectations.
Can we go faster - helm helm helm, trim trim trim.
Suck it up - suck it up.
Read and follow Race Skippers standing orders - wake me up for whales, not dolphins
If you have a problem use the chain of command - my bunk is always open (really it is)
If you dont know, ask - there is no such thing as a stupid question just questions asked by ....
Don't break sh1t - I need to improve on this one.
Be friends, be friendly - what is banter?
Get on a podium - well crickey we got seven! (who would have thought?)
Top half overall - when I started this journey I just wanted to be in the top ten. And now we are third!
So there you have it, me last blog, I hope you've enjoyed reading them. For the most part I've very much enjoyed typing them. A huge thanks to the Clipper Race for entrusting me with their boat, a massive thanks to the crew for putting up with me. Thanks to the Princess Trust, UKSA and Hamble Sea Scouts. Bristol lot you're still rubbish at emails. Thanks to my family. And behind me all the way has been Sarah, you have got me here and I'll never forget that, so thank you my love.
P.S. It's bin day today.
Song of the day: Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Zephyr Song
Josh, Maisie and the crew of Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam