Race 14 - Day 1
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Crew Diary - THE FINALE: Den Helder, Netherlands, to London, UK
So this is it. Final final blog time. 11 months of entries, trying to put into words what we've gone through out here without sounding too repetitive. My fellow crew mates have been brilliant in their eagerness and willingness to fill this space-- even if trying to decipher the spelling, and undoing their wanton cruelty to grammar and punctuation has cause me a grey hair or two.
But that's just the blogging. What has this race meant?
Statistically speaking, that's easy. For Garmin, 44674(ish) miles, five hundred and forty-two watches, two hundred seventeen days at sea, sixty-one crew members, fifty-three leggers, sixteen nationalities, fourteen ports, eleven months, ten countries, eight worlders, six continents, five ocean crossings, three third place finishes, three second place finishes, two equator crossings, one international date line, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Non-statistically, that's not so easy. This has been an incredible year.
Not all of it has been good or positive; how could it be with something as gruelling, challenging and uncomfortable as Ocean racing? Limits have been reached, tempers frayed, buttons pushed, tears shed, and hair turned greyer (okay, so it's not all from the blogging). At the same time jokes have been shared, stories traded, horizons broadened, and through all of it memories made and friendships formed as we've fought through the heat, the cold, the fatigue, each other, the crooked living angle, and the wet.
Dreams and expectations of the race seem so distant from when most of us signed up. I found out about the race in the summer of 2011, and signed up in June 2012 while they were still filling space for the 2013-14 edition of the race. I did my first level training in October 2013 with Sean Ferguson who ended up being a crew mate on this last leg, and I've definitely changed since then, but then I'd hazard that none of us the same as when we stepped on board, whether it was for a leg or the whole race. Older and thinner, for sure.
Those of us who have been on the boat for an extended period of time might take a little bit of help getting used to life on the hard again. You might need to remind us to go to bed (or wake up) at a socially useful hour, shower more regularly, or change underwear more often than once a week.
Choosing a meal might take a bit of figuring out, as we're used to just being handed a bowl. Give us time while our legs start to work for more than a few metres, and we become accustomed to having to climb more than 6 steps in one go. If we start talking about bodily functions, or other topics that might not be socially encouraged, don't get upset, just remind us that such topics aren't for mixed company. Or any company at all, possibly.
Other than that, all I have left is thank you's. Thank you to the Clipper support staff who have been there in the stopovers, to get us through customs and wheel up that all-important first cooler of beer. They've helped us fix the boat along the way, taking on the big jobs that have been outside our abilities (and believe me, there's been a couple of those), and giving us the advice we've needed to do the small ones. They've posted these messages for us, and put up photos and periscope broadcasts so everyone at home knows a little of what we've been going through. Sarah, Mark, Jules, Claire, Marina, Paul, Greg, Jay, Tim, Amy, Alex, Justin, Laura, Blake, Amy, Janice, Robin, Jonathan, Rob, Matt, Della, David, and all those people back in Gosport working behind the scenes for us.
Thanks to the people that aren't necessarily a part of the Clipper team, but have been a part of the race all the same. Martin from Hyde sails helped us resurrect our spinnakers more times than we had any right to, and Cliff and Tom from 1080 Media were always on hand to catch our emotions, high and low, when getting into port. And of course the people from Garmin, our boat sponsor, that we've met over the course of the race, specifically Mattias, John, and Joe. Thank you to Natasha and DaVinci's in Derry for looking after us while we were there, and our hosts in Seattle who took us in at the last minute.
Thank you to the 60 other people who have made up Team Garmin. Mike A., Ross, Campbell, Andy, Hayley, Catherine, Mike T., Mal, Leo, Willi, Lumi, Pete, Katy L., Ed, Jenny, Terri, Suzy, Per, Michael, Kate, Miguel, Bill, Jack, Ilya, John R., Tom R., John W., Chris, Stuart, Media Rich, Kersten, Jon O, Tom B., Sue, Terrence, Heath, Holly, Jenn, Jess, Lucie W., Duncan, Muchi, Greg, Lucy F., Rick, Richard, Anna, Ian, Nick, Pavels, Simon, Sally, Kieran, Charlotte, Jerry, Brian, Jesse, Maggie, Sean, Brad, And Allison, I reckon we made a pretty great team. Thanks to our skipper Ash, who managed to get about as different a group of individuals as you could find, and not only get us round the world, but do it in a pretty respectable fourth place, and as safely as you could hope for given the nature of the race.
And finally, thank you to the readers of these blogs, whether you've been Garmin supporters or spies for the other teams (you know who you are!).
Thank you to my own family and loved ones for not letting me quit the race when I thought I wanted to. Thank you for sticking with us, and in some cases allowing us to embark on this amazing, incredible, stupid, epic, tedious, exciting, wet and cold and hot and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In 24 hours, when we tie up in St. Katherine's Docks, you will all be free to get back to your lives, to stop refreshing the race viewer for updates and eagerly watching that little black arrow.
In 24 hours. We've still got this last race back to London. Let's Go Garmin!