With two practice races under their belts and the sun shining on the Solent, the first 188 crew to complete their Level 4 training sailed into Gosport with smiles spread across their faces this week aboard the Clipper 70 fleet.
All crew raced with their team mates and skipper in a dress rehearsal for the Clipper 2015-16 Race which is now less than eighty days from the start.
Level 4 brings together everything that the crew have learned during their training. Race Director Justin Taylor says: “The first round of Level 4 was a big success. It is about recreating a realistic racing environment as best we can. The crews have been revising set piece drills such as MOB (man overboard) recovery, fire, sinking, collision, piracy, dismasting and abandon ship. As well as that, they’ve had their first taste of racing the Clipper 70s: practicing race starts, setting a course, participating in 6 hourly communication schedules and operating a full watch. This is the final step to ensure that our 2015-16 crew are race ready.”
For the skippers and crew, it was their first chance to assess each other’s race tactics. Qingdao Skipper Igor Gotlibovych was alongside GREAT Britain Skipper Peter Thornton and says: “I think the level 4 training was a very valuable experience for all. We won the two regattas but is was very important for the crew to see how you don’t lose your concentration or your focus during racing if you are not in first place, and you are dropping back. Hard work will get you back in front and I think it was important for the crew to experience the tactics of real life racing to prepare them for the real thing.”
Fellow skippers Max Stunell and Olivier Cardin were also racing together along with their respective crews on different watches. Max says: “It was really good fun – a big learning curve for me and for the crew. It’s the first time I’ve raced with a novice crew at that intensity which was really, really exciting, good fun and tiring. It was good close racing. We got a good result in the first race and in the second one we just lost out on third place by 20 seconds.
“I had my round-the-world victualler on board so it was good to sail with him, but it was great to be with all of them because it was the first time I have met some of my crew who have travelled from the southern hemisphere for Level 4. Previously I had only ever seen them on Facebook, so it was good to meet them in the flesh. We were using up so much energy, we were like locusts on the boat. There might be one onion left on there. At least my trousers fit me again!”
While finishing off their deep cleans and getting ready for their first showers in a week, some of the crew members took time out to tell us how they had found the whole experience and what they are now feeling ahead of Race Start.
For Deborah Bucknell, 35, from Sydney, who will race Leg 7 on Team Wendy, the race has encouraged her to make some other big life decisions. Deborah explains: “It has been so good to come together this week, sail with everyone and learn to live at a different angle! I trained with Wendy in Sydney on my Level 1 so it was great to have already met her to meet some new people in the crew.
“Initially I was coming to the UK for a fortnight of Level 3 and 4 training, but before I left, I decided that I should come and stay in Europe before the time comes for my leg. The Clipper Race experience has driven that change in my life and I’m doing it, not only for my own happiness, but for all the people I know who can’t take an opportunity like this for health reasons or something else, because I want them to share this with me.”
There was a surprising revelation from Team Ash crew member, Per Olav Kallested, 56, a retired English teacher from Oslo, Norway. A refreshed looking Per said: “I was a little bit nervous because I thought it would be really tough, but I was never really sleep deprived which I felt on a couple of other levels. We got to sleep a lot, the food was great and the weather was beautiful so all in all it was a great experience.
“When we started racing we passed everyone else and it was so fun. At some stage we chased another boat, passed them and they started chasing us but in the end they had to give up. That was real fun. You got a bit of that regatta sensation. It was also great to sail with my skipper.”
Circumnavigator Mike Moore from San Francisco was on a yacht made up entirely of his fellow Mission Performance crew. Mike, 48, says: “I flew in from the States the day before training started which worked very well because my body clock was all messed up and it made it easier to go straight into four hour watches. It was lots of fun to actually get out and race against other boats and to see what we could do.”
There are a limited number of places remaining on the Clipper 2015-16 Race, so if you’d like to join them contact our recruitment team via the apply section of the website. We are now also recruiting for the Clipper 2017-18 Race.Join The Race