Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Blog 21 - Sydney Hobart Boot Camp
When you are standing on a cliff top looking at a yacht cruising serenely past there is a certain idyllic feel about it. ('Can you feel the serenity' sic The Castle). Even when there is a bunch of yachts having a race, from a distance it again looks graceful and unruffled. So much for the macro view. If you were able to zoom in to the deck it would look more like an ants nest that's been kicked by a twelve year old. Mental is not the word. When I signed up for the Sydney Hobart I was naive enough to imagine the first scenario. I knew it wouldn't be quite like sipping G & T's on a sun lounger, I fully expected the odd wave breaking over the bow. The reality is very much more Spartacus than James Bond. I haven't quite been tied to the mast and flogged to within an inch of my life by Captain Bligh wielding a cat-a-nine-tails (that's another web site). But I have got more bruises and cuts than an all day paint balling session. Am developing forearms like Popeye from hauling sails up and down. The spinnaker I'm sure is an old Wimbledon Centre Court cover. Its like hauling in a cloud and stuffing it in a duffel bag while riding a rodeo stallion, having skipfuls of cold sea water thrown at you and at the same time being verbally abused by the Aussie contingent - 'come on John, pull it like you're pulling your father off your sister'!!! Repeat every 15 minutes until you hang over the side like a puppet with the strings cut.
That's just the physical stuff. Stack on top of that a never ending spewing forth of nautical t.w.a.'s (three word acronyms). It gets to the point where you really want to tell them to stuff their windward headsail sheet where the sun never shines. When the skipper tells you he needs a bit more cunni I really need to remember its a small rope at the bottom of the mast that needs tugging and not a forefeit from the female crew members.
Then there was the sea survival course. Jumping into a salt water pool with thermals, middle layer, oilskins, hat, gloves, boots and life jacket, having to swim to a life raft while being hosed from the side then righting the raft and climbing in. Well trying to climb in. The life jacket gives you a chest like Jordan that is really hard to get over the side of the raft while your trouser legs and boots have filled with enough water to relieve the drought in Ethiopia. If it teaches you one thing. Its that being in that situation in the open sea, possibly at night, has got to be the ultimate in last resorts.
Anyway... its all been just a bit more that one expected and there is still a 24 hour overnight training run to do. Below decks the sleeping arrangements make Das Boot look positively palatial. The bridal suite is two poles with a piece of canvas slung between and about four inches shorter than yours truly. Add more dripping water and a floor awash with an ample drop of the Pacific and suddenly the backpacker hostels seem very appealing. I can't believe I'm paying for this ;-) My comfort zone has disappeared faster than the shoreline. Now I know why Helen MacArthur is always crying. No tears yet though.
I'm sure it will be good for me in the long run. Some of the good stuff is that the three lads I'm staying with - Dave, Greg and Jim (the cabin boy - actually that's me) are dead sound like. Everyone on board has masses of experience, much more than my half hour in a rowing boat on Sefton Park lake. The owner, Richo, has done 11 Hobart's. Shane, the navigator has done 9. Andy the Skipper has done one and is a hugely experienced sailor. Andy runs Yachtmaster Courses and is a Sea Survival Trainer. So I feel in pretty good hands really. I just have to remember that I am on board ship and to buy a soap on a rope before I leave.
Another good thing is that I've persuaded my naturalised Aussie niece Kathryn to join the crew. She has loads of local racing experience and it will be great to have her along to keep an eye on me.
The race starts on Boxing Day morning around 10am (11pm Christmas Day in England). There is a race tracker that you can follow the boat with at this link for Global Yacht Racing. The boat is called 'Global Yacht Racing Next' and is a Sydney 38 class. We don't stand a chance of beating the professional big boys in their Volvo Ocean Racer 30 metre beauties, but we will be having a good stab at our own class.
Will try and get an update before we go.
Happy Christmas to everyone.