'Mixed' start to Clipper Race

Clipper day 1
Clipper day 1 Photo: Clipper

It was around Monday lunchtime when my watch leaderCharlie said in his cheery way: "Well guys, we're now taking part in around-the-world yacht race".

It was then the enormity of the challenge over the nexteleven months hit me. The opening morning of the race had been a tough one andit came as a shock compared with the comfortable practice sail we had completeda week earlier.

Sunday was the official race start on the Thames when thetwelve crews were all introduced to the crowd before the boats made their waythrough the dock onto the Thames. As I stood at on the front of my boat lookingafter a mooring rope, I had several conversations with family, friends and anITV News colleague Toby Sadler who were cheering me on from the dockside. Andour social media campaign to encourage our supporters to bring Swiss flags paiddividends!

Monday was the actual race start from the end of SouthendPier. I was at the back of our boat Switzerland armed with the boat's videocamera as the boats whizzed around each other as we headed towards the startline. A couple of them were having problems with their massive spinnaker sails- ropes had failed to stay in place and we could see their spinnakers flappingin the wind. We smiled at that... but before long, we were having a similarproblem.

As we tried to change course, our spinnaker, which wasbeing pulled from one side of the boat to the other, decided to twist rounditself. It eventually ended up looking like an hourglass instead of a sail andwe had no choice but to pull it down. As we did, our speed dropped and most ofthe other boats surged ahead becoming small dots on the horizon.

The rest of Monday was tough - the weather was choppierthan expected and the boat was bouncing around at a side tilt of 25 degrees.Trying to get into my top bunk bed was hard enough, never mind getting tosleep.

But around 3am, our luck changed. Keeping a boat racingefficiently means trimming the sails - using ropes to pull them to the correctangle compared with the wind. I noticed our headsail was flapping slightly so Isuggested a trim. I was assuming the sail should have been pulled in tighter tothe boat (little do I know) but after playing around with it, we noticed ourspeed shot up by a couple of knots whenwe let the sail fly out a little.

In the next hour, we went racing past a couple of ourrivals (one of them the Great Britain boat) and my watch went to bed at 6amvery satisfied with ourselves.

But a race is a marathon not a sprint - the other watchhad more spinnaker problems and our race position changed again.

We are still not sure when we are going to arrive at thefinish line for the first race at Brest - that depends on the wind - but if wecan keep our sails flying well, we maybe able to move up the fleet.

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