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Dry start to an ocean adventure

The Clipper 2002 race route takes a course around the globe that makes it the longest circumnavigation race at some 34,000 miles. It passes through a wide variety of weather systems which require the full range of sailing skills, from the patience to steer through calms to flying downwind under spinnaker before a gusty tradewind to beating through the Southern Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope. The tactics are fascinating; this is real “chess with press-ups” sailing. Nature, as always, is expected to be capricious, but it&#39s all part of the experience for myself and other crewmembers aboard the good ship, London

Wednesday October 23: We&#39re docked in Liverpool for the pre-race warm-up. I have been aboard since Tuesday with other members of crew arriving one by one.

We now have our full crew on board for the first leg – 12 crew plus skipper and all the jobs on boat are now completed, from engine-tinkering to-toilet maintenance to mast checks – 73ft straight up. The biggest job has been victualling (stocking up the boat) and we now have enough food, mainly dried, to last til Japan, which is at the end of leg three. Naturally, the lighter the boat, the quicker it will sail, so no squash for us, but loads of dried drink mixes. Everything dry – except a martini. I had to do a stock-take last night and can confidently report that we have 124 toilet rolls – which is just as well as the dried chilli con carne mix appears to be popular. We have 58 packets of the stuff. Given that each packet will feed 15 people, that&#39s 870 chilli dishes.

In total, we have spent £1,300 – another boat spent £2,900. Needless to say, they are that much heavier so at least we will start with an advantage.

The BBC says that winds are expected to be around 80mph. In sailing terms, this means &#39hurricane&#39, and if we were at sea, we would batten down hatches, rig storm sails and wait for the weather to pass. This is a shame as we may see the start delayed, but it would be pretty unwise to send the boats out. We hear word that a decision will be made on race day, October 27.

My biggest fear is sea sickness. This was an issue for me throughout our training period when I spent many unhappy hours being sick in winds of just 45mph. You can be certain that I will be taking plenty of tablets, starting on Saturday night and then through to the start of the race.

Wednesday October 30: As expected, the race was delayed by 24 hours due to gusts of up to 100mph around the Mersey and Holyhead areas. The race eventually began on the Monday with the London crossing the line second but reaching the first buoy, half a mile out, in the lead! What a great start, right in view of the 45,000 people who watched the race start.

All hands were on deck from the start until 8pm when the watch system began. The watch system runs in the following way: two watches of six people, the first watch (mine) ran from 8pm – 12, then rest, then up again at 3.30am to be on deck at 4am – 8am. Then another rest from 8am to 2pm then back on watch from 2pm to 8pm. Bear in mind, food at breakfast, lunch and dinner is served, not taking into account watch times. Result; they &#39eat&#39 into rest periods. In other words, the system completely buggers up your body clock and I often wake up thinking breakfast but receiving dinner!

So far I&#39ve taken 15 sea-sick tablets to take into account the possible conditions on the Sunday to Tuesday stretch. It worked – I was only sick twice in one hour – not bad, when you think I was sick for ten straight hours, last time out.

The Irish Sea was fair but we got hit by another bout of low pressure in South Biscay which delivered 40ft waves and 55mph winds, directly from the direction we were heading, i.e. south. This lasted a mere 20 hours, making moving around the boat er interesting. Needless to say, trying to sleep was a joke.

However, 24 hours later, we reached calmer Spanish waters and warmer climes. Finally, a chance to get the sunglasses out and do some intensive lazing around.

Aah! All the food on this boat is dried – I can&#39t tell you how many Pot Noodles I&#39ve had this week. The chicken and mushroom variety has a lot to answer for but, in this line, you have to be practical – haute cuisine is not really an option.

Friday November 8: In the 1,000 mile-long &#39part one&#39 race to Lisbon, with 55 miles to go, we were second but hit light weather conditions and lost a place. In the end, we finished third which we were still pleased with. What made this even more of an achievement was that the first four boats were within one and a half hours of each other. We beat the &#39New York&#39 by about 15 minutes – and we had them in sight for the last three miles. Very satisfying.

We are now working on the boat to prepare for the next leg, starting on Sunday, from Lisbon to Cuba, but expect to have two and a half free days before then. Cuba is three and a half weeks away and conditions will be radically different on this leg with light winds and temperatures hotting up.

•Follow the race at www.clipper-ventures.com

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