The Clipper Race isn't a cheap activity. Therefore, it makes sense to do as much as you can to make yourself as useful as possible on the race.
To paraphrase John F Kennedy "ask not what your crew can do for you, but what you can do for your crew". Improve your skill set!
Making yourself as knowledgable as possible means you can give more to the boat. Giving more to the boat means you get more back. It's that simple. You should read the Clipper Training manual before Level 1, especially if you are a non-sailor. In fact, if you already sail, reading the Clipper manual is probably just as important, because you'll be learning 'the Clipper way'! Ask the office for the PDF.
Before Level 1 Training
You need to decide what is useful to you. If you're a non-sailor just buy the Competent Crew book and knots book (or an app). Day Skipper is a bit too advanced.
Before Level 2 Training
Level 2 is spent largely at sea. After building on level 1 training, you'll be off to experience spending time in a watch system. An ideal opportunity to put into practice sail trim and 'tweaking'. Go play! That's what you are at sea for after all.
Before Level 3 and 4 Training
Level 3 concentrates on spinnaker work and race tactics. By now, learning about the weather is also a good idea. There are books produced by the RYA which cover Northern and Southern hemisphere. Dependent on which leg you are racing, consider buying and reading one. They are well illustrated and easy to read.
General Reading for Fun
Certainly not essential reading, but a good read nonetheless...
Leg 3 is a biggy !
The Southern Ocean must surely be on every offshore sailor's bucket list. The 'Roaring Forties' below 40 degrees South are renowned for massive low pressure systems and monster waves. Crossing from The Cape of Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin (or thereabouts) means that you have undertaken a big challenge. It gets cold, wild and wonderful.
In previous years the race has started in Cape Town and finished in Western Australia (usually Albany or Geraldton).
Leg 2 is, as the name suggests, still quite early in the race. The round-the-world crew and those that are continuing from leg 1 have some experience and they will know their way around the boat and be much better at sailing her and undertaking 'evolutions' such as reefing and sail changes. Also, leg 1 is over and the race is very much on!
In previous years the race has started in Rio de Janeiro and finished in Cape Town.
(aKnown as one of the 'glory legs' because you get to start the race with all its associated excitement, leg 1 is a long leg (about 5,000 miles). Sometimes split into two races, the leg takes you across the North Atlantic, the Doldrums and equator and delivers you to the southern hemisphere on the South American continent. It is generally warm (sometimes very hot) and the weather is generally less demanding than most of the other legs - although you will see what you think is big weather along the way.. That's until you've finished leg 3!
That's my view but if you have a different take on things, please feel free to comment below. If this blog is helpful please consider liking and sharing on Facebook.
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Regular, preventative maintenance of your boat and its systems is critical when undertaking an ocean passage; even more so when you're pushing the boat in race trim. A significant part of your maintenance programme will include your sail wardrobe and standing and running rigging.
To check the rig, blocks and halyards, you're going to need to do a mast ascent and this will mean undertaking a risk assessment. Yes, yes, 'Health and safety', but believe me, the first time you leave the rig in an unplanned swing, you'll be a believer! Climbing a rig when underway is different to when sitting alongside a dock.
If you plan on being up there a while, a 70 cm long strop with a carabiner clip on both ends can be useful for attaching yourself more securely to the mast whilst working aloft.
Once the climber is ready, check the lines for the climb as follows;
Before you start the ascent, you are going to need something to stop you swinging off the mast and acting like a conker, halfway up. There are a lot of hard, sharp bits of metal up there and you get quite a speed up if you do start swinging. Trust me, I know. I'd recommend using your safety line. Clip it to your lifejacket hard point, then put it around a halyard that goes to the top of the mast (on the same side as the ascent) and clip it back to your jacket. This way, you are not 'connected' to the third halyard but, if you lose connection with the mast your swing will be limited to 2 or 3 metres. It'll still hurt, but you'll be under some control.
If you don't have a spare third halyard then rig a downhaul line, attaching it to your harness strong point and running it down to deck, preferably through a block near the mast foot at deck level and back to a winch. This too, will help arrest a swing. On a very large vessel, a downhaul must be used, otherwise, there might come a time where the weight of the halyard in the mast overcomes the weight of the climber and at that point up you go! Not pretty.
On the ascent, if you are fit and strong enough to climb, make sure your crew mates know so that they can take up slack as you go. If you're going to be winched, try and stay on the high side and ascend spiderman like, making sure to keep hold of the mast and rigging as you go. If the boat is heeled over, stay on the windward side of the mast and that way you have gravity working on your side. Watch you don't get fingers and heels stuck in the nooks and crannies of the rigging.
As you go up, someone needs to be running the deck, making sure winches are being handled properly. Someone should also be 'eyes on' the climber at all times, relaying signals as they ascend. Once there, the halyards should be secured and I'd recommend a clove hitch on top of the winch turns at the end, so as to prevent a line coming off a winch or someone accidentally removing the line. On this point, never leave your winch when there is a crew member on the end of the line! Close the clutches on the halyards if you have them.
On descent, first, open the clutches, then remove the clove hitches. Take the primary winch down to the number of turns that will allow you to ease the climber freely, but under control. This will vary dependent on the halyard and winch size but three turns is probably good. The secondary winch needs to be eased faster than the primary (otherwise it'll be a jerky and uncomfortable descent for the climber). You might consider removing turns to 2 turns and let the line run freely as the primary winch controls descent speed. Don't let the halyards run through your hands. Ease them in long, smooth actions, hand to hand - their crotch area will appreciate it.
As the climber descends, the person in charge keeps watching the climber at all times and communicating with the deck crew. Once back at deck, make sure all halyards are secured properly to the pin rail, making sure that each halyard run is correct and not tangled around the forestay or rig. Always look up when handling halyards to prevent this eventuality.
Despite all of this, it can still go wrong. Just make sure you remain attached to the third halyard or downhaul and a painful swing is the worst you can expect.
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Mark Burkes is a former Clipper Race Skipper, Round the World Crew, Clipper Training Skipper & jobbing RYA Yachtmaster Instructor (Ocean). He has over 200,000 miles logged.
Mark also writes professionally both online and offline and has written for Yachting World.
Fierce Turtle is not linked to nor is it in any way accredited by the splendid folk at Clipper Ventures. All opinion is our own.
This blog is entirely free. However, if you'd like to buy me a beer I'd appreciate it.
© COPYRIGHT 2012-18. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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