Jason Best and team enjoyed their last night of 'freedom' at the Bye-Bye bash on Thursday night
It’s been several days since any of us have been out on the water, but the yachts in the Round Britain and Ireland fleet have been hard at work prepping their boats for the race. On board Besso we’ve tensioned the jackstays and wooled the kite, we’ve stripped the winches and tested, cleaned and siliconed the shackles on the sails, not to mention a myriad other tasks.
We’ve even taped the boat’s name to the underside of the saloon seat cushions – in case we founder and they’re found bobbing about in the Atlantic. What will have happened to us in this scenario remains somewhat hard to fathom.
Then there are the provisions. We’ve taken on board huge quantities of ready-prepared meals: umpteen packets of curries, casseroles and chilli con carne, for example, and enough chocolate pudding and spotted dick to sink a battleship – with or without the aid of a cannon.
Meanwhile engineers, riggers and IT experts have crawled over the boat from stem to stern, not to mention the inspectors from the Royal Ocean Racing Club.
Thursday night’s Bye-Bye Bash for the eight crews, held in the marquee on the mole, is a break from the slog of squaring away the yachts. The race, of course, doesn’t start until Sunday, but prudence dictates leaving a space for hangovers to subside.
It’s a boisterous, convivial affair from the word go, but there’s a definite undercurrent to the event, a feeling among some of those in the marquee that the Round Britain and Ireland race is a dress rehearsal for the more prestigious Global Challenge that starts in October. They are alive to a sense of class distinction and claim to detect an hauteur among those crew volunteers who have also signed up for the Global.
That’s certainly not the case on Besso, where Global candidates George (short for Georgina) and Sue give themselves no airs. Indeed, George, who’s known by her Global crewmates for her love of the helm, has hardly touched the wheel all week.
At the start of the evening the eight crews evince an impressive solidarity. The marquee is colour coded, with blue Besso huddling apart from burgundy Kunachi, The Firm’s black distinct from Team 7’s white. As the evening wears on, however, there’s a good deal of boozy fraternising. By the end, team unity has become a little fuzzy. The most well oiled crew volunteers have to be restrained from swapping shirts with members of rival crews. All very well at the end of a football match, but our final whistle is still a fortnight away.
When we get back on board Besso, team spirit returns with a vengeance. The yacht’s music player goes into overdrive as we search through our pooled CD collections for a crew song. If George is a helm hog with her Global crew, she has nothing on disco diva Roddy, who proves almost impossible to budge from the makeshift DJ booth he has constructed from an upturned corner seat in the saloon. He’s soon taking requests from his shipmates, from Van Morrison to Robbie Williams. If we didn’t know already, we could guess the crewmembers’ ages from the vintage of the music they pick.
The following morning (Friday) the bleary-eyed Besso crew surfaces to survey the flotsam and jetsam in the saloon in the aftermath of the previous night. Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea to label those cushions after all. We’re all a little worse for wear, but Ron, the oldest crewmember on board, is indefatigable. ‘Let’s do it again tonight, he enthuses.’ With hundreds of tasks still to perform before the start, though, it’s best that we keep the champagne on ice.