With less than 48 hours to go, Ocean Village was buzzingt this morning as crews made their way out on to the Solent for their final tune-up sessions and crew drills before the tonight's farewell party
Bright sunshine and a light easterly breeze this morning was welcomed by the eight teams preparing for the inaugural Round Britain Challenge race which starts on Saturday. With less than 48 hours to go, Ocean Village was buzzing as crews made their way out on to the Solent for their final tune-up sessions and crew drills before the tonight’s farewell party.
The past few weeks have been full-on for the skippers and mates, making sure their yachts and their own planning is in tip-top form for the hard and fast racing that the Round Britain Challenge will entail. While today’s superb weather made crews get in to the spirit of things, they haven’t lost sight that conditions are likely to change dramatically once they cross the start line on Saturday.
For some this is there first experience of sailing with backgrounds as varied as dairy farmers to city finance directors. While out sailing with the team aboard BG Group today I was able to catch up with Tim Williams, a 39 year-old London-based chartered surveyor who, having never stepped foot on a boat before had seen previous challenges feature on the television so decided to give it a go. “I’d always fancied having a go at the Global Challenge but couldn’t afford the time away. But, when this ‘short-term’ event came up I signed up straight away with an aim to achieve that goal of doing what the guys on telly did. The first time I walked on the boat I didn’t even know what a halyard was. My learning curve over the last few weeks has been vertical.”
So, with just a few weeks training experience, Williams has more personal aims in sight which include taking the helm during the race. “Oh yes,” he added, “we all get a chance to take the helm and that’s something I really enjoy.”
One of BG Group’s two physiotherapists, Pip Escreet from Cape Town is another member of the crew who’s a yachting ‘first timer’ and eager to get to the start line. “Apart from a couple of days sailing with some family friends in Cape Town, that’s all I’ve done and I’ve certainly never done any racing. The good thing about this challenge is that everyone is at the same level and you really are a key member of the crew. Before I signed up for the event I actually drove down to see what the boats were like; I’ve not looked back since. Although I have to say, I have been as sick as a dog during the training events. But it hasn’t put me off yet.”
At 27 year old, Clive Cosby is one of the youngest skippers on the challenge and his lively, positive attitude is immediately reflected on the way the crew work as a team. Cosby, together with the yacht’s mate Laurence Marriott, are full time Challenge Business employees with thousands of ocean racing miles of experience under their belts. Cosby commented: “They’re a really great crew from all walks of life including housewives, policemen, physios and bankers. They’ve gelled really well and all seem to be happy. They are laughing lots, which is a great indication.”
So for the eight teams of 18 there’s no turning back. From now on their one and only focus is to race hard and fast in an effort not only to win but to break the current round Britain and Ireland record which stands at just over 10 days. According to Cosby, “That’s not an impossible task because that’s an average of 7.1kts, something these boats are well capable of doing.”
While most of the boats were back on shore by mid afternoon there was one team noticable absent – Logica. This team skippered by Duggie Gillespie and includes as one of the crewmembers, Yachting World’s Jessica Daw, is arguably the race favourite. Gillespie who is one of the most experience skippers in the race having won last year’s Transatlatic Challenge, definitely has his eyes set on a win and is making sure his crew are in tip top racing mode before they hit the start line on Saturday. A weary Jessica Daw commented after coming ashore late this afternoon: “I’m absolutely shattered. We’ve been out most of the day training and all I’m looking forward to now is a hot shower and a good sleep!”