THE Clipper Race, first held in 1996-97 and the brainchild of solo round-the-world yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, is contested by 12 identical yachts, each with a professional skipper but crewed by a combined total of 700 amateur sailors.
Martin Greenshields is very much one of the amateurs. Before embarking on this 10,000 nautical mile adventure of a lifetime, his sailing experience, he admitted, consisted of one afternoon on Carsington Reservoir.
But bravely undertaking the first two legs of the global challenge – from Liverpool to Punta del Este in Uruguay, and then back across the Atlantic to Cape Town – wasn’t quite as reckless as it might at first appear. All the amateur crews had to embark on four separate weeks of training at Gosport to turn them from novices to competent crew members, learning the basic skills of seamanship as well as undergoing sea survival courses and ‘man overboard’ training.
Recruits were then allocated places on one or other of the 12 identical 70-foot vessels which make up the world’s largest matched fleet of ocean racing yachts. Martin, a retired accountant who lives on Redmires Road, was accepted for the 2017-18 race as a crew member of the Sanya Serenity Coast, skippered by 53-year-old Australian sailor Wendy Tuck, from Sydney.
The boat, which went on to win the overall race, was sponsored by the Chinese city of Sanya, a holiday destination on the southern tip of Hainan Island.
Clipper 70s are not for the faint-hearted, or the work shy. They are stripped of all luxuries. Crew must become experts at handling the boat as well as living in a confined space, managing all their kit and belongings as they settle into their new home. We saw dramatic onboard footage of the yachts encountering massive seas, with the horizon tilting crazily.
Martin was quoting Sir Robin Knox-Johnston when he said: “In a Clipper 70 you have everything you need to sail around the world, and nothing you don’t need.”
The opening leg from Liverpool to Punta del Este involved 32 days’ sailing, with the 22 crew sharing a round-the-clock watch system with the days split into five segments. Off watch, crew members could catch up on their sleep either on deck or in one of the available bunks .
“In the Tropics, the temperature down below could reach 40 deg C, so it wasn’t very good for sleeping,” Martin explained. Another obstacle to overcome, especially in the early stages, was sea sickness, although Martin managed to restrict this to one session.
As the Sanya Serenity Coast reached halfway on the first leg across the Atlantic, Martin wrote in his diary, published on the race’s website: “The last few days have been noisy, with the constant trimming of the spinnaker as we seek to squeeze every last knot out of the boat. Now we are through the scoring gate, we are on course south to the motoring corridor, where we are allowed to turn on the motor for 60 hours, but only 60 hours, to get through the dreaded Doldrums. Once through that, which may be a problem as they are very large this year, it is a ‘sprint’ (probably almost two weeks) to the finish.
“The crew have agreed that I can do the blog today to ask you a favour. In a feeble attempt to regain some of the many house points lost recently at home, I did remember to buy a present for my wife for our wedding anniversary on Monday. However, I forgot to tell her, or anybody else, where I put it. So, if there is anybody reading this who knows Penny, could you please tell her it’s on the seat of the car in the garage? Thanks.”
On Day 27 he wrote: “After what seems like many months at sea, we have noted a distinct change in the morale of the crew. This all emanates from the inspirational words of Wendo [skipper Wendy Tuck].
“Early in the leg, her legendary pep talks went along the lines of ‘just don’t break anything.’ As the race continued we were given strict instructions, ‘drive it like you stole it.’ Now, however, the time has come for the words we all needed to get us through to Punta. ‘Think of the mojitos, smell the BBQ.’
“With these words we powered ahead, the Doldrums far behind us and all the excitement of spinnakers to keep us occupied.”
“As we approach the final days of what we understand is the longest opening leg in Clipper Race history, strange things have been happening on the boat. Jan Riley, our victualler has revealed that she is on Mother Duty tomorrow, Sunday, and we are to have roast beef.
“She has, apparently, secreted all the necessary ingredients around the boat and will be gathering them together for this special meal. The excitement amongst the crew is intense particularly as last night we had chicken curry that contained both chicken and curry. To top it off we found the spicy mango chutney for the first time so the curry department is firing on all cylinders at last.”
Applications are now open for the 2019-20 edition of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Please remember to mention Stumperlowe Probus Club when submitting your entry.