London and Race Start

The atmosphere in London was incredible, thousands of people lined St Katherine docks and what seemed to be the whole length of the Thames.

The England 7’s squad joined the Great Britain boat and the competition for the fastest grinder.

rugby sevens player on harken

We had worked so hard as a team to get our boat ready for the first race. From resolving the leaking diesel engine to installing the generator to all the rig and safety checks – which by the way had to be handed in by a specific time otherwise we already lost a couple of race points, and there was no way that we were going to let that happen.

One of my most bizarre on board jobs was that of rigging the butt hoist…. Hmm, interesting choice of word for what is just a piece of rope that allows you to hoist a pole with one of the sails attached to it (poled out Yankee/ headsail). However, T H E most bizarre and non pc piece of equipment that I have come across is the spigot aka “donkey dick”…  Apologies, but it’s true, ask any sailor and they’ll confirm it.

donkey dick downdonkey dick up

Well ours was, errrr shall we say, stiff. And I had the dubious task of lubricating the darn thing. Well, for those of you reading this whom I know rather too well, you can imagine the banter that was thrown at me from the other boats.

Suffice to say that with consummate professionalism and a rather hefty dose of laughter, our spigot is in rather good shape now.

And so to race start. We were on the boat by 0730h. Cleaning and tidying to be done, last minute stowage and then a change into our crew kit. We looked great, a really united team and one that certainly has a great sense of humour.

I felt so lucky to see so many friends and family line the dock before we headed out into the Thames.

mumMary and Auntie Liz make it down to see me offwell wishersrace briefing from the skipper

We had a long walk around St Katherine dock to the holding area, time for a quick loo break only to be met by three lightly clad  ladies  who were about to dance Jamaican style in support of the Jamaican entry.

james and boys

The camaraderie amongst the teams was fantastic as well as seeing crew who will join us on later legs, and family and friends of crew who wished us well.

We’d decided to take all our mascots with us, from Tyler’s monkey to Johnny the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust puppet and our singing marmot, not to mention a Swiss alpine cow bell.

Heather with monkeyGreg with EMCT puppetsinging marmot

And then onto the stage, nearly time to join our boat but not before “hopp Suisse” echoed around the dock. The Swiss team were ready for off.

on the pontoon being introduced to the crowds

We were the last boat out fourth into the lock, which gave me a great opportunity to say farewell to my cousin Mary, my Aunty Liz and friend of 30+ years, Ali, as they stood just metres away on the quayside.

And then out into the Thames, by this time my family had joined a spectator boat and were about to follow us on our parade.

supporters boatamazing support 2

Once Tower Bridge had opened and closed we were ready to head down the river to anchor overnight before the official race start at 0930 the next morning.

tower bridgetower bridge welcomes us

By this time all emotions were focused on race start and the fact that we were actually OFF. Sadness and elation mixed together like old friends, heavy hearts into chests pounding with excitement. We had actually started the Clipper 2013/14 Round the World yacht race.

Team Switzerland are on stage at 1hr59m in this youtube video.


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