- It was a pity only once," said Jess, 52, who competed in the 2009-2010 race. - The spinnaker halyard broke in the Atlantic that night, and the whole sail went underwater. And we just started, didn't know what to do, everybody fell on deck and let's grab everything. The boat went up and down from wave to wave, poured out of the sky like a bucket, and I was wearing a life jacket. And so I sit in one nightgown, in this immense yellow vest, my hair mixed together, my flashlight blinded, barefoot, my knuckles shredded in blood, I drag this shitty sail out of the sea and I think: «Well, you got yours, you fool? Why weren't you home?»
Jess is one of the three thousand competitors in the Clipper Round The World, a project by the famous British yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnson. In 1969, he was the first to circumnavigate the world alone without stopping and caught fire with the idea of making this trip public. In 1995 he succeeded, and since then it has been possible to buy a place on a yacht for 50,000 pounds (about 4.5 million roubles) and in eleven months round the globe.
Evil tongues say that the wrong people are going around the world for the wrong reasons and stay alive by a miracle, but the fact remains that every two years a fleet of 8-12 yachts full of dreamers, romanticists and adventurers leave the English Portsmouth. Many of them have only been on the boat for 4 weeks, and even those as part of the Clipper Round The World training program.
For this Knox-Johnson does not criticize only the lazy, but he stands firmly on his own: a mono fleet of 70-foot racing ocean yachts, 18-20 newcomers each, only one professional on board (skipper), and - to raise the sails! The same evil tongues whisper that Knox-Johnson is just astronomically lucky: there hasn't been a single death in his risky event in 19 years of racing, and that's the only thing he can do to deter the onslaught of safety inspections.
But it's not about luck: Clipper Ventures does not take anyone on board, thus controlling both the «wrong reasons»and safety.
Clipper Ventures thoughtfully chooses the plasticine from which it makes toys for the five oceans, and 4 weeks of training is just the tip of the iceberg.
Under water is a few weeks of correspondence and a couple of hourly interviews with each candidate. In all this time, the only question he'll be asked about yachting will be about seasickness. The rest will be asked in various forms about his motivation, temperament, bad habits, reactions to broken sleep and stress.
«How would you respond to the lack of personal time and space on board? Is there something in you that annoys other people? Name the ugliest trait of your character. When was the last time you lost your temper and why? What will you do if you see that someone is not fully invested in the race? Why should we choose you out of 20,000 competitors?»
Two dozen such questions - and the conversation turns into a new round: «Describe the main achievement of your life. Which types of people do you get along best? Do you have any additional qualifications that could come in handy on a boat? There are no «Yellow Pages»in the ocean, if something breaks down, you have to fix it yourself».
And here comes the time of training on the water. Officially they consist of four modules: acquaintance with the yacht and work on the deck; watch and life in the long crossing; work with the spinnaker; tactics of racing, starts, finishes and fine tuning of sails. «Now you're ready for a marathon around the world," reports at the end of the program. - One ocean after another».
This schedule looks good on the advertising poster, but the industry has long known that teaching the crew is a thankless task for the skipper of the world. For the company «itself acquaintance with the yacht», «work with a spinnaker», in general training - not the first priorities. Four weeks before the race Clipper Ventures is needed for a completely different race.
Well, the worse, the better.
Unofficially, they go under the slogan«. If they break, it's better now». It is known, though not advertised that for the first and second weeks on the water Clipper Ventures choose the wettest, complex and exhausting passages. Storm, the current against the wind, three days of steep base-wind - everything that at other times would be called bad sea practice, becomes the first experience of future round-the-worlders.
Moreover, the final «yes the» candidate hears only after the first module.
«We once had 37 riffs and riffs a day," says Andy, who works with the world's first and second week of training. - Our job is to bring our skills to automation, eliminate unsafe accidents and work everyone to death».
The second goal of Clipper Ventures is to identify and separate family and love relationships during a training program. «No affair on your yacht, go to others» - this is a phrase from the contract, almost verbatim. Tired of narrowing down shady husbands and jealous wives, Clipper Ventures has begun to seize them on different boats.
The third important task is to understand the true motivation of all candidates and assess their desire to win. This is not advertised either, and Clipper Ventures eventually abstained from making an official comment. However, there are rumours that «Clippers» already at the start of the race known boats outsiders and boats-winners, because some gather tourists who bought an adventure cruise around the world, and others - the fighters who tuned only for victory.
«The skipper announced we'll have three watches," said Leonard, 2009-2010 race participant. - One is resting, one is working on the deck, and one is sitting on the deck. As a result, one third of the crew spent 30% of the world race wet and half a nap, pulling a flyer».
«I'd rather shoot myself than walk around the world like that," said Lee of the 2007-2008 set. - There are crews where the steering wheel is trusted only by the three best helmsmen, or where the roles are distributed from the start and if you get to sit in the schools, you never set foot on the tank. We've all done everything and we've been very happy about it. Yeah, we were always spitting in the tail, but the skipper wasn't really chasing us around and it was much more important for us to go around the world for our own pleasure than exhausting anyone's unnecessary seconds».
«Clipper Ventures selects people with the right motivation, and that's the most important»thing," says Eric Holden, the skipper who first gave his team the Eric Holden «Crew, the winner of the 2014» World Cup, in an interview with The Telegraph, and who led it to victory.
Finally, the final goal of Clipper Ventures' preparatory program is to make sure that each yacht has the right set of professions: medical, engineering, plumbing, computer, electrician. Doctors in the ocean in a special honor.
And the seamstress and the reaper
«In the Quiet, I was getting a bit of a twitch," Nurse Jess said. - We got caught in a storm, the guy on the next boat knocked out his shoulder, and I had to walk the radio to explain how to fix it. The next day on the other boat the man who was preparing dinner couldn't hold his legs, flew all the way through the cabin, and cracked his skull open. I needed an IV, I was on the radio explaining how to stab a vein, and then every hour I checked the patient's condition. At some point I even wanted to say: «Look, I'm a client like everyone else, I paid the same amount of money. There's water all around and raging hell, use a satellite phone and let me sleep!»
However, water, raging hell, insomnia, fatigue and pain are considered part of the adventure and accepted without complaint. Shocking are the difficulties of everyday life, for which four separate weeks of training are not prepared.
Such moments test not only the strength of participants, but also the qualifying process.
«It's not good for the first three days while they're like this," Jess grinds his fingers wide open and applies them to the top of his head, pretending they've broken his hair. - After that, everything sticks together in one neat layer, and you stop noticing them. And then a week later, your head doesn't even itch».
«You start the smell on the fifth day, and Marie from the 2011-2012 race will repeat it to her. - But since you're all smelling, no one is outraged. Worst of all who meet on the beach, because with them have to hug to the bathroom».
It's a safety margin.
And on the shore, the crew are inevitably split between those who run away to the hotel and those who stay on the yacht for various reasons. Once again, merging into one crew is another challenge.
«We were a friendly crew, but as soon as we touched the mooring, everyone was vaporized," Lee said. - I can't blame them - it's been a month at sea, you know, getting bored of this boat! But the main job is in the port: washing, drying, pulling out the sails, darn ... The best thing we did in Jamaica: oh, there was such a huge empty parking lot, we fixed and dried the entire sailing wardrobe! But do you think the guys at the hotel said thank you? They came back on the last day and just spun their finger at the temple: they didn't walk around the world to be on a boat like us idiots».
Another pressing problem that no training is able to solve is budgeting and buying products. Daily food allowance is already included in the amount paid for participation in the race, so at the very beginning, the crew gets cash and forms the menu itself. Of course, he is given advice on water, bread preparation, the number of dry and canned dishes, but most importantly - sweet and snacks - the crew chooses himself, and not always foresighted.
«The person in charge of the provisions seemed like a great idea," Lee recalled. - And since she was going to bake them, instead of normal flour and yeast, there were bags of ready-made mixes. They were worth a lot of crazy money, and the first purchase was so much that the next three distilleries we were sitting on were oatmeal and pasta. Needless to say, how many times did we remember the pancakes to this lady»?
«Yeah, that's right, there's been overlaps with the food. I couldn't see the pasta with meat gravy for a couple of months after the race either, and now I'm busting - and it's okay," said 52-year-old Jess, scraping the rest of the spaghetti bolognese out of the pot with a tablespoon. - It's okay for me after all this time around the world. You know, in the run-up to the race, there's a lot of talk about motivation, qualifying tests, psychological tests, the strength you have to go to sea with... But few people realize it's not about the adrenaline and the strength you have to go there with. It's about the strength you come back»with.
Source photos: clipperroundtheworld.com