Guest post by Patrick Brien
The Clipper departure weekend had been in the diary for a long time, and the run-up to the big day finally arrived with excitement/apprehension/cocktails for all. While Michael and the twelve crews have spent the last few weeks working hard getting the boats ready for 11 months at sea, all us supporters had to do was turn up and wave.
We arrived in Liverpool on Friday evening and went along to Albert Dock to check out the atmosphere. The fleet was an impressive sight, smartly lined up in the dock with their pennants fluttering in the breeze and crew busying themselves with last minute preparations. Even two days before departure it was quite the tourist attraction, with big queues waiting to take tours on board. As we were with Michael he took us straight onto their boat for the grand tour without having to queue with the plebs public.
What follows are my impressions of Team Garmin’s home for the next 40,000 miles of sailing, and which can be summed up in one word: ‘cosy’. After negotiating the frankly treacherous steps down into the main under-deck area of the boat, the kitchen and seating area greets you. Special mention goes to the rotating cooker, where the crew’s beef wellingtons and baked alaskas (I’m guessing here) can happily cook on a level shelf in even the stormiest of seas. Also a mention to the sheer quantity of bananas they’ve packed. That’ll keep them happy for at least four days, until they all go brown. Further round from the kitchen are the bunks and toilets, and more storage up at the pointy end. With two teams of crew rotating so that they always have people up on deck, and therefore fewer bunks than crew, Michael is rotating bunk space (hot bunking?) with Nell, the team’s medic. We’ll find out in due course how that goes… good luck to her. GT, the skipper, has a little office in the back, and that’s the full tour. Like I said, cosy.
More last minute prep on Saturday followed, with poor Michael looking like he could do with a holiday, and we all went out for a celebratory dinner in the evening. A final selection of cocktails rounded up the evening and we dropped him back off at his boat ready for the early start in the morning (before heading to our comfy hotel beds).
Bright and early on race day the crews paraded around the dock and onto each of their boats in turn, to cheers from the fast-growing crowd. A ceremonial ‘slipping of the lines’ followed, and they motored out of Albert Dock into the holding pen of Canning Dock as the sun broke through. Here more supporters could shout, wave and take pictures of the crews nervously pacing around the decks, before the final move out onto the Mersey. We’d got a spot just next to the exit to the dock, and the atmosphere was one of celebration as each boat in turn was waved off, with their chosen theme song blasting out and pyrotechnics firing, the crew lined up on deck ready to race.
Finally they were out on the Mersey and could get their sails up, and after one last parade up and down they were ready to go. A bit of start line jostling, the starting horn sounded, and they were off! A loop up and back down the Mersey saw Garmin fighting for the lead with Dare To Lead, closely followed by the other boats, before they all disappeared off down the sparkling waters into the open sea.
Next stop, Uruguay!
As before, Skipper and crew diaries from Garmin – written by Gaëtan and a random crew member – will appear here on Clipper’s website every day: http://clipperroundtheworld.com/team/garmin/news
The Race Tracker, in which you can track our progress across the oceans every hour is here: http://clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings – Team Garmin is the black boat!