Writing this from the train on the way down to London; this weekend is Crew Allocation in Portsmouth – where I find out just who I’ll be spending 11 months with in very close proximity. We’ll also find out our skipper, plan the crew team-building event in June, volunteer for on-board roles and generally get to know each other. Expect another update this time tomorrow – or more likely on Sunday after I recover from the hangover.
If you want to watch on Saturday (from 10.30am) then there will be a livestream here.
At the back end of April and the beginning of May, I attended the Clipper Race Coxswain Course. This was extremely useful in helping me identify what I need to work on during the race, for the easiest path to a Yachtmaster qualification when I get back. Primarily I need to be better at handling emergencies under pressure, which apparently I’m really bad at (to be fair I did know that already).
The CRCC is Clipper’s way of only having one paid and qualified skipper on board, instead of a skipper and mate (as the rules say they should, if they didn’t have a special exemption from the MCA) – 7 days of navigation, meteorology and ocean theory followed by 5 days of practical boat handling, boat systems and things like mooring and anchoring.
In other news I’ve recently signed up for Total Warrior in June – another 12km obstacle race in Bramham Park! Main aim: don’t damage anything…
So in the end it was neither London nor Hull, and not on the bank holiday either. Clipper have announced that the race will be leaving from Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool on Sunday 20th August 2017, and returning there in July 2018.
The boats are expected up in Liverpool around 14th August, and there are various events going on that week; since I am planning on joining the boat for preparation week in Gosport and then for the journey up to Liverpool I expect I’ll be there for that week – if anyone wants to come up to visit I’ll happily show you around the boat!
Currently I’m in Gosport on my CRCC (clipper race coxswain course), which is a training course to allow people to take over command if something happens to the skipper. If you catch me with a lot of time I have plenty of things to say on this subject, but this is a short blog post written in a lunchtime!
My effort to write at least one blog post per month in the run-up to the start of the race is not going well. My excuse is that I’m too busy
playing tabletop miniatures games running 10km obstacle races studying navigation & meteorology to do any blog writing.
It’s not like I had nothing to write about. In early March I took part in the third (of four, or well, five for me) level of training for the race, which turned out to be one of the most eventful weeks in Clipper’s training history. Both our skipper (Conall) and mate (Gaëtan, pronounced GUY-tong, from Belgium) were potential skippers for the race, and in fact both have now been chosen to be race skippers – I may be sailing with one of them for 11 months!
In 5 days we managed to (in chronological order):
- suffer an engine failure at the narrow point Portsmouth harbour
- make a large hole in the back of the boat using a pontoon cleat
- bend the bowsprit (of our second boat) downwards by 90°
- run aground on Ryde Sands
So that was fun. In some ways having incidents like these can be good training anyway – although you perhaps don’t learn what you originally came to learn, instead learning how to work together as a team to solve problems. (And in fact this was a great crew; I’d love to sail with all of them on the race!)
It’s a bit hot in here…
In the last few weeks managed to snag a second-hand Henri Lloyd drysuit – a sealed one-piece outer layer, excellent for staying warm & dry on the bow in the Southern Ocean and similar hostile environments – in excellent condition for less than half retail price. This was courtesy of Kate Whyatt, a circumnavigator on last year’s crew.
April is looking busy, since I have lined up another week of volunteer work sailing with the Tall Ships Youth Trust, and then later I will be doing the Clipper Race Coxswain Course (CRCC), aka ‘level 5 training’ – this is an intensive 12-day theory & practical course that essentially teaches the skills required to take command of the boat should something happen to the skipper. Only a small proportion of the crew are invited to take part, and each boat should have 2-3 of these trained people on board. It’s a lot of ocean and navigation theory – in fact we receive the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore theory certificate – and practical exercises such as manoeuvring, man overboard helming and various other tasks. This should put me in good stead for taking my Yachtmaster Offshore exam in the future. I am looking foward to this and have obviously been doing (as stated in the opening paragraph) lots of preparation for this already!
It’s a good job I work for an awesome company who not only let me take this time off for training, but also single days at short notice to travel down to London for a 5 minute interview at the US Embassy…
It’s all go here. Somehow I only have five more months left of work.
I spent last week in the Solent as a volunteer watch leader on Challenger 2 with the Tall Ships Youth Trust. Skipper was Sue Geary and we had a number of 16-25 year olds on board for a Competent Crew course. The weather was rather unexciting – we spent a lot of time motorsailing – but it was a very useful week in terms of becoming familiar with the watch leader roles and responsibilities – something I would like to do for at least one leg on the race.
I am watch leading for another of their young person courses in April, and have had a lot of fun with the Tall Ships Youth Trust in 2015’s Fastnet Race too.
Calm seas off Anvil Point…
…and Old Harry Rocks
This trip was on one of the old Challenge 72s – which used to take part in the BT Global Challenge yacht race before the company went into administration – so they are of a similar size and style to the Clipper race boats, although with some important differences:
- Built in 2000 as opposed to the current Clipper 70s which first sailed in the 2013 race.
- Steel hull, instead of the lighter foam reinforced plastic (FRP) of the Clipper 70s.
- Hull & rig designed to sail against the wind, instead of with the wind. This is a fairly important difference, and makes a lot of difference in terms of speed and handling at different points of sail.
The day before this trip I passed the Marine Radio (SRC) Course, which is a prerequisite for the Yachtmaster qualification. Whether I’ll go for my Yachtmaster before or after the race is still to be decided, but at least I have most of the essential prerequisities sorted!
Finally, due to visa requirements, I’ve had to cancel a sailing trip in favour of an essential trip to the US embassy in London for a visa interview. I can only test the patience of my long-time employers Met Geo Environmental so far…
When I signed up to circumnavigate the world in the Clipper Round The World race, it was a very safe 2 years and 8 months away. Those two years seem to have gone by awfully fast, and now I’ll be leaving my job, leaving my house for the last 11 years and going to live on a boat for 11 months this year. How did that happen!?
Before that though I have a number of other courses and trips on the go…
Firstly I have signed up to do a Marine Radio Short Range Certificate – a prerequisite to the Yachtmaster exam – in February. This is a one day theory course on the subject of marine VHF radio communications, including such subjects as Digital Selecting Calling (DSC), the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and other related acronyms.
One of the important roles on board the RTW yachts is watch leader – essentially in charge of sailing the yacht whilst the skipper is asleep. I’ll be joining the Tall Ships Youth Trust as a volunteer watch leader for a couple of their week-long voyages this year in February and April. I sailed with these guys – and on their Challenge 72 yachts, which are very similar to the Clipper 70s I’ll be living on – on the Fastnet Race in 2015. They are based in Portsmouth, directly opposite Clipper in Gosport, so I’ll be getting used to the train (and/or car) journey southwards again!
Clipper Race level 3 training is in March for me; this one – a week again, as levels 1 and 2 I did last year – is focused on spinnaker sailing and racing, race starts and race rules.
I have also been invited to join the Clipper Race Coxswain Course. This is a 12-day course, part theory and part practical, designed for some crew members to enable them to take charge of the boat should anything happen to the skipper. It includes a lot of Yachtmaster-level theory, and in fact I will hopefully gain the RYA Coastal/Yachtmaster Offshore shorebased certificate.It also contains some extra ocean theory (currents, world tides) and a large practical component as well. I am very much looking forward to this course, and have already been doing a lot of reading (and map practice) in advance!
Oh, and I will hopefully fit in a week in the Dolomites in July too with my best friend. Well, I’m gonna be needing a break from all this water…
This is a rather belated post…
A few weeks ago I travelled to Plas Menai – Wales’ National Outdoor Centre on the Menai Strait, and the venue of my first ever sail – to join an RYA Coastal Skipper course. The primary sailing qualification in the UK is the Yachtmaster, and although one can simply go straight to the practical exam give sufficient skills and experience, the Coastal Skipper course is a great way to learn these skills and put theory into practice.
The course is a residential course on a yacht – Menai III, a modern 37-foot single-masted yacht (Jenneau Sunfast 37 for those interested in that sort of thing). Three of us were on the course, with another on the Competent Crew course on the same boat, and the skipper/instructor Olly. Passage planning, night navigation & pilotage and boat manoeuvring under power were the main focuses, plus some revision of the Colregs (common term for the International Regulations for Preventing Collisons at Sea, i.e. the rules of the road) and navigation lights and marks.
I planned a passage from Port Dinorwic (Menai III’s home port) to Holyhead where we spent a day practicing manoeuvring in the marina, leaving and entering berths and turning in tight spots. We then returned round the north of Anglesey to Menai Bridge to do some night navigation, finally returning through the Swellies – the dangerous part of the Menai Strait – at slack low tide.
I feel much more confident in my boat handling and passage planning (and night pilotage) skills now, and would love to put this into practice by chartering a yacht for a week… maybe the Mediterranean next spring? Any takers?
The ‘about’ page is done – a simple link to my first post, so here’s what’s still to come at Some Like It Yacht:
- A donate page! My first choice of charity would be the Michael Brien Retirement Fund, but I think some people might not take me seriously. So, I have decided to support the charity also supported by the Clipper Race: UNICEF. Clipper partnered with UNICEF in the 2015-16 race to raise (so far) nearly £250,000.
- Once the race starts in August 2017 – or at least gets close enough – links to the Race Viewer. This is a page on the Clipper site with a live tracker so that you can see exactly where I am!
- Better photographs – Clipper will be doing publicity photos, I will be taking none/some/many on my sailing adventures (number depends on inclemency of weather and sea state), most of which will hopefully be ending up here!
- Anything else I can think of, or someone else suggests for me.
- A thanks to my brother Patrick for the page title…
I also tested ‘post by email’ for this post; a way to send a simple text-only e-mail to update you all (via satellite phone) from the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
Finally I’d like to point out the Follow and Facebook widgets to the right: you can subscribe by email or like my page on Facebook to receive updates.
My name is Michael Brien, and in 2017-18 I am sailing around the world with the Clipper Round The World race. The race starts in August in Liverpool and ends back at the same port on July 28th 2018. You can find the route map at Clipper’s website.
Before the race begins I have been taking part in four separate training weeks from Clipper. I am also doing other – non-Clipper – sailing trips and sailing courses to improve my knowledge and skills; so far I have completed a Coastal Skipper practical course in September, and also acting as watch leader for the Tall Ships Youth Trust for a couple of courses for young people. I am hoping to become a Yachtmaster after the race, as I certainly don’t have time before!
Although I started sailing as a 14-year-old on the Menai Straits, after university I stopped: for various reasons including other hobbies and living about as far as it is possible to live from the sea. In 2013 I then joined the Eda Frandsen on a 9 day trip round the Hebrides, and wondered why I ever stopped because this is awesome. The Tall Ships Regatta (from Falmouth to Greenwich) followed in 2014, and then the Fastnet Race in 2015.
Whether you know me as Michael, or Mike, or Mikey (or Blencathra, or Kivena) you are very welcome to follow me as I experience copious amounts of sea and weather on the world’s oceans.