So it’s really happening. T minus 48 hours until I fly to Perth to join my Zhuhai crew in Fremantle. First pass of bag packing done. Although it’s going to take a second attempt tomorrow, as I found some stragglers after I’d zipped everything in. On the plus side, it’s quite the workout fitting everything (except my sleeping bag) into the single bag. I’m sure the extra fitness will be much needed in a few weeks…
After making it to LHR T3 for my first flight with Qantas, I went straight to the Qantas lounge and set myself up with a view of the runway to while away an hour or so watching the comings and goings (aircrafts and people). We boarded on time which was a relief, where I quickly got myself comfy for the 10 hour journey to Perth.
A seamless flight later, I had landed in a very warm Perth. First step was to clear immigration having noted on my arrival card that I was not in the country for either work or tourism – what would you class this crazy adventure? Anyway this turned into a nice conversation with immigration, and a wish of luck. All in all, a very nice first impression of Australia.
I made my way to my hotel, checked in, and then went for a walk to find my bearings (in the blistering heat). The marina was a 20 minute walk away, and my hotel located in a lovely area of Fremantle town. My team weren’t due to arrive until the following day, so I explored a little more and took some time to catch up on my sleep.
One thing you cherish more than most during a stopover is food, so I ensured I was up nice and early the next day to treat myself to the kind of breakfast that won’t be available once onboard.
I was at the marina nice and early to be sure to see Zhuhai arrive, which they did on the 9th December.
As Zhuhai crew stopover manager, the notes I captured and shared with Zhuhai crew summarising the days until we would leave for Airlie Beach are as follows:
Day 1 – Tue 10 Dec: leg 3 CREW ARRIVED into Freo from Cape Town. They stayed onboard until border patrol had completed all necessary checks onboard (which took about an hour), following which, the crew were ushered to the sailing club for some much deserved welcome drinks and food – I joined of course.
Day 2 – Wed 11 Dec: as is standard after every training/leg/race the first task was a very DEEP CLEAN of the boat, which took all day! As per usual, anything that can move was removed and cleaned, before being put back in place, and given a final once over.
Day 3 – Thur 12 Dec: given the temperatures in Freo (40 degrees), DEEP CLEAN rolled into a second day, which also included a thorough deck wash to conclude. We also started working our way through the tasks on the maintenance list (damage or wear and tear from the race). I got straight to work on winch maintenance along with a couple of other crew members, which meant taking each apart and cleaning and greasing each spring, clip, cog and bearing, before putting it back together and moving onto the next. There are 6 pit winches, 2 smaller winches, and 3 primary (bigger) winches. Each pit winch takes about an hour to clean single handed, and the primaries a couple of hours if done properly.
Day 4 – Fri 13 Dec: we commandeered a meeting room with aircon at the yacht club and laid out the FOOD that Kath (our victualler) had already ordered on Day 2, and had delivered to the marina. The food was separated into a predefined menu by day, on the floor, ready to be packed into waterproof ‘day bags’. Once sorted and packed, the day bags were carted down to the boat for stowing in the respective forward bunks. We needed support from almost all of the crew, for this activity, and again it took the best part of a whole day!!
Day 5 – Sat 14 Dec: DAY OFF for all crew. I took some time out to go to the Maritime museum in Fremantle.
Day 6 – Sun 15 Dec: DAY OFF for all crew. I went with a couple of the new leg 4 crew to Rottnest Island, where we hired bikes and cycled around the whole island. I found my first quokka. What an odd creature.
Day 7 – Mon 16 Dec: TEAM WORKSHOP, and team Christmas meal. For the team workshop, we broke into various groups (watch leaders, RTWers and everyone else), and shared tips and tricks from existing crew, to new crew. We then broke into our new leg 4 watches to discuss what kind of watch we want to be, and what does each person want to learn/get from the leg. This would form both personal and team goals for the upcoming leg.
Day 8 – Tue 17 Dec: CREW CHANGEOVER DAY – all new crew joining in Freo are contractually obliged to be available for all yacht related tasks from this date. We continued with the on the deck maintenance list (with all leg 4 crew, and those crew still in town from leg 3.) and general preparation for the next race.
Day 9 – Wed 18 Dec: REFRESHER SAIL for all of the new leg 4 crew. Crew assessments would normally have happened on this day too, but we didn’t have time, so did this on day 12. For the refresher sail, in very quick succession, we completed a number of evolutions: hoisted the main sail, the staysail and the Yankee 1, before putting a reef in, and then shaking it out. All between numerous tacks and gybes. It was great to dust off the sailing cobwebs and get out on the water.
Day 10 – Thur 19 Dec: OPEN BOAT day – I coordinated having at least 5 crew on board in both morning and afternoon slots to show guests around, and answer any questions they might have. I particularly enjoyed showing the kids around, and tackling their very tough questions (which tended to revolve around the galley and the heads!). I think we may have 1 or 2 new young hopefuls for a future edition of the race solely based on the fact there is no shower!!
Day 11 – Fri 20 Dec: OPEN BOAT day – same as previous day.
Day 12 – Sat 21 Dec: onboard for 09:00 and our first safety brief of the day, before going back to the sailing club for an all Crew Clipper brief at 10:00, and then back to boat at 11:30 for Skipper/team brief and further safety briefs. Rest of the day was spent doing last jobs on the maintenance list (all leg 4 crew, and those leg 3 crew still in town!). We also allocated bunks, and got most of our gear onboard and packed away into cave lockers.
Day 13 – Sat 22 Dec: RACE START (finally)! Onboard for final checks and preparations at 09:00. Photos around 10:00. Lose SIM cards at 11:30.