And they're off! And currently in 2nd place I might add, as they got a great start and a successful launch of the spinnaker (due to my expert packing no doubt!)
These 2 weeks have been the most amazing fun and an emotional rollercoaster. An extra leg of the race in a way. There were lots of jobs on the boat to get done before they left, visits to Downing Street, birthday celebrations and some epic nights out, the excitement and tears on Sunday as the fleet left St Katherine's Dock and then the starting gun going today for the epic Leg 1 down to Rio. We are a team and I was proud to play my part of preparing the boat. A little bit of me (blood, sweat and tears, will go with them and also a few little surprises for them along the way, hidden on board!)
Winding back a bit to prep week in London. Sewing became a bit of a theme. Charlotte and I had volunteered to assemble the helm pockets, little did we know how temperamental the on board sewing machine was! However resilience is Team GB's middle name and we completed it with time to spare (after a few choice words I might add!)
It was lovely to work with lots of the crew I won't actually be sailing with. After work each day we retired to the pub (generally The Dickens) for a few beers and to swap stories with the other crews - something no doubt we will be doing a lot more of. We also spent an evening in Wiltons - an historic music hall that has been recently restored in to an excellent live music venue and bar. James Morrison was playing and I managed to sneak in to the back for a couple of minutes - absolutely amazing. Such a beautiful place and a fantastic gig. What a beautiful surprise.
The visit to Downing Street was surreal. We were allowed to take as many photos as we liked and then posed for our official shots all in our new, very smart, team kit. It was a beautiful day and London looked amazing. It was such an honour to be there. We had a briefing at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the GREAT campaign and our part within that. We were in the Map Room which must have seen some action and planning of daring do in its day. Again a great honour.
Of course it was also the Skipper's birthday and we had a crew meal that ended with one armed press ups in the bar. (I managed 10 standard press ups so was quite pleased with myself!) Other evenings had ended with shots (liquor) being traded between teams so I feel we got off lightly! The last night out was of course the whole fleet crew party at a fabulous venue in central London. The dance off was clearly won by Team GB - a sign of things to come I feel! There were some sore heads the next day but that left only 24 hours before departure and work carried on at a pace.
The final day dawned and I'm sure not many had had a good night's sleep, nerves were kicking in. Even I had a little moment on the tube on the way in. It wasn't that I was sad but more excited and nervous for them, knowing how they would feel and just wanting them all to be safe. The opening ceremony was just brilliant with all the teams being introduced and then manning their boats. Roy and I boarded a spectator boat and were able to escort the fleet up the river as far as the Thames barrier, cheering, waving like crazy and shouting out to all the teams. Tower Bridge opened for the whole fleet to process under and they proceeded up the Thames line astern. And then all of a sudden it was time for the spectator boats to turn back and leave them to continue to their overnight anchorage before race start today. I'm sure there were a few more tears on board (there certainly were from me) as they realise what they are about to embark on. I'm sure things will quickly settle in to routine with game faces on. (Paddington Bear is strapped to the mast to keep an eye on them.)
I for one will be addicted to the race viewer on the website - http://clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings
The gun went at 12.30 off Southend pier and they won't return to Blighty for 11 months. Fair winds and safe passage my friends. I'll be with you on every wave. See you in Oz.