What have I learnt?

I signed up to Heineken, knowing that I was probably going to be the weakest one in the team, with the least experience of racing… The key for me, was about getting experience & learning. I don’t want to be dead weight for DJ this year, nor do I want to be for Clipper, or for any other boat I’m fortunate enough to sail on.

Whilst we covered a lot of the below with Neil in our Sailing theory class – being on a boat solidly for 5 days, and things being reinforced by Sue, seems to be slowly sticking (can’t wait for DJ to get back in the water). I think I’m actually starting to remember stuff… and more importantly, I’m still learning….

  1. Being a race skipper is hard bloody work!! Yes you’d think being in the Caribbean sailing for 5 months, would be a walk in the park, right? Wrong – the skippers get different crew most races (unless they have paid semi pro crew for the season). The Skippers have a massive responsibility to you (as do YOU to them) to make sure you sail safely, learn and of course have a bit of fun… Imagine being at work and your core team changing every few weeks – nightmare!! I’d never get a bloody project in!! 🙂 Definitely making me think about the dynamics for Clipper… and also appreciate what we have on DJ (despite a few of us being relative newbies, it’s a fecking awesome solid team to sail with)
  2. I’m used to sailing in the cold & wet at home (usually) – the heat takes it out of you in a completely different way. Don’t under estimate the difference it has on your body… (I did remember my ex taking some sports energy tablets for his offshore races, so picked some up. In the heat, really good for replacing salts/electrolytes – and handily flavours your water!!)
  3. Awareness of others – understand that everyone reacts in different ways to different things. Some people need food, others don’t, some people get grumpy in the heat whilst others thrive on it, some people need a hug and others prefer to be left alone. Try to figure out peoples “tells” and adapt as necessary (you could even ask them!!)
  4. Communication – when the skipper assigns your roles, talk to your team, agree the finer details. Agree on who is doing what and get your positions on the rails sorted. You can’t afford to be in the wrong positions and scrabbling over each other when it comes to doing fast paced manoeuvres. If things don’t go right, discuss it, learn from it and PARK IT. Something that applies not only on the Boat, but work & life in general – a great lesson!!
  5. Learn to hike – properly 🙂 If you don’t have bruises on your stomach after fully hiking out – you probably aren’t doing it properly!!
  6. Tailing – there’s a knack. Despite it being drilled into me on DJ by Neil & Robert, after 5 solid days racing on a boat, finally seems to be sinking in and I think I’m getting the knack & technique sorted. Will be interesting to see how I go when DJ’s back on the water!!
  7. THINK – be aware of the course you’re sailing, and what manoeuvres are coming up next (although you’ve always got to be ready for a last minute change in plans!!). Something that Neil had talked about at our sailing class, and something I need to get better at (suspect I’ll be writing the course down on my hands next time!!)
  8. I’ve learnt a lot about my body, and also surprised myself – and it’s helped me to identify areas that I definitely need to work on in the gym. Upper arm strength definitely needs improvement!!
  9. Read the race instructions – both the general ones AND the race specific ones. Depending on races, they may tweak things (like amount of turns for penalties etc). It’s NOT just the Skipper’s responsibility, your job as Crew, is to support the Skipper – which you can’t do if you don’t know the rules of the race!! Again, something Neil had covered, but didn’t sink in till we got protested in one of the races in the Caribbean.
  10. If you’re on the winches – keep an eye out for riding turns (when the rope gets caught under itself), if it’s not too far down, you CAN grind it out. Need to work on my grinding technique too!!
  11. When you get on the boat – spend time looking at the sheets & halyards, check to see if anything’s written on the jammer’s (the levers that grip the ropes), some boats have labels on, some don’t and some are called different things!! 🙂
  12. Yes Jamie… I massively overpacked 😉
  13. And I guess the last two things I’ve learnt, are more personal…
    1. I’m actually doing ok, I’m incredibly happy, life isn’t horrendous, I don’t feel incomplete, my life and the things I’m doing are actually pretty bloody awesome and I can’t stop smiling…
    2. I still have SOOOOOOOOO much more to learn…. But ya know what… I know that, and I can’t wait!!


Ahem, in fact… wanting to learn so much, and continue on the #TeamTigress journey, that I’ve managed to wangle things with work and have now signed up to Antigua Sailing Week. EEEEEK