Closer to the Barn

10 December, 2016

Not far to go now- Challenger continues to head ever West and life onboard is a finely oiled machine. Watch changes, on deck evolutions, food preparation & cleaning- after 2500Nm together 14 people have made this little stick of Kevlar in a wide, wide sea into not only a race boat but also an operational community. It is interesting to see how all the personalities that join us on day one are able to fuse seamlessly into one cohesive group given the correct cues and an appropriate amount of time.
Our crew for this event ranges from a Silicon Valley CEO to a Toronto based chef via a Hawaiian Lawyer, English Financier, Turkish Yachtmaster in training and a Nova Scotian Anesthetist- the UN has nothing on Spartan R/T. It is a credit to all the crew that they have adapted to this new environment with such grace and focus. My job as skipper now is to ensure the wheels stay on the bus all the way to the finish and this feeling of Bon Homme continues right until the last minute.

The problem as with any dynamic group situation is that with just 600Nm to go- people can’t help to start to ‘smell the barn’ when the real word starts to hove into sight. New questions have started to surface in the last 24hrs ‘what time do you think we will dock skip?’, ‘can you sign my log book now so when we get there I can get going immediately?’ You can imagine. It’s time to manage expectations. Whilst we have very good speed towards the waypoint off Grenada right now and the ‘TTW- Time To Waypoint’ on the computer is pretty fixed- the fact remains that this is still a sailing vessel and as such subject to the same forces of nature that have governed travel at sea for 5000 years.
Hopefully, looking at the weather forcast we should be able to speed to our destination without deviation but the unforeseen can always crop up; damage, injury, localized wind holes- for example I can remember sailing solo from Cape Town to Wellington, New Zealand and with 24 hours to go I had had my pre-arrival shave, new shirt on- the whole deal and was ready to enter port. At that moment I ran into a wind hole- an unforeseen wind hole that then lasted three days only to be replaced by a savage storm that rolled in from the mountains giving me 50knots on the nose for two days as I beat up the Cook Strait. (Check it out on Youtube- look up Velux 5 Oceans- CSM in the Cook Straits) When the storm finally lifted I was 20Nm from port with no fuel left, no food to speak of and minimal water- not quite what I expected when I finished shaving.

The discussion today has therefore been about ‘dislocating expectations’- that is to say separating our opinion of how well things are going in the here and now from the illusion of control we feel we have over the future. The gently rising levels of stress people are starting to experience as the dock looms closer is indicative of the fast-paced modern world we live in and we need to ensure we keep it at bay as long as possible so as to get the most from the boat and this event before we finish. Only from where I sit 600Nm from TV, newspapers, facebook, twitter, 100’s of emails, 100’s of texts and all those calls can the insanity of it all be properly gauged.
So, today’s tip is Skippering 106; ‘the show’s not over ’til the fat lady takes the lines’ it’s a concept that should help to keep people’s minds focused on the racing, focused on maintaining our little community and at least somewhat stress free for at 2 more days.
All well on Challenger. CSM