This is the weekend we have all been waiting for. Whether you are a “Round the World-er” or a “Legger”, someone doing one or more legs, this is the weekend when the boats start their 11 month adventure around the world. And I am part of this!!.
St Katharine’s Docks in London has been taken over by Clipper and the marina is transformed into a Race Village with sponsor tents, events, presentations and a lot of media attention.
Friday night a crew party and Saturday our Unicef Crew Party.
But first the challenge of obtaining a US B2 Visa at the US Embassy in London. When I finally managed to pass security, apparantly you are not allowed to bring an iPad keyboard into the building, there were hundreds of people waiting. I was number 407and the ticket number on the screen showed 154. A long wait ahead. The whole process was in two stages, first your number is called to handover and check the documentation and take fingerprints. Then you sit down again and when your number is called the second time you go in for an “interview”. I told the person behind the window I was sailing with Clipper, he typed a few sentences on the screen and said your Visa is approved. Took 2 minutes after a 4 hour wait. But now I have a Visa, three more to go.
Saturday afternoon was spend on the boat, chatting with the boat visitors. A surprising number of people were interested in joining and with my sales hat on I much enjoyed convincing potential crew members this is the best thing they could do with their life. Fun conversations!! It is amazing how many people say that they are thinking about joining because of a major life event. A difficult divorce and the death of a relative were the most common.
The Crew party raised £1800 with a raffle and an auction. A St Katharine’s bollard when for an amazing £520. The author of the St Katharine’s Dock book, Christopher West, also a well known Charles Dickinson expert said it was well worth that money.
During the start ceremony the teams were invited on the podium, the skippers were asked a question, a short interview with two crew members and then they joined their boat to start the race. When all 12 teams were on their boats, each boat slipped their moorings in turn and steamed at speed through the bridge onto the Thames. The Thames bridge opened at 15:30 to let the boats through up river and again at 16:00 to let them through down river for the official start of the race.
Strange feeling to write this now on the train home while my friends are starting their journey round the world. It will be another 4 months before I join them in Australia.
Next is packing for the race as my luggage will be send to Australia well before me.