Having been given the thumbs up by the good ole US of A and duly celebrated that evening in Portsmouth with more than a handful of fellow Clipper crew members - all keen to practice for the Official Crew Allocation celebration the following evening (that's dedication for you!), I marvelled at how fresh and hang-over free I was on that Saturday morning - 30th May. I think it was nerves - or adrenalin that kept any jaded feeling at bay.  This was it - this was the day I would find out which yacht I would be racing on (I had been praying to the great 'God of Crew Allocation' for months....which in reality meant sending an email to the Clipper Ventures office on an almost weekly basis reminding them that the Hull & Humber Yacht was my first (and only) choice and hoping that they'd put me on it if no other reason than to shut me up!).  I would also find out who my fellow crew members would be.  Would any of them be people I had already trained and made friends with?  Would I like them?  Would they like me?  Would they be as keen to race and do well as I was, or would they just be out for a jolly?  I was praying for a good bunch of people almost as hard as I was for the Hull & Humber Yacht.  And so it was with all these thoughts and a spin-cycle of emotions churning inside of me that I set off with three other nervous crew mates, Jo, Sally and Sarah on a scorching hot May morning to discover our Clipper Race fate!
It was fitting that the event was taking place at Action Stations in the Historic Dockyard part of Portsmouth Harbour.  This was certainly going to be an Historic event in my life - followed by an action packed year - and I couldn't wait for it to start.
The scene must have been like the sailing equivalent of the Oscars (not that I've been to the Oscars but it must be something like this but with posher frocks and bigger hair-dos).  As everyone arrived and gathered in the coffee area there was much kissing on cheeks of people you'd already bumped into on the Clipper experience so far, and excited hugging of the ones you'd trained with and so were already confirmed life-long friends with.  Eventually we were called into the auditorium and we filtered in slowly. The nerves kicked in again as you double checked with those next to you which yacht they wanted, all the while not really caring as long as your name was called out by the right Skipper.

The packed auditorium fell to a hush as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston stepped forward to set the scene and remind us all of the incredible task we'd all signed up to. "Twice as many people have climbed Mount Everest than have sailed round the world".  I'd heard him say those words several times before by now, but each time it reminded me of the truly extraordinary undertaking that faced us in the months ahead. It was sobering but at that same time got the blood rushing through my veins.  I had never been more certain about wanting to do anything in my life than I was now about doing this.

After Sir Robin got us all fired up, Jonathan Bailey (Joff) the Race director reminded us of some of the practicalities of what lay ahead and then introduced us to some of the Race sponsors. 
Even though it feels like you pay the equivalent of the third world debt to take part in the race, in actual fact without the sponsorship that Clipper Ventures works hard to get, the cost to the crew would probably be three times more. When you're scraping your pennies together and watching your overdraft grow at an alarming rate, it's hard to appreciate that, but it's a fact and one that I'm very grateful for, as an opportunity to do this would certainly be well out of my reach without the sponsorship Clipper manages to attract. 
We all listened intently, despite the heat, while the some of the sponsors talked about their products and relationship with the Race but all we really wanted to know was which boat and with who.  The skippers had all been announced a couple of weeks before and I'd been delighted to see that most of the guys I'd trained with - who had all been brilliant - had got through the trials and been allocated their yachts.  The Hull & Humber Skipper was Piers Dudin, a 6 foot 5 inches tall 31year old, who I hadn't sailed with before but who apparently had a good deal of experience racing his own yacht single-handedly and was reported to be a pretty decent bloke.

Finally the moment came when all the Skippers were introduced and one by one were to step up to the podium to open the Oscar-like envelope and announce the names of their crew.  About three hundred and forty people all held their breath. They went through the yachts in order, starting with CV1 (Clipper Ventures 1). All ten yachts have a CV number and some of them had not yet got boat sponsors so could only be identified by their CV number.  Hull & Humber was CV8 so I would have to sit through 7 other yachts, each time praying that my name wasn't read out! 
After the very first yacht we were all on edge.  Jo was also from Yorkshire and so we thought would be on the Hull & Humber yacht.  However she was now officially part of CV1's crew.  I gripped the arms of my chair and tried to forget how much I needed the loo!  CV2 came and went and then CV3 - Uniquely Singapore threw up the next shock. Sally who had really wanted to be on H&H was now on the Singapore yacht.  She was initially bitterly disappointed and we all felt for her. We were just getting over that when Cork - CV4 was announced and Sarah was named as one of the crew.  She seemed pretty happy to be on what was already being called 'The Party Boat'! 
So far I was on track.  I gripped the chair even harder, (as if that would make a difference!) as Eero Lehtinen, Skipper of CV5 stepped up.  I had mixed feelings here. I had trained with Eero on a previous Part B week and while my lack of sailing experience could surely make me no judge, I couldn't help feeling that Eero was the Skipper to beat and a big part of me wanted the opportunity to sail with him and learn from him on the Race. He wasn't the Hull & Humber skipper however so although very slightly disappointed he didn't read out my name, I was on the whole relieved as it meant I still had a chance of being on the home boat. Qingdao (CV6)  and Cape Breton Island (CV7) were next up and with no mention of my name I was still in with a chance.
Piers stepped up to the microphone and started reading off the names. I felt physically sick.  One after the other the names were read out and after each one a bit more hope drained away.  Then finally -'Yes' - he read my name out. That was it.  I was in. I had won the Oscar! I was on the home boat.  I was going to be representing my home region all around the world.  I was going to be sailing for my next door neighbours, for my friends, for the people driving the taxis I used and the people I bought (far too many) cakes from in my lunchbreaks, not to mention the kids in the local schools. It didn't matter that half these people might not care or even know about the race or the Hull & Humber yacht - we would make them care - we would fight them on the beaches, we would sail our hearts out and do our utmost to bring the local yacht home victorious! (cue huge cheering from crowds!)

Once my surge of over-dramatic Oscar-esque pride had subsided, I realised that the final two yachts had been announced and we were now dismissed from the auditorium for a fifteen minute loo break before then re-convening into our Yacht teams, with our Skippers to start planning our own Race campaigns.  After much busy texting and phoning of the news to all who might be interested - and many who probably weren't -  the group of newly appointed H&H crew all gathered in an incredibly hot and stuffy room to listen to our new Leader, Skipper, Dad, Brother, Commander, Nurse-maid, Counsellor, Teacher (actually he had been a maths teacher in his previous life) and lots of other roles he would no-doubt fulfill over the next year, introduce himself and start to set out the parameters of our Race campaign.  He talked about life on board - how we would structure our team and the aims and the ambitions he had.  There was a lot of detail which I could tell you about - but then I'd have to kill you!  No seriously, this is now a Race and I can't be giving away H&H secrets in case it gives one of the other teams an advantage! 

Joking aside there was suddenly a very different atmosphere around the whole Clipper experience.  Up until now it had been lots of fun, lots of learning and a bit of a free-for-all.  However now we were in our teams there was suddenly a sense of responsibility around what we were doing.  We had sponsors to represent, we would have a band of supporters (we hoped) to do our best for, we had our own yacht to look after, maintain and get the best out of.  We had each other to look after, to work alongside and to gel with. In short we now had a job to do.  This was no longer a jolly.  We all wanted to have fun and enjoy the challenge of this amazing adventure but there was no escaping that we were now on a mission. We all felt the sudden change in tack.

Having laid a ton of detail in front of us, Piers then was keen that we all started to 'bond'.  We spent the next hour in groups all moving round the room doing a kind of Speed-dating, crew fact-finding session which was fast and furious but just about got everyone talking to everyone else in the room - if only for 2 minutes!  Hot, bothered and gasping for a drink - preferably a cold beer - we were then summoned onto the dockside, where several of the Clipper yachts were gathered, for Crew photos followed by one huge photo of all the Clipper 09/10 Round the World Yacht Race crew - and Skippers.  Much to our joy we discovered our boat sponsors - Yorkshire Forward had stocked the boat with bottles of beer and bubbly to help us celebrate - which we eagerly opened while donning the bright Orange Hull & Humber branded polo shirts and baseball caps they'd also left us.
After what seemed like an age of shouting, chivvying, inching of people around (via a mega-phone) and enough arm flapping to make even the most arduous Wedding photographer feel proud (all accompanied by plenty of heckling from the now very merry crew), we were finally free to head off to a restaurant where as a crew we would sit and eat our first supper together.  As the group of Hull & Humberians set off en-mass to Cafe Rouge to enjoy the rest of our first day together, all busily chatting and laughing, I couldn't help but feel that the future was bright....and looking round at us all in our new kit, there was no doubt that the future was also very definitely Orange!