4th – 12 September

After a weekend of great celebrations in Grimsby over the weekend – during which the students from the Grimsby Institute had given all the crews the most amazing welcome with an evening of international food, and fabulous entertainment – all produced and performed by the highly talented group of youngsters from the college – we finally motored across the river to Hull Marina where we would spend our final week of preparation before the Race start on Sunday 13th.

It was strange for me to be arriving back in my home town – having left home 3 weeks earlier and yet know that I wouldn't be going home. It was also slightly surreal and quite sobering to think that the next time we would travel in this direction down the Humber, would be in 10 months time when we would then be sailing circumnavigators of the globe! The thought made me giggle – a nervous reaction which can be quite embarassingly inappropriate at times! Me – a rufty, tufty sailor of the world – it really did seem unlikely and yet in a week's time that was exactly what I'd be setting off to try and achieve!

The week seemed to pass slowly for the first couple of days and after that it flew by. We were welcomed to Hull with a Brunch thrown by the Lord Mayor of Hull on Monday and then the Hull & Humber Crew were given a presentation and then dined by Yorkshire Forward that evening. We then had a few days of hard slog with corporate sails in the morning and then on-going final work on the boat in the afternoons – all which became increasingly difficult to do as hoards of media and visiting dignitaries swarmed all over the boat eager to try and find out what life on board our Ocean racing yacht would be like. Most agreed it was small, cramped and far from luxury and many people walked away wishing on one hand that they could sail with us but on the other, very glad not be putting up with a loo that you had to “pump while you dump” for the next 10 months!

Our mood was quite somber for the first part of the week as we were all already pretty tired and all starting to feel a bit tense at the thought of finally leaving our past lives behind and venturing out into the unknown with our newly forming “dysfunctional family”! There were lots of friends and family who came during the week – I had a good foot fall of friends through, some of whom came bearing gifts and messages with watery eyes – which then set me off! Emotions were certainly running high.

One highlight was going into Hymers College with Piers to do some assemblies for the kids there. We took in a full set of foulweather clothing, and all the safety kit, so after a video tour of the boat which we'd shot the day before (and I spent til 2 in the morning editing) Piers gave the kids a talk about our challenge while I played the goon and got all the gear on. The grand finale was Piers setting off my life-jacket which left me looking like a a red, over-stuffed penguin! The kids loved it!

The weather was gorgeously sunny and each day just kept getting hotter and hotter. Every day brought larger crowds who came to look at the spectacle of the 10 Clipper Yachts moored in Hull Marina. And every day the excitement and anticipation among the skippers and crew, grew.

Saturday finally arrived – only one more sleep to go now before we set off! The crew party had happened the night before but despite that Piers had called a crew briefing for all 'Leg One-ers' at 8am. It was really the only chance we had to get together before we'd be off! The watch-leaders were appointed for the leg (Tom and Duncan) and Piers ran through the time-table of the next day. We then did a round-robin for anyone to bring up any points and the overriding opinion was “We're ready – let's get going!”

The rest of the day was spent with Mum - who'd arrived the evening before - doing final jobs – like picking up my washing from the launderette (I was petrified of forgetting it and setting off without my new 'sensibles'). I made a final trip to see the lovely guys at Kildale Marine chandlery and to pick up some sealskinz (waterproof) socks that I'd ordered after my thorough wetting on the delivery trip up,That eveningthere was a noisy farewell supper with a big group of family and friends and then we wandered through the Carabosse that Hull Council had organised as part of the celebrations to watch the big planned fireworks display. After much “Oohing and Aahing” it was back to the yacht for 11pm as it needed to be moved within the Marina so it was better positioned for the television cameras the next day...Bloomin' media!