top of page

"Eat, Poop, Sleep, Sail!"

People often ask me what long(er) distance sailing/racing is like, and I often, jokingly, dumb it down to the the title of today's post: "Eat, Poop, Sleep, Sail" (kind of like what babies do, but without the sailing part), to encapsulate what happens...but it is a bit more expansive than just those four words.

I received a couple of questions from folks, so I'll weave those answers into a bit wider discussion on what it is like on a racing/sailing boat over long distances. I use the words "long distances" to include anything more than 24 hours of sailing. From Eduardo Frias, I receive the question: "tell us about the different crew types, and explain this role of engineer" and from another person (apologies, but your ID was cryptic), "what is a typical day like on board/how do you orient your day?"

So, in the spirit of building on and expanding, "eat, poop, sleep, sail", here is life on board, part 1.

First, the crew types: there are 3 groups of people that make up our team of 65 people on Team Qingdao

  1. Professional skipper and first mate: Our skipper is Greg Hunt, 35 years old from South Africa. Greg has a massive amount of sailing experience, kind of quiet, but super chill...when he needs to get a point across, he does (believe me!), but man, even when we blew up the spinnaker during training, he was back there driving along like nothing major happened, coaching us through getting it back on board, no yelling, just getting after it...very fun! Steve Westwood, 48 years old, and former airline pilot and pilot trainer, is our first mate. Steve is British, very social, and as I recently learned, has a way with words, the British saying "oh, for fucks sake" taking on both a good or bad connotation depending on context...I imagine I'll learn a bunch of new lexicon on this trip.

  2. Round the Worlders (aka RTWers): There are 9 of us who have signed up to do the entire 8 legs (see my last post if just catching up). We are from the China, US, UK, New Zealand, and Germany. We range in aged from 21 to 63, and span a range of careers from newly graduated university student, trauma nurse, entrepreneur, and a couple of retirees (recent). We represent the core team, along with the skipper and first mate.

  3. "Leggers": this is the third group (and the term Clipper uses) to refer to anyone jumping on/off the boat at one to N of the 8 legs. We have a balance 54 folks participating in the race in this manner. Some leggers do one leg, some do multiple sequence or hop on/off the boat throughout the journey. Folks choose this path based on interest, budget, or where they are in their life journey. We have folks who have participated in past Clipper Races, coming back to pick up legs they either missed due to COVID or because they loved it so much. Leggers are important as they provide new energy and mix up the crew over the course of a long 11 months of racing!

Once we anchor on the various crew types, what are the jobs on board? Running a sailboat, racing or not, requires a variety of roles. Those roles expand when the size of the boat, the number of crew, length of journey all change. We have watch leaders (I'll be one of them, typically 3 watch leaders) who assist the skipper and first mate, and coach their sub-team during their time on watch. But we also have a bosuns (responsible for on-deck hardware), engineer (me again), working on below deck equipment like the engine, water maker, generator etc., sail repair, media specialist, medical (we have several doctors and our RTWer trauma nurse will be key in this role), team coordinator (they've been organizing us as we prep the race), fund raising specialists (for UNICEF), and in-port coordinators...there are plenty of roles one can volunteer for, based on interests and need. Usually a role is filled by an RTWer as 'lead' with a Legger helping during their time on board. The overall goal is to give each participant a meaningful role that meets both their needs/ambitions/desires and that of the overall team.

As an engineer, when I get to the UK, I'll be spending time reacquainting myself with things like engine/generator checks, how the water maker works, ensuring the pumps work, manifold management and electrical systems. We monitor our water use (very carefully), the condition of the engine/generator, "day tank" for diesel, as well as power use from the batteries. We log EVERYTHING on the hour in our log book so we have a complete record of what is happening to the boat over time, with below being one day during our training in early July.

The one area I haven't discussed is cooking and cleaning. Cooking is handled on a rotating basis by everyone, as is cleaning the boat. Referred to as "mother watch" (another British term...detect a pattern yet?), this watch is responsible for cooking and cleaning for the crew for that day. The mother watch will be made up of members of the other watches as designated, and everyone does it. During training, I liked doing mother watch as it is a chance to be out of the weather, get a break from sailing and is just really important: a happy, well fed crew and a clean boat is heavenly...and is also a safety concern. We disinfect the boat, top to bottom twice a day with sani-wipes. You have all heard of the norovirus on cruise ships; on a small boat way out in the ocean, can be catastrophic if it were to sweep through the crew, so we take precautions by wiping down the surfaces several times a day, hand sanitizer in many places of the boat, and a focus on strong sanitary practices.

Mother watch focuses on creating good, simple meals, keeping the tea and coffee flowing, and thinking through any morale boosting items, like remembering birthdays and big events. Keeping the boat moving at a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness is more than just the sailing part. A warm and well fed crew is a happy crew, but ensuring the water maker works and the heads (toilets) are clean and in top shape is equally important.

Our days are organized around "watches"...members of the entire crew who are organized with a watch leader, supervised by the skipper and first mate. We tend to be "on watch" for 4 hours, as we rotate through sailing, cleaning, cooking, maintaining the vessel, logging our progress, navigating, and keeping an eye out for our competitors and other shipping traffic...24 hours a day. It is important to be "on watch" and ready to go at your appointed time, do a 'watch handover" from one watch to the next. Nothing gets you sideways faster than being constantly late...the watch you are relieving is going to be hungry, tired, and possibly wet and cold depending on how the conditions prompt, be ready. It is critical that when you do a job you do it really really well, and if you don't know, ask! The best watch mates are those that are anticipating things, go out of their way to make it easier for others, and leave things better than they found it! It is pure joy when someone says, "who wants a coffee/tea?" when they go below, or does something nice for you, like get a cookie or sandwich. It is also pure joy when you use the head and it is pristine...these are the simple things that your life becomes when on, 'yes', a bit more complex than "eating, pooping, sleeping, and sailing".

I hope that helps answer some questions on board...I'm sure I'll go deeper as the racing commences. In my next topics, I plan to hit the various training we do, prior to racing.

Thanks for reading.


248 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All

3 Yorum

5 üzerinden 0 yıldız
Henüz hiç puanlama yok

Puanlama ekleyin
10 Ağu 2023
5 üzerinden 5 yıldız

After a year of blogging, you just may have a book to publish!


Helen Ardman
Helen Ardman
06 Ağu 2023
5 üzerinden 5 yıldız

Love this!! Thank you!!


06 Ağu 2023
5 üzerinden 5 yıldız

Great read

bottom of page