Sail training takes place in the UK, Australia and America. In the UK, the training base is at Queen Anne's
Battery in Plymouth, chosen for the ease of getting the yachts quickly into the clear water of the Western Approaches. There are four levels of instruction
which allow the Crew Volunteer to build up expertise in the years prior to the race. These training sails are known as Induction, Continuation, Assessment and Placement.
covers the ethos of the event, safety, seamanship and man overboard drill. This was my first training sail in December, 1997. I recall that it was pretty gruelling.
introduces the watch system and associated teamwork, equipment use and maintenance. This was my second official training sail in December, 1998. Why do I always choose the freezing cold?
involves a longer passage which includes weather routing and straight line speed. More instruction on equipment and sail trim is given. Each Crew Volunteer takes responsibility as Watch Leader. Mine was an April training sail in 1999, some warmth at last! Then in August, 1999, a
practical course was a very worthwhile experience.
(December, 1999) gives more responsibility to Crew Volunteers as there is only one instructor on board and lectures are given by crew to crew. The course is designed to encourage responsibility, build confidence and bring out initiative.
Each training sail revises earlier lessons learnt and builds new knowledge. Crew Volunteers have to take part in all duties onboard the yacht including sail handling and trimming,
helming, watches, galley work and general yacht maintenance.
I recall that on one sail, I was asked to check the bilges. After a few minutes of ineffective pumping, I didn't like to return to
the Skipper and say that the pump didn't seem to be working. However, he checked it and it wasn't. I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't just have the wrong technique. He then looked at me quite seriously and said,
"You'll have to take it apart." In my mind, I thought, "He's not joking, is he? He really is asking me
to take a pump apart!" Lacking the merest iota of mechanical knowledge, I was surprised but pleased at the same time, that he hadn't called on someone else to take the job off my hands. The message was ''Get on with it!" or "Find someone who can show you so that you don't need to ask the next time!" So that's what I did. We have to be self-sufficient on the water!