Here are the figures: 2 days, 9 client companies, 70 feet of yacht, 5 professional crew, 12 not so professional crew (per day) and more celebratory drinks than it is wise to report. The figures, however, do scant justice to the magnificence of our time at Cowes Week. To begin with, most our guests were complete sailing novices so the fact that we were about to be crewing millions of pounds worth of maritime bling meant that the learning curve was steep, both physically and mentally, and not least because of the jargon. Whilst there was much talk of spinnakers, jibs, sheets, grinding and booms, at least there was some respite from the torrent of technical terminology when we were told that we were being entered into a race category called “Big Boats”.
Unless you are a goldfish, you’re likely to remember that you just read “not least because of the jargon”. That was a bit of a lie. In fact, the jargon was by far the least of most of our worries because it was a matter of minutes before we were tasked with raising the sails and, being largely a bunch of gym-fearing, soft-handed landlubbers, that task was one of Herculean proportions. 72 hours after the fact, I still ache in muscles I never formerly knew I possessed. The sheer heart-pounding effort of the work was only made worse by the fact that out of the corner of an eye one would occasionally glimpse one of our professional crew using their granite-like body to perform a similar task with one hand whilst twirling a sextant in the other and debating the merits of different tacks as if the winch-work were but a mere bagatelle.
At one stage midway through the first morning one of the crew called “we’ll need the generator for this sail change” and I, assuming that my earlier prowess on the winch had been spotted, concluded that “The Generator” was a moniker the professionals had bestowed upon me as a mark of respect. Leaping into action, I proceeded to throw my not inconsiderable weight into turning the winch for a good 30 seconds (it felt like 30 days, such was the lung-busting effort), before I heard the sound of a generator starting below deck and was told that the winch I was working wasn’t currently attached to anything. Still, the name stuck and henceforth I shall be known to the great and the good of the sailing fraternity as The Generator.
When the results were in after two days on the water, our celebrations and hearty, seamanlike back-slapping were well-earned as it was revealed that we were first of all the non-100%-professionally-crewed Big Boats. Modesty dictates that I now reveal that we were also the only non-100%-professionally-crewed Big Boat, but in the end that wasn’t the point. The point was the shared experience. The point was doing something that most of us would never have dreamed of doing off our own bat, and getting to know our clients beyond the confines of our offices. The point was teamwork and a genuine sense of collective achievement. The point was the fun, laughter and memories that will stay with each of us for a long time to come. The fact that we won (sort of) was just the icing on the cake.