So – with all the training completed I am apparently race ready. On paper that is. Do I feel race ready? Not on your nelly!
I seem to have picked up a “job” along the way. At some point in the past – probably at the crew allocation day – I must have raised my hand to volunteer to be a victualler. I had never actually heard of that word before I became one. Somewhat wish I still hadn’t heard of it. As I am particularly useless at most things on the boat, my thinking was that perhaps this is a job I can do to make myself useful.
I seem to remember that the question of “who would like to be the victualler” was asked in a very nonchalant way – I certainly did not expect the amount of work that I have been doing in the last few weeks at all. For those that were like me and don’t know what that word means – it is “one that provisions an army, a navy, or a ship with food”. That doesn’t even get close to explaining how much work is actually involved.
In my normal fashion, I could have started preparing for this many weeks before I did. Each boat has a victualler, and we were all invited to Gosport for the day to have a training session from one of the victuallers from the last race. After about six hours, I still didn’t really feel as if I had got a clue what I was doing. The other eleven victuallers present didn’t seem to either, so I was not alone! I made the journey back to Suffolk thinking that I had got myself into hot water again.
So, did I get right on and devise the menus. No. As usual, everything was left to the last minute. Well, not literally the last minute. When I started working on the menus I thought I had loads of time. But it took days and days and days just to come up with a seven day meal plan that had variety and with ingredients that would last five weeks on the boat before being used. Breakfast was easy – porridge and muesli and cornflakes. It was the other meals that made my brain hurt.
But, after spending hours finding tasty meals that were quite different to each other I came up with the list for the week. Then I had to make all the recipes big enough for 20 people. And then I had to try and make sure that the size of package that the ingredients came in sort of fitted the amount we needed in the recipe. That really hurt my brain. And I am not sure if the ingredients are now in the right denominations. I am not going to cook each one for 20 people just to try them!
Now that I had done what I thought was the hard bit, I had to deconstruct everything into individual ingredients and then times them by the amount of days that we are planning to be at sea. And then add five – just in case! I was then dreaming of food. My brain could not switch off.
This all had to be loaded onto the boat on 13th August – our allocated day in the training room to have all the food delivered, packed into bags and stored safely ready for the race. In my wisdom, I decided that it would be far better to have the food delivered to my house and pack it in the comfort of my own home. Once I had the spreadsheet worked out, and I knew what I wanted, I then had to do an online order. Clipper had set us up a Makro account, but I decided to have a Tesco tab open just to double check the price of each element. I ended up ordering about two thirds of the goods from Tesco, because they were cheaper. Oh, and by the way, my other constraint was the budget I had – £3.50 per person per day. This was about the only time there have ever been some Tesco Value products in my delivery!
To say that I was drowning was an understatement. I have never felt so out of my depth. Would everyone like the meals – have I ordered enough (nowhere to stop off to refill the cupboard between London and Rio), and would the recipes work? I don’t usually have sleepless nights, but I must admit I was awoken several nights haunted by spreadsheets and milk powder.
When the deliveries came, there was missing things. With Tesco that wasn’t so bad – Paul did a few nights of click and collect for me. The Makro stuff had to go on another order to be delivered to Gosport on 13th. And with Tesco, we got quite a few substitutions of better goods than I had ordered, and with a price match. Result. My lounge and my sunroom were filled to the brim with food – then it all had to be packed into dry bags, one for each day.
I saw 5am and midnight most days for a few weeks – why didn’t I start this all earlier? Will I ever learn? Probably not, based on past experience.
William dropped off his van, and loaded the bags in before I got home from work one evening. What a star! His van was full to the brim – not sure where all of this is going to go in the boat. Paul drove the van and we stayed in Southampton overnight, ready to get everything on the boat the following morning. I met a few more of my crew mates, and so did Paul. Then I realised that everything had to be unpacked, as all the tins had to have the paper taken off and labelled as they were going in the bilges. Aarghhh.
Everything was taken out and laid out on the floor, and with able help from Kirsty, Emily, Valerie and Deb we made good progress. What stars! They worked like Trojans. But by 8pm we still hadn’t got anywhere near finishing. We decided to go to the pub with the others instead. Oh dear. As I had to go home that night, I had to leave the finishing of the packing and loading into the boat to the rest. What a good team I have – they all got it in (somehow!) by the end of Friday. Not sure how fast the boat will go with all that extra weight though!
I seem to have got the thumbs up from all that looked at my menus – although the recipes are not tried and tested yet. A good start though. At least with doing all this work, I haven’t had time to think so much about the race start – which is now only just over two weeks away.