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When I went to my bunk having been on “mother” duty for the day we were still in third place. We were due to finish, if the wind kept us going, around 4am in the morning. All we had to do was keep that pesky Derry and the rest of the fleet behind us. Not that we weren’t trying our best to get past PSP and/or Visit Seattle, but that seemed highly unlikely seeing that they were so far ahead.

At about 3am Wendo woke me up with a question. “We are about to finish shortly – where do you think we are?” I was hoping the answer was going to be third or above! It was! Although we hadn’t managed to overhaul the two boats in front, we had at least staved off the chasing pack. A podium place, after all this time. Wow.

From there on in it wasn’t worth trying to get back to sleep, so I got up and started to do breakfast. Breakfast worthy of champions (third place felt as good as being champions). Bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Nice having a short race with room in the fridge for little extras!

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Not everyone got to finish their breakfast, as we arrived at the lock that would get us into Den Helder after just over an hour. That was the time that I hung up my pinny and went on deck. “Blue fleeces” came the call for uniform. Oops! Have to be an orange shirt for me, as my blue fleece is at home. Didn’t think I would need that, so in an effort to keep the weight down (Wendo’s appeal) I left it at home. You can spot me from a long way off – orange does tend to stand out! We shared the lock with Derry who had got over the finish line a mere 14 minutes after us. Close!! I must say, we were a much more jovial boat than they. Whilst we unusually were experiencing success, they were unusually experiencing not being on the podium. We sailed out of the lock and into the marina accompanied by rapturous applause from the crews of Visit Seattle and PSP, who had indeed taken first and second place respectively. This was the day of the underdog – and I should imagine one of the most popular podiums of the whole race. The champagne was sprayed over the whole crew, but there was enough left for a mouthful each. For only the second time we have experienced the “champagne moment” – and because of this we savoured it even more.
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Once immigration had taken place, we were greeted with a Dutch tradition of raw herrings and Jenever – a very potent alcoholic drink. At 6am, this was a most unusual menu – although to be fair it would have been unusual for me at any time of the day. I duly picked up my herring by its tail, and filled my glass with the clear liquid. Two bites of the herring was enough – the rest of him went back to whence he had came, and the alcohol did a good job of taking the taste away.

We then joined the other two crews on dry land, where we had another breakfast waiting. Another breakfast with a difference – well, this was the third of the morning! Hamburger and chips, washed down with a barrel of beer and white and red Stormhoek wine. Just go with the flow! Although some went with the flow just a little too much!
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A few of us had decided to do our bit of the deep clean today rather than wait until the next say, so we headed back to the boat to start. First off was clearing up the breakfast that seemed to have happened a lifetime ago. We soon got stuck in and made great pace. During the course of the morning /afternoon we did have a few “casualties” of the liquid breakfast from those that had over indulged. Naming no names, I also had the job of removing foulies and helping someone to stay upright on the toilet that they usually were capable of balancing on at forty five degrees tilt and bucking like a bronco. Putting said persons into a bunk and tieing up their lee cloth so they didn’t fall out – highly likely even though we were as flat as a pancake – and putting a bottle of water within easy reach to counterract the alcohol. All part of the job! They should be able to sleep it off and be raring to do it all over again by the evening!

Mid afternoon I got my things together and set off to find my hotel – a fifteen minute walk from the boat. I did learn at this time that at some point yesterday afternoon Derry were so desperate to overtake us they threw overboard every bit of food they weren’t eating that day, along with coffee, milk powder and anything else that was deemed non essential to lighten their boat to give it more speed. Glad it didn’t work! I then could enjoy dry land, a shower and a proper bed again. Although with only one more short stint on the boat, I will soon be back to normality. Bed at 6pm in readiness for my “surprise” visitors in the morning.
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On 22nd July it was my company’s – Travel Stop’s – 25th birthday. As I would not be at work to help celebrate, the staff had decided to bring the celebrations to me. It would have been a surprise had I not had my accident and had to leave the boat. And, because the wind had been in our favour we arrived a full 24 hours before the arrival window they missed the boat coming in. Shame. They would have enjoyed the Dutch hospitality for breakfast! But they arrived just before lunch, all in their orange supporters shirts, and had a tour of the boat. I think they were all more than a little surprised that I could have lived on it for so long – to be honest, so am I!
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We had a lovely late lunch and had one of the Caribbean Steel Bands come past the restaurant, and then reconvened to enjoy the Caribbean themed entertainment in the race village. I wish I had the figure of the Brazilian dancers that wear next to nothing. More like the Japanese Sumo Wrestler I fear!

We got up relatively early the next morning to get on a ferry to go Texel – an island just twenty minutes journey from Den Helder. The prize giving ceremony was being held at 3.30pm in the afternoon, so plenty of time!! We got a bus to Den Burg and had a short walk around before half of us decided we would get another bus to the far side of the island to visit the beach. It was a lovely beach, with a breeze that was very much appreciated on this hot day. It was only a short stop, as we needed to get the 13:17 bus back to catch the 14:00 ferry. Only the bus didn’t get to us until 13:36. After having a word with “Michael Schumacher”, the bus driver, he obliged with some excellent manoeuvres around the country roads and we made it to the ferry. Phew!! That was one prize giving I did not want to miss.
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We all changed into our orange uniform, and met in the race village. It was an amazing atmosphere. As I predicted, it was a really popular podium. With cocktails, wine and beer in full flow the atmosphere got even more amazing. All three teams were genuinely happy to be there. Ecstatic would be more appropriate. The music continued through the afternoon, and we were even treated to Wendo doing the worm. Well, on what occasion does she not do the worm??
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We had a fab dinner with my work crew and my boat crew, and nearly came unstuck when the restaurant didn’t take credit cards. Whoops. We just about scraped enough euros together to avoid doing the washing up! Some retired to the hotel, and some to a bar after that – with some managing to go through a whole tick list of “firsts”. Me – I have no idea of who or what as I wasn’t there!!

After breakfast the next morning they all departed for home – can’t shut the shops for too long. I need a job to go home to!! It was very quiet without them here, but I will soon be swapping one crew for another and so won’t have to miss them for too long. But at least when I reminisce about Chewie, Pops or any of the other Danangers they will know who I am talking about, and can feel part of the whole journey. By this time next week, this whole trip will be over bar the reminiscing.

PS: The nominations will open on 28th July for the Stormhoek Social Spirit Award when we leave Den Helder. Looking at the list, it is only Danang or Visit Seattle that can take the big prize – please vote for who you want to win (and hopefully it is Danang!).

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