ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE
AS THE ALL-WOMEN TEAM OF EF EDUCATION EASE THEIR WAY THROUGH THE DOLDRUMS DURING THE 1997-98 WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE, ANNA DROUGGE DESCRIBES A DAWN WATCH IN WHICH VERY LITTLE HAPPENS, BUT WE LEARN A LOT
It’s hard to believe that almost 20 years have elapsed since the Swedish EF team of two boats took on the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1997-98. In at the birth of the Code 0 sail, EF Language proved the eventual winner. EF Education’s all-women crew completed the course in fine style and were not disgraced in the placings.
Looking back on these epic contests we are fortunate to have Risk to Gain, a large-format book from Mark Chisnell with images by Rick Tomlinson. As a photographic record, the book would take some beating. Much of the text, skilfully compiled by Chisnell, comes from the words of Magnus Olsson on Language and Anna Drougge, sailmaker on Education.
This extract is Drougge’s fascinating insight into the details of a dawn watch in the tropics where almost nothing of note happens as the Whitbread 60 creams along in state. We can almost feel we’re there . . . The hand on my shoulder was light. I turned quickly and looked up, eyes open, but unseeing. ‘Ten minutes,’ said the voice. I stared at the underside of the deck above me until the world came into focus. A trickle of condensation rolled off a screwhead and slid down the hull until it disappeared. The silk sheet was twisted around me, damp with sweat. I rolled clear of it and slid off the bunk.
The boat’s motion was easy, the sea flat. I fumbled in my bag for the still-damp shorts and T-shirt. Leah, who came on watch with me, was just stirring from the other top windward bunk. Dressed, I found a water bottle and filled it, before climbing up through the hatch and peering into the soft light of dawn. I flipped my sunglasses off my forehead and into place – it was bright enough to need them. And it was still blisteringly hot, which was no surprise when you consider that the water temperature had only just dropped below 30°C.
Katie glanced across at me from the leeward trimming
The all-women crew aboard EF Education benefited from a joint Whitbread programme