LOCKDOWN was announced, 27 million Brits tuned in, life in the UK changed. Kids being home schooled; employees encouraged to work at home, shopping for essentials, exercise being encouraged once a day. This might have been a novelty for the first few days; no early morning get-ups, out of the morning routine and rush, all sounded great; a few days of great weather arrived, we can do this, it’s going to be plain sailing, it was going to be like the summer holiday or a bank holiday weekend.
As lockdown became the new normal, people have started to see the reality; the house is where you work, play, school and live, and this could go on for weeks, it won't be long before the kids start getting bored, if they haven't already, tiredness and lethargy will set in, frustration will start and grudges will be held. You’re spending more time than you ever have with your family and you have no idea when it’s going to end. You’re juggling more than when life was normal!! Your boss's expectations haven't diminished, nor in fact have your kids!! You’re trying to do your day job, trying to be that patient parent, keeping the peace between the arguing kids, trying to get them to do their school work and of course…….running the house. Is it possible to keep your sanity intact and not be driven around the twist?!! Welcome to now and the foreseeable future everyone!!
You need a plan, a good plan because we’re not going to be coming out of lockdown anytime soon, it seems. Cue some advice from Clipper Round the World race crew!! You have thought you have much in common with a yacht racing crew, but indeed you do. You’ve now found yourself within the confines of your race boat, all be it, your home.
Let’s put some meat on the bone first before we look at the similarities; sailing a racing yacht, is about speed, not the comfort of her crew let me tell you, you’re slumming it at all levels for weeks on end, confined to a floating piece of plastic, stripped down to the bare minimum, measuring around 70ft in length, (so about the length of a 25 metre swimming pool), with a total width of around 5 metres in reality though if you look at the image below it’s not, with seven people sleeping either side of the boat at any one time. There’s a small galley bang slap in the middle of the saloon with the sail locker and storage both sides towards the bow.
And for the vast majority of the you're living at an angle, it makes peeing and worst.......There's very little room. And if you think you're going to get some personal space, forget it. It’s one almighty a challenge, but it's fantastic!!
What could possibly go wrong???? Everything!!
One of the first things any new sailor will have when they board their boat is anxiety. It’s a natural feeling because you haven’t got a clue of what’s going on and more importantly what’s going to happen, you’re totally out of your comfort zone and everything is happening at once; it'll be at this point that it dawns upon you that your confined to this boat for weeks and you can't get off. Yes, it’s very difficult at first, it can take up to a week to adjust to this new regime, quite frankly the first time you experience it, it’s terrifying. Your day to day normality goes out of the window, you enter a watch system and you'll be in close proximity to everybody, there's no privacy on board a boat, it's the new normal, but you adjust and you just get on with life and you start to love it.
The second thing that worries people the most is the lack of personal space, we all need our own space and on a race boat it’s near impossible to get away from people, space is at a premium, literally the only sanctuary is the toilet and that has just a canvas cloth hiding your modesty. We all know that when you’re confined to a small space with different personalities there’s the potential for conflict, it’s going to happen, it needs to come out, you don’t want stuff festering, grudges building, deal with it as soon as possible. Those grudges generally arise because people aren't pulling their weight, there’s huge potential to become lazy, and very easy not to volunteer, leaving tasks to one or two people to get on with. Or even worse than this are people who push their weight around on the boat, it's unnecessary, frustrating and has a serious negative impact on everybody on that watch. This will beginning the downwards spiral and will eventually start to niggle people, especially when tired, potentially emotional and particularly for those who are doing more than their fair share around the boat; one thing leads to another and you’ve got conflict on your hands, something that could have been avoided and 9/10 it's over something stupid.
Clipper crews are really equipped in dealing with lockdown situations and the confines of living, working together, look at the advice to help you stay sane until it comes to and end.
1. Routine, routine, routine – one of the most important things you can do is form a routine – it gives the day structure, people know what they’re doing and creates a positive and happy environment. If you’ve got kids, they’re going to need this, especially with their school work. Don’t stress yourselves though, aim for 3 to 4 hours a day and it doesn’t have to be purely academic, do fun life skill stuff, like emptying the dishwasher!! Plan your days well in advance and pin it up somewhere prominent. Have a ‘team meeting’ every day to make sure everybody knows what’s going on, when you need to work, what topics the kids are studying, what’s for lunch, when and what down time will be and if there are any issues they can be sorted out before things start to brew.
2. Schedule/Rota – to create the routine, create some form of schedule or rota, give people in the household specific tasks, put them on a rota, while on watch you were part of the crew sailing the boat also on a schedule for standard tasks, including general maintenance, including cleaning the toilets and being Mother (the cook) for the day. Without a routine and schedule the boat just wouldn’t work. All the tasks set were apportioned equally, so everybody got to do the nice and the horrible jobs equally, after all who wants to clean the heads (toilets) every day!! The rota wasn’t negotiable, so what ever the kids say, promise it stays as it is.
3. Patience and Perception - “Ignore the negative sentiment out there…. This is a challenge: stay positive, support one another and you’ll reach the end of the storm. Remember that one day soon we will kick back over a couple of beers and joke/exchange inflated stories of what we went through.”
Art Bonett Crew member Garmin 17/18. Change the perception of what’s going on – don’t view it as being trapped, see it as keeping safe.
4. Acceptance - this is happening, there are now things that you can’t control and influence, but there are things that you can, so focus on those: how you set up your day, whether you’re going to go for a walk or a run and how you’re also going to interact with other people when you see them outside or keeping in touch online with Skype or Facetime. Make sure you remind yourselves why we’re isolating. Being a positive influence can help grow a sense of team or community.
5. Sense of Purpose- after eleven days of following rules, it’s easy to think, why the hell are we/am I doing this, everybody seems to be carrying on as normal – but we’ve got to just do it, we’ve got to #stayhome, #savelives, #protectthenhs and #flattenthatcurve. It’s about making a team effort. The #bigpicture is everything, and needs to be explained to children and teenagers. #mememe has been replaced by #thecommongood.
6. Coping Strategies – some days will be great others you find really difficult, for no apparent reason, but it’s important to have those coping strategies in place; so if you are finding the length of the ‘journey’ overwhelming, don’t look too far ahead, break it up into more manageable sections and in that way you’ll be able to cope a lot better. It’s so important to talk if you’re feeling over-whelmed and it’s a great idea to have a designated zone for those times when things are getting a little too much. This worked extremely well and was part of the team understanding on our boat, just giving people space allowed them to collect their thoughts and then come back into the group.
7.Be forgiving – we’re all going to get to that breaking point – it’s not personal, just take it and move on. Take time out to talk. On most of the boats, there’s time at the end of a watch to sit down and discuss the great things of the watch and the things have gone wrong: poor judgement, lack of communication; poor response rates – remember you’re with these people 24/7 – take the opportunity to air your views, discuss and move on.
8. Communicate – the key to a successful race team is communicating – without that you're screwed. Discuss, agree your plan and make it work. Don’t be offended by raised voices – skippers are bitches for that – it’s just a desire to beat the conditions and win.
9. Do fun stuff – It’s so important to have lighter moments, it’s so easy to lose track of days, time and what really counts. A sense of humour is so important I’ve been sharing some really hilarious memes, jokes and vids – some I couldn’t share, they’re that bad!!! What its done is to connect with friends, laugh and share content. Make sure you have time away from technology, cook, bake and eat. Get on Tik Tok, do online pub quizzes and most of all laugh. Create playlists, get the board games out. Go outside, go for a walk, do anything that makes you laugh, fresh air and time away from the confines of home – you’ll feel better for it.
10. Treats!!!!! What’s life without cake and treats. Our boat had hoards of chocolate, sweets and treats, they were used to give a ‘pick me up’ during cold long nights on watch and during the day, when not much was going on. Make sure you don't nick others treats or you too will have #crumblegate #baketraycrumblegate. Treats are a vital part of any team – it’s about connecting, comfort and downtime to laugh and enjoy a sugar boost.
So ten ways to help with the lockdown, hopefully just reading it will give you some ideas and hopefully you’ll develop your own.