The team truck fanatic 

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How many attractive female thirty-somethings to do you know who gaze out of their office window and get excited when they see a familiar container on a ship passing by in the distance on its way out to sea?

Meet one.    

Her name is Wendy Maxwell, and as Skandia Team GBR’s Operations Officer she admits to having become a self-professed container and truck fanatic.    

As the British sailing team prepare to decamp Down Under over the next month for the ISAF World Championships in December, Wendy is the reason that when the sailors get to Oz, all their equipment will be there, exactly how it left the UK, they will have somewhere to train, their accommodation is sorted, their nutritional requirements attended to.    

And if a sailor even needs something as basic as a spare fleece, she has countless times plucked one of those out of thin air too!    

It is no mean feat creating the much-feted home-away-from-home environment that is now synonymous with the British sailing team but after six years in the job it is as good as second nature to her now.    

To the rest of us mere mortals that still struggle to book a cheap rail ticket, it’s enough to make your eyes water.    

“The planning for these Worlds began at the start of this year,” she explains. “We had already done a dry run with the Worlds Test Event in Perth last year, but whereas that was one week, and we could literally arrange for the all boats, equipment, sailors and support staff to arrive and leave at the same time, the Worlds are two, so there are more considerations and complications. There are about 40 sailors going to this event altogether.    

“Depending on when their classes start racing is determining how far ahead sailors are going out to train in advance. But we have shipped eight, 40ft containers with 12 RIBs, up to six boats in each container, each sailor’s technical support equipment and sailing kit they need, supplements, bikes for everyone as cycling is the easiest way to get around Fremantle where the event is, and other bits of downtime kit like surfboards and windsurfers.    

“We also ship our own bottled water as it is easier for the sailors when they open their containers to know they have got a good store of water to hand because Perth at this time of year is hot, and hydration is everything. It’s a pretty huge operation and it is only when I talk about it like this that I sit back and realise on just what a scale we are operating!”    

The sailors can have three boats and three lots of kit at different places around the world at any one time due to their complex training and competition schedules, and Wendy will know exactly where everything is and when it is due to arrive.    

From loading to unloading, it will take six weeks for a container to leave the RYA store in Hedge End and arrive at their team base in Perth on Australia’s West Coast.    

Before it even gets onto the ship at Southampton, an operation of military precision is conducted to co-ordinate when each sailor(s) load their container, and every single thing that has gone in is detailed for customs purposes. That detail can be astonishing.    

“Australia has really strict quarantine regulations in that you cannot take anything organic in whatsoever. As a result it takes Ed and Phil at the store two days to scrub and clean and service each RIB to make sure there is not a spec of mud or seaweed anywhere on each boat or caught in the mechanics.    

“We have to remove any traces of mud from bike and trailer tyres. We also have to make sure that the sailors haven’t got a manky old wetsuit or mouldy banana skins in the bottom of their kit bags because the Aussie customs guys check everything. We even had to check if our nutritional supplements had dairy in them at all.    

“If something is found they can quarantine the container for a few days, which knocks everything back, and it is also expensive to resolve. You would be gutted to find out a tiny spider had dropped into the container at the last minute and you hadn’t spotted it! But last year the Australian custom guys were great with us, no-one’s looking to catch you out.”    

None of this could be achieved, insists Wendy, without the experience and support of official Skandia Team GBR suppliers Peters and May.    

But when it comes to getting that team environment just right in the venues, Wendy says it is all about building relationships from across the pond.    

 “Skype’s made everything a lot easier,” she laughs. “I have the times of all the places we are working with on my desktop so I know who is good to call when, but just seeing if people are online on Skype and dropping them a message can get something resolved quickly. We’re lucky in that people generally want to look after us well.    

“The guys at Fremantle Sailing Club and at our team hotel have bent over backwards last year and this to make sure everything is just how we need it to be. At the end of the day that takes a lot of pressure off the sailors and they can just concentrate on doing what they are there to do; perform. And this is the Aussies doing this for us!”    

The first containers are scheduled to arrive in Perth on 4 November, with the regatta getting underway on 3 December.    

But anyone who thinks that Wendy has been sat with her feet up enjoying an easy life since the last Perth container left Southampton Docks should think again.......    

“We’ve got Miami in January to sort out now! Because a lot of the sailors will be in Australia when the shipping will happen we need to get everything loaded before they go, or they need to sort out help to do it for them, so that is all ongoing at the moment. It sometimes amazes me how much we ship, and sometimes I’ll look out of our office window in Hamble and see a container go past and know if it’s one we’ve had before!

I can’t believe I’ve admitted that!”