Chef Lawrence Lingard thinks Clipper Round the World Yacht Race can be won in boat's kitchen
PUBLISHED: 11:23 08 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:29 09 September 2013
Can dishing up hearty nutritious meals make the difference between winning and losing the world's longest ocean race?
Chef Lawrence Lingard, who is a crew member on the China boat, Qingdao – one of 12 yachts taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – definitely thinks so.
The 47-year-old restaurant owner, who trained at some of London’s Michelin-starred establishments, spoke to us before setting sail for the gruelling challenge from St Katharine Docks on Sunday.
The former amateur boxer has taken on the vital role as the yacht’s victualler – putting together the menu and working out the food supplies needed to energise the 22 or so strong crew as they encounter different temperatures and rough weather conditions while circumnavigating 40,000 miles around the globe over 11 months.
As we step onboard most of the crew are busy making last minute safety checks while Lawrence is stacking tins of tomatoes under the bunk beds.
Apart from the professional skipper leading the amateur crew, keeping the team fed is probably the biggest responsibilty and requires someone good with numbers, who can work out complex quantities.
With a budget of just £3.50 per person a day Lawrence has to ensure everyone gets their daily energy requirement of 5,000 calories while keeping the weight of food supplies onboard to a minimum.
The stock needs to last 45 days for the first leg to South America, including five days of emergency supplies in case they get stuck in rough weather.
Lawrence said: “It’s much more stressful than running my own restaurant. You need to provide enough proteins and carbohydrates.
“As well as pasta I’m using brown rice and pulses, such as lentils and beans, a bit like porridge your body stores and slowly releases the energy, so that’s a good kind of carbohydrate. Providing enough energy through the food will help keep morale up.
“I experienced that during our training when the guy doing the cooking didn’t get the portions right. I was the last one down and there was hardly anything left.
“I felt so depressed and it made me realise how important food is because it is all you have got to look forward to during the day. I definitely think it could make a difference between winning and losing the race.”
Literally hundreds of onions are stored below deck.
Lawrence explained: “Onions are cheap, will add flavour and help bulk the meat out. When you have got just £3.50 per person a day for three meals it’s really tough.”
But if you think the crew on his ship are going to live on cheap corned beef - think again!
“It’s easier to provide the 5,000 calories a day through meat – say a piece of chicken or minced beef. If you were using a tin of beef casserole – which is expensive – you would still need to add vegetables. I figured it would be lighter in weight and cheaper to have our own produce.
“So as a crew we made the decision to buy two travel freezers to allow us to have frozen meat.
“I’ve saved £120 just on doing the butchering myself.”
Lawrence even managed to save enough money to buy chocolate bars as snacks for the crew as they requested.
He continued: “The food also needs to be quick and easy because if the boat is keeled over at 30 degrees and you are trying to cook that’s going to be a challenge.
“I’m trying to design a menu which provides quality, but at the same time should be easily achievable.”
Dishes on the menu include oats and toast for breakfast, and soup, cheese sandwiches or tuna wraps for lunch. Supper can be chilli con carne, spaghetti carbonara without the eggs, shepherds pie or his grandma’s chicken curry recipe.
It is always followed by a sweet such as apple crumble and custard. Now and again the crew will have bacon sandwiches as a treat and fruit as snacks.
The menu rotates every eight days so people never eat the same for seven days.
Hot conditions on board are not good for storing vegetables so these are only expected to last a couple of days. After that dried veg will include carrots, sweetcorn, peas and beans.
Supplies also include “rough weather food”.
Lawrence said: “I got these tinned pork burgers. You just boil them up – if the weather is too bad to cook or the crew is seasick all the time.”
Cooking on board is a bit like camping, Lawrence explained.
“It will be interesting to see how bread bakes. It’s a gas oven and the flame will be affected by the moving of the boat so it might rise, only be cooked one end or burnt. -We’ll make at least two to three loafs of fresh bread a day.”
But Lawrence - like the rest of the crew - will only be on cooking duties every eleven days when on Mother Watch - the term used for cooking and cleaning the toilet heads and other facilities.
It is the only day when they have a chance to get a full night’s sleep and maybe a shower.
The rest of the time each watch of 11 crew alternative between sailing duties and resting either four or six hours at a time.
Lawrence has put together little menu cards with ingredients and cooking instructions for the two people on Mother Watch.
He said: “I expect to help out in the kitchen at least to begin with. If I’m helping the skipper I expect to have five minutes to come and help someone who is struggling because I don’t want that poor person to be stressed.
“We all have our weaknesses and strengths. I guess I’m nervous about not being able to sail because I think I’m the least able.
“I think the hardest bit will be to get through the doldrums because you got no wind near Equator. It will be very humid, so everyone will be really thirsty, and it will be a challenge not to waste our fresh water supply.
“I think the longest part will be the Pacific Ocean, maybe six or seven weeks, and we only got 17 crew for that. But hopefully I’ll be a competent sailor by then. I want to learn everything: changing sails, trimming the sail, helming, and navigating. That’s what I’m here for and to learn a bit of Chinese being on this boat.”
The crew is made up of many different nationalities and ages with some staying on for the whole race while others do one or two of the eight legs. A Chinese lady, Vicky Song, onboard will be the first Chinese woman to sail round the world if she completes the race.
The experience doesn’t come cheap with crew members paying a minimum of around £10,000, including £5,000 for compulsory training, for just one leg. To take part in the whole race costs about £42,000.
So what makes people sign up for this challenge? We spoke to a number of crew members, each with their own story to tell - with one finishing a previously uncompleted journey and another raising money for Macmillan Cancer after surviving prostate cancer.
For Lawrence is was the disappointment of losing out on a deal to buy a famous pub, called The Mayflower, near his Simplicity restaurant in Rotherhithe in South East London.
“I didn’t acknowledge it at the time but I think I was depressed. I just wanted to change my life a bit, stir the pot, so signed up.”
Since our interview the yachts have made a stop over in Brest, France, before continuing to South America on their first leg.
Visit https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/newsitem/qingdao-galley-hosts-french-cookery-masterclass for a fun video clip of Lawrence Lingard making a Breton seafood stew on his yacht Quindao, during a masterclass with a French chef during the first stopover in France.
The race continues to Rio tomorrow (Monday).