Leg 4 Race 4 Fremantle to Sydney Days 6 – 8

Day 6 (Thu 07 Dec 2017)

Pressing on through the ocean sprint. With the spinnaker up and a good angle, we are hoping to make better speeds than our rivals, but sadly the wind drops and our progress slows.
We have tried hard for this ocean sprint but like every decision on this race, it will depend on the weather being roughly as forecast. Our approach was good, we have good plans and people who can helm in a straight line. Will the winds play to our hand or thwart our plans.
Day 7 (Fri 08 Dec 2017)
Around breakfast time, a spinnaker wrap meant that the spinnaker was lowered and we went into white sails again. Redman noticed that there was chafe on the spinnaker tack line where it had been rubbing on the low friction ring. So much for the low friction! The anti-chafe layer and the sheath were both worn through and the dynema core was beginning to get worn. This was going to mean another trip to the end of the bowsprit to untie the tack line. So later on that watch, with Sophia to watch over me and help as required, I was again to be found hanging off the bowsprit, feet dangling and getting dunked into the southern ocean waves.
We have finished the ocean sprint and while pleased with the way we have handled it, we are not confident of having scored any points. Claire reckons that we may by about 5th fastest. We will have to wait and see. In the mean time we have to make best progress towards our waypoint off the south of Tasmania.
The southern ocean is looking how I expected it to look. Big rolling swell of cold grey sea with white horses abounding.  The swell is not huge, not as large as it sometimes can be but it is still fun to watch the maybe 8m waves roll up behind us. When they pick us up in the right way the boat surfs down them accelerating up to 20kt or more, the bow wave curling the water away from the hull in a great long whoosh.
Our intended course is due east to pass south of Tasmania, so we keeping just above the 45 degrees south race limit that the race committee have imposed. The wind is coming straight from the east and as we can’t sail straight down-wind, we have to gybe up and down to make our way. This is tricky sailing with the large swells and waves, especially at night when you can’t see the sea and the sky.
With less than 500nm to our Tasmania turning point, it feels as though we are making progress to our destination. However, try as I might, I think I am still losing weight and am struggling to maintain my energy levels. Whenever I lean against anything, which is about all the time, it seems that some bone is protruding! But the up side is that my caring crew mates seem to be making sure that I get as much to eat as possible. The good Doctor, who was on Mother Watch yesterday, gave me a second piece of cake and extra custard!
Day 8 (Sat 09 Dec 2017)
Ouch! It all went horribly wrong today. We have been heading east towards our waypoint south of Tasmania and we needed to gybe. When going downwind with a spinnaker in biggish seas, this can be tricky.
Nano was on the helm and Claire was leading the evolution. We brought the main sail in to the centre of the boat and swapped over the running back stays. With no power in the main, the spinnaker took control of the boat, broaching us and Nano had no control. Not realising that the rudders were useless, he continued to try to turn the wheel, breaking a linkage to the starboard wheel. We had to reverse the back stays again and drop the spinnaker which by now had developed a couple of small holes.
Spinnaker down and with Yankee and staysail hoisted, we gybed onto the other tack as intended and all settled down. I was asked to go below to help with life jacket renumbering but, with lack of space due to the spinnaker repair, I ended up helping Mikey with the repair work. Suddenly we do an unintended gybe. Roy is on the helm so this is puzzling. And all available hands call goes out so I put on my life jacket and head up expecting a few minutes of sail work so dressed only in mid-layers and crocs.
It becomes apparent that Roy has no rudder control from the helm. So we are sailing as the wind takes us. Lance wants us to drop the head sails and go to 3 reefs in the main while we sort out the steering. But this is tricky with out directional control. I go down into the lazarette, the storage area at the back of the boat, to get out the emergency tiller. But the bolt which attaches the tiller to the rudder is missing. All three of our steering options are now non-functional – the starboard helm has a broken linkage to the rudders, the port helm has a broken woodruff spline and the emergency tiller has an attachment bolt missing.
While I am hunting through the lazarette for the tiller bolt, Lance swaps over the two steering wheels to get one functioning. With control of the boat again, we are able to drop the headsails and put the reef in as needed to allow us to effect repairs. Back sailing again and one final job for me and I can go below as my watch is over. Paul has just taken the helm and there is a large wave that covers us with heavy spray. I am now dripping wet!
While I am off watch for a couple of hours, Lance, Fretts and Rick manage to repair the port side linkage, find the tiller bolt and refit the other wheel. When I arrive back on deck it is just in time to refit the compass and reconnect the light.
Finally we shake a reef out from the main sail and we are racing again. But I hate to think how much ground we have lost to the rest of the fleet.
I must confess that it was quite worrying when we had no steering at all and even Lance looked worried, the first time I have seen that. But everyone stayed calm and clear thinking got us through. It was a real hats off to Lance day, his calm control was excellent and we all owe him a big Thank You.
The night watches are also nerve-wracking. Sailing as far down wind as possible in the big seas always has the possibility of an accidental gybe. At night with heavy cloud cover as we have had makes this more of a danger as there is nothing in the sky to steer by. The consequences of this type of unintended gybe can be difficult to recover from, so watching someone else helm in these conditions is difficult. It is easier when actually helming as at least you then feel as though you have some control. But again this depends upon what the sky is like, if there is anything to see or not. Fortunately when I took the helm, there was a moon behind the clouds giving enough definition to steer by.
Day 9 (Sun 10 Dec 2017)
Mother watch again.
 

Leg 4 Race 4 Fremantle to Sydney Days 1 – 5

Day 1 Race Start (Saturday 02 Dec 2017)
Bronwen left Fremantle for Brisbane last night so it is strange not having her around on a race start day. I had to make sure that I cleared out the house rather than just leave it to her. I did a quick video for FaceBook as she would have wanted but had to do this at the house as I don’t have data on my phone so had to use the internet connection there.
Down at the boat it was a busy pre-race preparation. Lots of stuff to sort out so hard work right up to twelve o’clock when the boats started to slip their lines and head out to sea.
As usual I was putting things away in the sail locker, as I seem to at every race start. The locker was like a sauna and by the time the genders had been stowed, the mooring lines stowed and the crash bulkhead panel replaced I was drenched in sweat and needed a rest.
The parade of sail provided an opportunity to be on deck in the breeze to cool down a bit, though the sun was shining brightly.
Parade of sail
I am also on Mother Watch today so have to prepare ham and cheese rolls for everyone for lunch. As usual in a race start day it is not structured as a normal day so timings go out of the window. We prepared the rolls anyway so that they were ready for whenever anyone wanted one.
It has been a very short stop over so not much time to recharge the internal batteries. So I am looking forward to getting into the watch routine. Not sure if, being Mother today, I can really have a full night’s sleep tonight or whether I just go into the watch system.
Race start
At dinner time it is clear that putting me on Mother Watch on the first day is not a good idea. Feeling seasick so I have to abandon Stevie to complete the mother duties alone.
Day 2 (Sun 03 Dec)
Stayed in the mother bunk through the night. It was hot and uncomfortable so did not sleep too well. Moving around the boat is a real struggle and if I am up for too long the sick feeling hits me.
I had really hoped that with such a short stop over and a Refresher Sail in the middle of it that I would have retained my sea legs. But no, I am going to have to go through another few days of being seasick.
Day 3 (Mon 4 Dec 2017)
Yesterday was a right-off for me. Seasick and worrying about how I was going to survive the rest of the race.
We continued to sail south from Fremantle until we were clear of Cape Leeuwin and then we tacked to head across towards Tasmania. The winds seem to have been relatively kind to us although we are still beating into a head wind as we have done since leaving Fremantle.
I managed a bowl of cereal at breakfast this morning which was a positive sign and managed to get up on deck with no disaster. Lunch was pasta with bacon & pesto which even tasted nice to me…. so I knew I was beginning to feel better even though I was nervous enough to eat up on deck. Come supper, Thai Green Curry and Rice, I was hungry so knew I was on the mend.
This race feels very calm so far. The crew happy with each other.
Day 4 (Tues 05 Dec 2017)
Woke up for the 4am watch to be told that I was on Rest as my first duty. Sitting in the galley I began to feel seasick again – not good. So I went on deck feeling tired. Kindly it was suggested that I borrow Roy’s bunk as I was not feeling so good so had a further rest before breakfast and then back to bed after breakfast.
Happy memories of first meal back on arrival in Freo !
Day 5 (Wed 06 Dec 2017)
What day is it? I have no idea.
We are down in the southern ocean again making our way towards our waypoint south of Tasmania. It is getting cold again. The sea is cold, the wind is cold and the rain, when the squalls come through, is cold.
Two Yankee sail changes in the last two watches and my body is telling me I can’t take too much more of this. I am tired and bordering on the emotional. My energy reserves are very low. This dog watch (a 2 hour watch as opposed to the normal 4 hour watches) I was hoping to grab an hour sleep. But no such luck. After helping Fretts change the gas bottle and then helping retrieve our Code 3 from the sea it is an hour and a half in and we still haven’t had supper.
I am feeling very down at the moment. I know it is just tiredness but it is tough to keep going. Getting out of my bunk takes a huge effort. On deck I am either having to do hard work and am too hot or I am sitting around getting cold. During the sitting around I am starting to question why I am doing this.
I knew this time would come. This is Leg 4 out of 8, the beginning of the middle of the race, where the initial excitement has passed and the end is still too far away to contemplate. This is probably the part I will find hardest as I struggle to believe in myself and my reasons why I am doing this.
With luck, the rest in Sydney will be long enough to revive me and the longer one at Airlie Beach will allow me to rebuild some energy reserves for the next legs. I certainly hope so.
In any case, I can’t get off and we have started the ocean sprint. So all focus is now on passing through these lines of longitude as quickly as possible. It is looking like a beam reach most of the way with Yankee and Staysail rather than Spinnaker. Makes for easier, less stressful sailing!

Leg 3 Race 3 Days 24 – 26

Day 24 (Thursday 23 November)
For the past two days we have been gently progressing towards Fremantle with a northerly wind. The Windseeker sail has been up and down as the apparent wind speed has gone up above its safety limit and then come down again. With the sail restrictions in place due to our broken and jury-rigged forestay we have the bizarre situation where with wind speeds lower than 15kts we are flying the Windseeker, our lightest wind sail suitable for the slowest winds but as soon as we break the 15kt barriers, we are flying the Yankee 3, usually for the strongest winds before he storm sails go up.
The Garmin navigation system is saying we have 524 miles to Fremantle, so if the winds stay with us that is about 2 to 2 1/2 days of sailing. Our actual arrival will depend upon the ridge of high pressure that is lying between us and land. If this is full of wind holes then it could take us a long time but if, as the forecast says, the ride fills in ahead of us an we retain wind all the way through, then we will arrive sooner. We are all optimistic, especially as the winds seem consistent at the moment.
People who are leaving the boat in Fremantle are starting to look ahead to that. John W is reflecting on his three month journey which makes me realise that it will soon be time to say goodbye to him. That will be a sad day as he has been such a stalwart throughout our journey so far.
This will be one of the challenges for me, the changes in Crew as the leggers all leave at the end of their stint. By the end of the next leg I think that the only crew members remaining from leg one will be the round-the-worlders.
 
Day 25 (Friday 24 November)
It is Mother Watch again. Tim and I make a great team. We both just do whatever is necessary with no fuss, no palaver. Good efficient mother duty
It helped that I started bread making at 5am as I was on watch and not needed on deck. Four loaves were proving in the engine room before breakfast and were cooked before lunch. The cheese and onion bread was a great success both in how it came out and how it was received.
We finished off the day with tinned fruit and custard. Thought we had made too much custard but far from it – we are a crew of avid custard eaters!
Day 26 (Saturday 25 November)
This journey has got very frustrating. A day and a bit left until we finally reach Fremantle and it can not come soon enough.
Last night, while trying to get to sleep, the sound of the spinnaker cracking open after another partial collapse kept on ringing through the boat and each time it did I shuddered wondering whether it would be the one to rip the spinnaker in half again. When I woke up having finally managed to fall asleep, I am greeted with the sight of the spinnaker laid out through the boat and Mikey at work repairing it. Fortunately, if that is the right word, it is only the luff line cutting its way out again, not a complete break up of the sail, but still another repair.
So yet again our ability to fly spinnakers is reduced. Why is it that we seem to be incapable of flying these sails without damaging them?
A look at the position report confirms that most of the fleet is ahead of us and gaining. We are in 8th place and if past form is anything to go by we will lose another place or two in the closing stages. At any rate I expect HotelPlanner to get some redress for their diversion and move ahead of us in the ranking. Talking to Paul earlier, he tried to be philosophical saying that we can’t beat the weather. Yes, but we can’t beat the other boats either.
I’m feeling very down at the moment. Hard work with seemingly no rewards. Get into a good position and the weather doesn’t go our way. Decisions that seem right at the time but end up wrong while others make decisions which work out.
So my first visit to Australia will be much shorter than hoped for with virtually no time to relax and go sightseeing. In no time at all we will be heading out again, into the southern ocean again as we head for Sydney around the south of Tasmania.

Leg 3 Days 20-22 Death of a crew member

 

Day 20 (Sun 20 Nov)
Last night we heard about the death of Simon Spiers from Great Britain. Shocking and very sad news.
We had had instructions to double clip with our tethers due to a failure in one earlier in the day but had no idea of the severity of the incident.
This is a very sobering time. Yes, we all know that this is a dangerous occupation and that the consequences when things go wrong can be fatal. Yet we all have put ourselves out here. It doesn’t really make the reality any easier.
Our thoughts are with Simon’s family and friends and with Andy Burns and the crew of Great Britain. This will be very tough for all of them.
Our race continues through the ocean sprint. We are not doing that well at maintaining the best speeds as our attempts to fly the Code 3 spinnaker have not been very successful. A couple of failed attempts to hoist it due, as we found out later, to a problem with the halyard at the mast head and then because the conditions are not great. We get big quartering seas that tip the boat around by 30 – 40 degrees and then get squalls coming through taking the wind speeds up above 30kt.
It is looking as though we won’t be into Fremantle before Friday 24th, maybe not until Saturday which is beyond our planned arrival window.
This has been a hard leg already, the weather not playing how it was expected, the loss of the Greenings boat, a hard storm to sail through, a long hard slog into headwinds, Simon’s death and the delays in getting to our destination. Now there is the probability of a big wind hole between us and Freo to delay us further. It is all beginning to get to some of us, myself included. I am so grateful for the cards that Bronwen gave me at our departure from Cape Town (as she has for each race), I can open a new one every few days and get an lovely message from her.
It is strange but I really want to hear from Bronwen. Just to know that she has arrived safely in Perth. I guess it is a sign of how tired I am but not having heard is making me fret. I sent her an email to reassure that we are all fine on Liverpool 2018 and I hope that I get a short email back.
Day 21 (Mon 20 Nov)
Yes, I received an email back from Bronwen last night. It brought such a smile to my face, it was so welcome.
We moved our clocks again last night so boat time is now the same as Perth. That meant that two of the night watches were only 3 hours in stead of the normal 4. As we were on watch for two of the three night watches that meant we only got a short sleep during the night. Tired today.
Day 22 (Tues 21 Nov)
Life on board CV20 has calmed down. The way point we are heading for now is at Fremantle with 850 miles to go. 72 degrees course over ground takes us there. We are all eager to get there and are hoping for favourable winds to help us. The weather is also getting warmer and I have progressed from dry suit to foulie salopettes with my mid layer jacket. This morning when I got on deck it looked as though we were going to be drenched by some passing squalls but fortunately they all passed across in front of us, giving us a helping hand with 20kt winds without getting us wet.
Most of the day we have had 15kt winds which are slower than we would like but at least they are from the north so we can sail a nice reach and keep to our intended course. The sun has also been shining which is a great boost to morale.
Like everyone on board, I am very keen for this leg to be over. Tired and grumpy is not a good way to be. There are lots of signs of it but we are all helping each other stay positive with some great humour.

Leg 3 Race 3 Days 1-16

 

Leg 3 Race 3
 
Tuesday 31 October – race start
A beautiful warm Cape Town day to see us off. However Lance has not been well and it has been touch and go as to whether he is fit enough to start the race. Clipper Race Office have contingency plans but for better or worse Lance decides he is well enough.
Slipping our lines, leaving the harbour and the parade of sail are all pretty standard stuff for us now and we are soon at the race start. With lighter winds than we had at Punta del Este, the start is a gentler process and it is good to be on deck for it. The jostling around the buoys with James on the helm and Lance coordinating seems to work well enough although we are down the pack by the time we leave Table Bay.
Now the tactical part starts as the winds are forecast to be very light for the first 48 hours. Our decision is to head south west, away from Australia as we try to avoid the wind holes.
We get into the watch system from 4pm, straight into dog watch. This hasn’t been clearly explained to the new comers to the boat so they miss out on their first break. However it is all excitement for them so probably OK.
During the night the winds and currents are pushing us east towards the cape peninsula. Though I wasn’t on watch at the time, apparently we got down to 3m of water below the keel before we gybed to get away from the shore. Sadly Greenings were not so lucky. They ran aground and could not retrieve the situation, ending up having to abandon ship. This is really sad news for the whole fleet.
Day 2 (Wed 1 Nov 17)
Light winds as we push south
Feeling good.
New crew settling in.
Day 3 (Thurs 2 Nov 17)
Winds rise.
Yankee change from Y1 to Y3 just at end of dog-watch. Too late in my view. I lead bow team who take Y1 down and hoist Y3. Get very wet (not wearing my dry suit). Very scary in that sea state.
Day 4 (Fri 3 Nov 17)
Storm Day!
Gusts of over 60kts. That is a hurricane!
Boat feels over powered. Too much sail up. Eventually decision made to drop Y3. Sail down wind to enable James and Nano to lower the Y3, I am on the helm again.
Still making 15kts with just staysail and three reefs.
4-8am Watch. Wind dropping. Time to put the Yankee back up. On the bow again but in my dry suit. Delays in the process, people focusing on the unnecessary. Am late for the start of my Mother Watch.
Day 5 (Sat 4 Nov 17)
Mother watch day.
Mikey (still with a bad leg and on “light duties – non sailing) steps in for me preparing breakfast.
I have never done so many sail changes and do much bow work. I am really tired with arms, back and legs all feeling the strain. Also very emotional. I just want to cry, don’t know why. Relief after the fears in the storm? Reaction to such hard work? Probably a mixture of both.
Day 6 (Sun 5 Nov 17)
Trying to sail east. Code 2 spinnaker up. Sudden gust of wind. I am preparing to come on watch, heading for the heads when we broach. While trying to recover, the spinnaker halyard breaks. Spinnaker rips in the water. All available hands on deck to retrieve it.
By the time we have retrieved the spinnaker I relieve Tim at the helm (poor chap, not a pleasant experience to have helmed through.) On deck musing, Yankee 2 or Code 3. I want the Yankee as don’t want to ruin 2 spinnakers in one day.
We put up the code 3, and by now it is almost the end of our watch.
My next on-watch is a 8-12 night watch. I am first on deck and James is helming. I go to take over. He explains it is “tricky”. Understatement. I really struggle. Call Claire up on deck. I stop helming and John W takes over as we prepare to unhank the Yankee 1 and replace it with the Yankee 3.
Too late. We have blown the Yankee 3 and need to bring it down. All hands on deck as we drop it. Once the spinnaker is retrieved, then starts the swapping of the Yankees with me coordinating on the bow. Kiwi Stevie does the hanks while I feed the sail to him as we remove Y1 and move it down the boat.
Then up comes the Y3. For Eric and Nigel this is still new stuff so they need direction. Frustrating. Reef put in the main while this is happening. Eventually get the Y3 up.
End of Watch. Exhausted. Time for bed.
Day 7 (Mon 6 Nov 17)
Cold day. Cold sea as we have left the Aghulas Current far behind
Sailing as far East as possible with a west wind. Gusts around rain showers cause helming fun. Wind too strong for Code 1 spinnaker so have white sails up.
Easier boat conditions but slightly rolling around.
Feeling very tired. Body aching. Sore knees, sore elbows, aching muscles
Day 8 (Tues 7 Nov)
Cold and tired. Cold and tired.
First watch this morning after breakfast, straight into another sail change. Down with the Yankee 1 and up with the Yankee 3. I struggle with strength and stamina. Up at the bow while James is unhanking the Y1, I am trying to move each flake of the sail into position for him but my arms are not working. Next comes moving the Y1 down the boat. By the time we have done that, James and Neil already have the Y3 banked on. So after attaching the sheets it is sail raise time. Not being quick enough off the foredeck it is Paul and I who are left to sweat the sail up.
Once the sail is up, the off going watch members can finally go and get their breakfast. I feel for them as I know what it is like spending an extra hour on deck. I know we all need to do it sometimes but it is still tough.
For the rest of the day we are beating into the wind trying to get as close to the course for Australia as we can. Everything seems to be getting colder. I have progressed to be wearing both my mid-layer salopettes and jacket under my dry suit. Still trying to work out the best solution for warm feet inside a dry suit inside sodden cold sea boots. Tonight’s arrangement seemed to work ok. The other aspect to staying warm on deck is hands. Think I need to get some waterproof over mittens.
Day 9 (Wednesday 8 Nov)
It is midnight at the end of the day and I am struggling to remember what has happened today. I guess it has been a quiet day.
We started off sailing north east but had a momentary mishap with some helming concentration. As a result we spent a lot of today heading south, taking advantage of the unintended tack. We have since turned east again and as the wind veers to the south we will then be making a good heading towards Australia and should be on a beam reach, a very nice point of sailing, certainly much more comfortable than the current sailing as close to the wind as possible.
The routine on board is probably very odd to those not accustomed to this. So let me take you through a cycle. With a two-watch system the routine cycles every 48 hours. We run a 4 hour watch system with two, two hour “dog watches”.
At about 7:15 in the morning I will be woken up for breakfast. Getting up is usually as simple as opening the sleeping bag and clambering out of the bunk. However being on a top bunk, when the boat is heeling over the wrong way it can be a daunting task to get down. Once down I roll up my sleeping bag and exchange it with my bunk mate’s, unrolling his. A quick trip to the heads and I am ready for breakfast.
There is cereal, toast and tea or coffee available. The bread will have been made by the previous day’s mother watch so normally just a couple of slices each. Once fed it is time to don the foulies and life jacket with the aim of being up on deck at 7:50 for a hand over from the off-going watch before the watch start at 08:00.
At the end of the watch, 12:00, once relieved by the other watch, we all head below, take off life jacket and foulies and have lunch. Then to bed for some sleep. Don’t bother undressing, just climb up into the bunk and into my sleeping bag.
15:30 is wake up time and the getting up process repeats. On deck for 15:50 and a watch hand over. This is a two hour “dog-watch”. So assuming nothing interrupts the pattern, we come down again at 18:00 for dinner. A second two hour watch means that there is about an hour for rest after food has been eaten before it is time to dress up again.
20:00 is the start of the early night watch, so on deck for 19:50. Off again at midnight to strip off the life jacket and foulies before the climb into bed. Up again at 03:30 to be on deck at 03:50 for the 04:00 to 08:00 watch.
Once relieved by the oncoming watch, it is below decks get out of life jackets and foulies again, ready for breakfast. With luck breakfast is over by 08:30 so you have 2 1/2 hours for rest in your bunk before getting up for lunch at 11:15. Lunch this time is at 11:30 before doing the foulie dressing up game again to be on deck at 11:50.
12:00 to 16:00 on watch and once relieved by the oncoming watch (get the repetitive pattern?) we go below for early dog-watch for 16:00, with dinner being served at 17:30. Foulies on again in time for 17:50 on deck again.
18:00 to 20:00 watch is followed by the usual routine, down, off with life jacket, off with foulies (hat, gloves, boots not to be forgotten) grab a snack and then off to bed again, of on the high side, climbing Mount Everest to get in.
23:30 wake up call to reverse the undressing process and get on deck for 23:50. Watch from 23:00 to 04:00. At 04:00 it is back down through the undressing process and bed going process to get some rest before starting it all again at 07:15.
Day 10 (Thursday 9 Nov)
 
Day 12 (Fri 10 Nov)
Helen & Sophia should be mothers today, but Helen is still needed for sail repairs. At breakfast Tim an I are asked if we will bring our turn at mother forward a day, which of course we do, so unexpectedly I am on mother watch today.
We are still beating into a south-easterly wind trying to make as much eastward progress as possible. Going too far north for liking but the winds have not been kind to us this leg.
With Tim and I on Mother, there is confusion as to whether everyone’s duties have jumped forward a day or not. It is proposed that from now on, for the rest of the leg, all duties should be one day ahead of the calendar. Sounds simple enough but I think that with 2 weeks still to go, and as people get tireder, this will end in confusion with some people doing the wrong duty on the wrong day. I propose to Lance and the watch leaders that I do mother again tomorrow with some help from others and that all duties remain as per the calendar to keep things simple. This view prevails and Tim kindly offers to join me on the double mother duty which is very honourable. Thank you Tim.
I checked the course plotter earlier, we have travelled 1,600 nm from Cape Town and have another 3,000 to go to reach Fremantle. Could still take us another 2 weeks.
The boat feels very different on this leg, not physically but the feeling within the crew. More relaxed, calmer, despite the hard work and difficult conditions or maybe because of them. We have had a few mishaps as well. Mickey is still on light duties because of his leg, Sophia fell over on deck a couple of days in, bruised her ribs and, I think, lost her confidence. She has spent several days convalescing and is only now starting to spend any time back on deck. Eric has also been ill. Any physical exertion now makes him breathless and feint. So he had been off sailing duties for several days now. The Dodgey Doctor can’t figure out what is wrong but the symptoms are clear. Lastly, Claire suffered a twisted ankle and so was hobbling around for a few days, but she has struggled on like a trooper, retaining her sense of humour throughout.
Day 12 (Sat 11 Nov)
Groundhog Day all over again. Mother Watch – the same as yesterday.
Lying in my bunk at the end of the day, feeling the lurching of the boat and listening to the wind whistling through the rigging, having had two days of mother watch, so cooking and cleaning rather than sailing the boat, I am feeling apprehensive about having to go on deck again tomorrow. This is a strange consequence of volunteering to do two mothers. I am (relatively) clean with clean underwear and nice and warm in my sleeping bag. The thought of having to get dressed again in my dry suit with everything else is not appealing right now. I am sure it will be fine tomorrow when the time comes …
Day 13 (Sun 12 Nov)
 
Day 14 (Mon 13 Nov)
Last night we moved the clocks on the boat forward two hours. To do this, two of the night watches were each rescued by an hour, nice for those on watch but those off watch lose an hour’s sleep. (So each watch gains and loses the same!)
This morning, guess what … we are still beating east into a south-east wind, the sky is still overcast and nothing seems to have changed much for days. I find the constant cloud cover depressing and it makes helming more difficult, especially at night. We don’t seem to have had any stars to sail by this whole race. We are still expecting the wind to shift to the south-west “tomorrow”, which never comes.
As the wind has dropped slightly, we had a sail change first thing today, replacing the Yankee 3 (smallest of the three) with the Yankee 2.
The monotony is getting tedious now. The days on end of beating into the wind makes everything hard work. We have been on a starboard tack almost the whole way – this makes getting into and out of my bunk hard as I have to climb up an overhang to get into it, kind of walking up the side of the tunnel to get access to my bunk. I should ask a crew mate to video the procedure!
Day 15 (Tues 14 Nov)
To think that after 15 days from Uruguay we had arrived in Cape Town. Today we are just over half way between Cape Town and Fremantle.
Our rhumb line to Fremantle, that is the shortest route, great circle route, between our current position and destination takes us exactly through a small island. Better avoid that! We are sailing on a course just south of those islands and, because the wind has finally shifted to the south-west, we can simply steer a course. On a beam reach the boat is flatter and calmer than it has been since day 2.
The flatter boat and lack of bashing into waves (they now sneak up on us from behind) makes for a gentler ride and deeper sleep. While nice it now seems that my body feels it’s now an appropriate time to complain about the recent mistreatment. Aches and Pains have appeared all over the place. Need a rest!
Day 16 (Wed 15 Nov)
Everything seemed quiet this morning when I took over the helm at the 08:00 watch change. The wind had changed and we could steer a nice 100 degrees True course over the ground to our way point. Three of us on deck, the other watch having breakfast and a nice day in prospect.
Bang! Something at the bow jumped up and then dangled. I couldn’t see what it was but nothing else seemed to change.
James was the first to appear up the companionway, still in his pyjamas with life jacket (a very fetching look). He rushed to the side of the boat to see what we had hit. Claire was next up, bare footed and looking around to see which of the sails had collapsed. Then came Lance, still in his long johns, wondering which sheet had broken.
“Something has broken at the bow” I called from the helm. Our outer forestay was loose, the bottom shackle having snapped. Now this is a major issue which could result in the mast coming down. Claire calls for the spinnaker and Yankee halyards to be prepared which are soon attached to the hard points at the bow to stabilise the mast.
The Yankee sail is still flying from the loose forestay so the urgent task was then to stabilise the forestay and remove the Yankee. Meanwhile all I could do at the helm was keep us on a beam reach to minimise all stresses on the mast and keep the boat as stable as possible for those working to make us safe.
The problem was caused by the shackle at the bottom of the forestay breaking. There had been a stress fracture growing through the shackle which finally gave way. We don’t carry a spare and neither is it in the fleet spares (these are items unlikely to fail that are spread around all the boats so as it to be carried in every boat) so we would have to find another alternative.
The first plan was to see if the shackle at the bottom of the bow was big enough to replace the broken one. Attaching the spacer to the end of the boat hook, I compared the two and it is clear that this shackle will be big enough. The next take is to remove it. This means someone dangling off the bow with suitable tools to undo the shackle, not drop it and bring it up from the waterline. Being daft and in a dry suit I volunteer to go over into the waves.
Attached to the spare Yankee halyard I am lowered along the bow and into the waves. We are only traveling at about 4 knots but this is still an impressive force when the water presses you against the boat.
Trying to be sensible, I had chosen not to wear my sea boots for this dunking in the sea, so it was either crocs or keens and I reckoned that the Keens would stay on my feet better. However within seconds of being in the water I nearly lost one of them. So I took them off and handed them to Lance on deck for safe keeping. Now I had nothing to protect my dry suit feet – not good as the last thing I want is holes in them.
The first job was to remove the split pin from the shackle – easy enough. Then to unscrew the shackle pin. With 6” adjustable spanner in hand (attached to my climbing harness by a lanyard) I try with all my might to unscrew the shackle pin but it won’t budge. Feeling foolish I let Lance know of my inability to unscrew the thing.
“Let’s try a bigger wrench” is his suggestion so I climb back up on deck while the BIG wrench is fetched. At the same time the crash bulkhead is drained to try to lighten the bow of the boat and all the crew are asked to gather at the back of the boat to try to raise the bow as high as possible, not just to keep me dryer but to allow me to better use my weight to undo the shackle.
Back down into the waves with a proper man sized wrench I am sure I can release the shackle. But it won’t budge. I am suspended, pushing down on the wrench with one hand while pushing up on the bowsprit to add strength to my weight on the pin. But still no joy.
Feeling foolish I climb back on deck. Mission not accomplished. Time to rethink our options.
Stripped out of my dry suit I am still dry, apart from accumulated perspiration, so a huge vote of confidence for the suit’s integrity. Now to help Lance design an alternative solution to securing the forestay to the chain plate.
Having talked through various options, it is decided that James will go and try again to open the bob-stay shackle with attachments to the wrench. For me it is time for a rest.
On waking up for my next watch, I am informed that James too has failed to open the shackle. They even tried winching the shackle open using a rope attached to the wrench and all they achieved was to dent the wrench jaws and round off the shackle pin. And to think that I had tried to open it with a 6” spanner! We laughed at the futility of that first effort.
More problem solving and conversations with the riggers in Gosport and Lance has a solution. With bits of rope and some jubilee clips, the hole is the chain plate is rounded off to allow the dynema ropes to pass through without being severed by the sharp edges. The forestay is tensioned and reattached and we are ready to go again. A fantastic repair job by Lance and everyone who helped. We do however have some sailing restrictions placed in us by race office and the riggers. No Yankee 1 allowed and 10 knot wind speed reductions on the two and three. But at least we are sailing under power towards Australia again.
Emotions have been all over the place today. A deep sick feeling when the forestay broke. I can’t explain why I felt that way but it was a real pit of the stomach feeling sick once I understood what had happened. Maybe a lot of relief that this had happened at 8:30 in the morning on a calm bright day rather than at 2 in the morning in the middle of a storm!
Initial reactions to the loss of the forestay was that our race was over, it was now a question of how and how long to get to Fremantle. A real downbeat time. Then as we realised that we could continue to sail and sail efficiently and efficiently, the mood and mine lifted. Yes we are hampered but we can still do well. Lance gave a very good brief to the crew about what had happened, how it had been fixed and what the consequences are. We are now all keen to progress as quickly as possible. Throughout the day the humour had been maintained and Claire had written a very good media blog explaining the day.

Leg 2 Race 2 Days 14 – 15

Day 14 (Tuesday 14 Oct)

Contemplating Cape Town and Poltergeists

All being well, in less than 48 hours we will be in Cape Town.  Many thoughts are already turning to our arrival and what to do while we are there.  Some of us are lucky enough to have loved ones who will be there to greet us which makes the impending arrival more special.  For me this is especially true as an aim from the start of the leg has to be in Cape Town by 20th Oct, my wedding anniversary, so as to be able to share it with Bronwen, my wonderful wife.

Many are making plans of what to do and see while there, quizzing those who have been there before for the best ideas, the city tour, wine lands tours (oh yes!), table mountain, the cape of good hope, … the list goes on. There are so many things to do that the conversations can go on for ages.

This second leg has been very different from the first.  Being much shorter certainly changes everyone’s perspective which impacts the whole atmosphere. There seems to be less intensity but more efficiency. Everyone from Leg 1 has grown in competence and those who joined for leg 2 have all fitted in well and it has been a pleasure to see them all grow into the role of ocean sailor. The changes within the crew have changed the mood and dynamics of the group, not better or worse, just different. The weather and seas have certainly been different with the cold, the wet, the larger seas which wash over the deck (and anyone who happens to be on deck!) all making an appearance.

This leg has certainly been more of a test of our personal equipment. Those with dry suits have been wearing them and all foulies, boots and gloves have been tested by very wet conditions. Not all have passed the tests with gloves and boots sometimes faring badly. But for those progressing to Leg 3 this has been a useful trial run.

The common theme is the continued presence of the poltergeist. You put something down and within a few hours it has disappeared. The Engineer’s and Bosun’s lockers seem a favourite haunt for the poltergeist but any item anywhere on the boat seems fair game to the demon. Usually these items reappear a day or so later pretty much where they were placed, such as Paul’s gloves which reappeared on the top bunk rather than the bottom, or the Port Watch sweet bag which vanished and reappeared. Not everything is so lucky and my hat and gloves are yet to rematerialise. Let’s see what the deep clean can uncover …

So yes, it has been a very different leg compared to the first and Cape Town will be a very welcome sight when we see it. It will be a welcome respite before we take on the challenges of the southern ocean.

Day 15 (Wednesday 18 Oct)

To today should be the last day of this race. Barring any final glitches we should cross the finishing line soon after midnight. Provided we can stay ahead of a few hard pushing boats we could come in in fourth position. So we are pushing hard too with the Code 2 spinnaker up, making best possible progress to the finishing line.

However I am missing all the action as I am on mother watch today and have been up since 6am cooking, cleaning and serving.  It was frittata for lunch and will be pasta bolognaise for supper. The sauce is already made and, if I may say do myself, tastes good!  We will be finished with our duties by 8pm following which we would normally be allowed a full night’s sleep.  So it will be a bit of a dilemma as to whether I stay awake through to our arrival or get some sleep.

In some ways I am sorry that this race is coming to an end. It has been a great Leg for me with some great crew mates. It will be a shame to be saying farewell to those who are leaving after just a couple of weeks’ sailing. But on the other hand it will be wonderful to see Bronwen again and to be able to spend some time with her in Cape Town, a city we both love.

I think that some of us are disappointed that we are unlikely to get a podium finish having at one point having led the fleet. Who knows what may have transpired if we had not gone for the scoring gate, would we have managed to stay in front of Dare To Lead and be leading the fleet into Cape Town or would some decision or mistake have left us further down the fleet?  There is no point speculating. We made our decisions, we are happy with them and will live with the consequences. We are, however, all round of our achievement in this race and should we finish in fourth we will be happy with that.

There is a big front following closely behind us do it may well be a somewhat damp arrival into Cape Town but that won’t dampen our spirits. We will all finish with our heads held high.

Day 16 (Thursday 19th Oct)

Following mother watch duties, I go to bed for some much needed sleep.  I feel guilty as this is the last night of the race and here am I heading off for a nice 8 hour sleep.

Maybe I should have stayed up, when I wake up I learn that Visit Seattle have managed to pass us during the night.  So we will be in fifth place rather than fourth.  This is a blow but can’t be undone.  The light winds on this last stretch don’t do us any favours and it seems to take forever to complete the last couple of miles to the finishing line.

Crossing the line we prepare the boat for our arrival, dropping the sails, raising the forestay banner and battle flags and getting ourselves corporate!

Morning Arrival
Sunrise at V&A Waterfront

Friday the 13th … and All That

Leg 2 Race 2 – Days 10 – 12

I wonder how it feels for those back at home knowing that their loved one is living on a 70ft boat currently somewhere in the middle of the south Atlantic. For me, being on the boat feels safe and normal. We live our lives from watch to watch and day to day, confident in our boat and crew. There is no concern, no worry, just the normal routine but something triggered the thought in my mind, it is probably harder for those watching from a distance. They are not aware of the mundane details of our lives on board that make everything feel secure for us. Not that it changes anything to say it, but we are all fine in our routines and daily tasks, safe in the knowledge that we have a good sound boat and a competent skipper and crew.

Day 10: (Friday 13 Oct)

Mmmm, Friday 13th. Sometimes things just go wrong. From what I can remember, the day was ok but that has already faded into the distant memories as so much does.  It was dark with a heavy sky at the beginning of our watch. Stephane first up on Helm with me there as Helm Support to watch over and guide him when necessary. We had had an incident Ina previous occasion where, in the dark and with no guiding stars or clouds visible, a combination of a large wave and a gust of wind had made the helm unmanageable for Stephane, so I was keen that he get his confidence back. However the port helm wheel had come loose a couple of times already today. Lance had tightened it again once and I had tightened it the second time.

About 15 mins into the watch, a similar incident arises and the gust of wind drives the boat up followed by a wave that seems to overpower the rudders. With both Stephane and me on the wheel we can’t pull the boat back to the correct heading.  Soon after, Stephane decides he has had enough helming for the moment and I replace him at the wheel.

The Helm feels very odd to me as I wrestle with the wind and the waves. A wave pushes us to starboard so I move the wheel to port. The boat doesn’t respond. I turn the wheel some more and the bow is suddenly moving in the right direction. Was that my doing or just the back of the wave. Wes is standing behind me as Helm Support and I comment half in jest that I don’t seem to have any control over the boat. But I start concentrating more on what is happening between wheel and boat. Another wave pushes us left and I turn the wheel right, and then right some more, and more. I should have reached the rudder stop by now but the wheel still turns. James is by the other wheel so I call for him to take control. Once the boat is pointing in the right direction, we experiment. The two wheels should be locked together. James holds the starboard wheel firmly while steering and I turn the port wheel without any impact on James’ steering. Oh dear. But we can just use the starboard wheel can’t we?  No, the compass light isn’t working in that helm. So we have no fully functional helm position. It is clear that the port helm is no longer workable and the starboard helm is no good at on a dark night with no external reference points visible.

It is blowing 25 knots of wind with lots of splash and waves and on top of that it is raining. Perfect night time conditions for repair work.

After consulting with Lance the plan is to tighten up the Port helm as much as possible to buy some time to fix the compass light. And yes this is all my responsibility to fix.  Having re-tightened the helm as much as I can allowing for the fact that we are still sailing along and the helm is in use, I take off the starboard compass to investigate the light. Ouch, it may only be 24V but when you are this wet it still gives a nasty shock. So this means that while I work the helm will have to be without a compass.

Compass lights off and I remove the compass and unclip the light wires. That was the easy part. Back below in the saloon Lance replaces the bulb and wire connectors. I then take the compass back into the dark rain where I crimp on a new connector to the live wire working by the red light of Paul’s head torch. With the compass back in place we turn on the compass lights again. There is the faintest glow from the bulb but nothing that is workable. The only option seems to be to remove it again and investigate. We remove the red bulb cover, check the wiring, reassemble and try again. The glow is slightly brighter but barely. However there is no choice now, the port helm wheel has come loose again so they have to swap sides and helm with a dodgy compass. The light glows and fades then glows again getting slightly brighter. The guess is that a connection is slowly drying out and the light comes back to full life.  By now it is midnight and the end of our watch. Further repairs will wait until daylight.

By now I am cold, wet and tired. My gloves and hat have been abandoned somewhere and all I can do is climb into my sleeping bag and sleep.

Day 11: (Saturday 14 Oct)

What a difference a day makes. From the horrors of yesterday to some balmy sailing in the sunshine today.  I feel hung over and everything seems to ache or hurt. I can’t find my hat or gloves but the sunshine means they are not required. I don’t have the energy to look for them properly.

The ocean sprint has started so rather than heading directly towards Cape Town along the great circle route, we adjust our course slightly in favour of our transit from 3 degrees West to 2 degrees East. Nothing else changes.

At the end of Dog Watch, 8pm, it is getting dark. I head off deck, strip off my dry suit and start getting ready for some much needed sleep but before that I am wanted at the Nav station. Claire and James tell me that the compass light is not working again and the repair to the other helm is not ready. Could I go and fix the compass light?  What? But there can only be one answer so I gather my thoughts and the equipment I think I will need and get back into my wet weather gear and head out.

A repair had been made to the port helm but the chemical metal used had not hardened enough to allow that helm station to be used yet. So the crew are helming from the station where I have been asked to fix the compass. Those on the helm are using the compass with a head torch as there are no stars and no moon to show the clouds.  Confusion reigns but the will of those steering the boat has to prevail so I abandon the repair mission for the time being. It will be my first duty when our watch starts in a few hours time.

So delayed by an hour I finally manage to get to my bunk.

Day 12: (Sunday 15 Oct)

Repair compass light during the night watch – much easier without the rain and with lighter winds. Did a far setter job this time and it seems to work fine now.

Eventful morning watch – getting light, wind nice and stronger than over night. Code 1 blows. Drop spinnaker (remains / pieces) hoist Yankee 2 (on deck) tidy up, hoist Code 3 in anticipation of strengthening winds.

End of the ocean sprint. Great sailing weather, blue skies and a nice breeze.

Dog watch with no dry suit drying out the foulie salopettes and my deck shoes in the sun.

Feeling really good. We are in a good position in the race and if we get things right and don’t make significant mistakes we may get a podium finish. The sailing activities seem to be clearer to me now and there is always less panic whenever we go through a sailing evolution. I guess this was demonstrated when the Code 1 blew. Everyone just moved to get something done and we dropped the spinnaker and hoisted the Yankee very quickly and efficiently. Of course James was there to oversee but there were no raised voices and no panic – all just as it should be in the situation.

What is nice for me is that I am relaxed in what we are doing. Smiles, laughter, gentle teasing and fun have returned. Oh, and my beard is growing, apparently!  Redman suddenly commented on it as if it had sprouted out of nowhere!

The 12 midnight to 4am watch was tough. It was cold despite rotating through rest periods below decks. I helmed for the last hour which was fine to begin with, there were stars to guide me and I could see the spinnaker and so react to how the sail was behaving. But then the clouds came in and I couldn’t see anything. I have along way to go before I can fly a spinnaker by feel – it got scary and I was very relieved when Watch change arrived and I could hand the helm to someone else!

South Atlantic Sailing and Mistakes

Leg 2 – Race 2 – Days 6 to 9

Day 6 (Monday 9 Oct)

Mother Watch!  Apart from continuing to travel east, I have no idea what happened on deck today or from a navigation point of view. The day was spent in the galley with Bas. So far I have been so lucky with my mother duty partners. Bas is another star. Together we serve up 21 breakfasts, 21 lunches, 21 dinners, baked 4 loaves of bread and two cakes, all with good humour and on time.

Towards the end of the day I suddenly reminded that I am in a boat. Somehow that fact had been lost in me and I was living in a different world. It was a bit of a strange feeling to be reminded of something so basic to our daily existence!

Poor Mikey has been having a bad time. First, a couple of days ago, he fell in the helm area and gashed his shin, then while recovering on his bunk, he managed to fall out and sprain his wrist. The poor chap is now confined to light duties, not many of which exist when living on a heeled over racing boat. We are doing the best we can to keep his spirits up but he is very frustrated.

Day 7 (Tuesday 10 Oct)

It is ground hog day all over again. 4 hours on, 4 hours off, pressing eastwards with wind speeds in the twenties. The three of us in the northerly fleet are chasing each other with Qingdao still in the lead and Visit Seattle following. The southerly fleet have run into a high pressure area with no wind, so we are happy about that as it means that any advantage they had from not going for the scoring gate should be nullified.

The sea has got noticeably colder, a sign that we are progressing east nicely. When we were close to South America, a wave would wash over my hands and I would be amazed how the water was not cold. That has changed and I feel it every time we get washed by a wave. This will get worse the closer we get to Cape Town where I know the water temperatures are severely cooled by the Antarctic current.

This constant battering by water makes everything damp. I am so happy to have my dry suit and every day I have my mid layer salopettes and jacket on under it to keep me warm. Although my boots are wet through, I seem to stay dry in the suit and hence stay warm.

We seem to have a happy boat at the moment. Both watches are working well and very few gripes appear.

The weather continues with the northerly winds and generally a lot of cloud. The cloud makes helming at night more of a challenge as we are reduced to having to steer from the compass.  It is so much easier when there are stars visible. In fact I was telling Julie that my favourite helming is at night with the stars.

Day 8 (Wednesday 11 Oct)

Reefing line issues. During the rush for the scoring gate, we delayed replacing some broken battens in the main sail. This meant that the leech of the sail was flogging badly for a few days. I was watching it and concerned about what secondary damage was being done to the sail and the reefing lines. Having replaced the battens yesterday, a reef was put in and reefing line 3’s outer sheath has been chaffed through and the core was exposed.  Time to thread through another line to allow this one to be repaired. Having cleared my plan with Lance, I whipped the end of one of the light weight spinnaker sheets to the end of the reefing line before realising that I had attached the spinnaker sheet before unravelling it and would now have to unthread the whole sheet through the loop or undo my whipped end and redo it. I chose to unravel the line. Once all was ready, with Carrie’s help, I start to pull through the reefing line. The next thing I know, I am pulling the core out of the reefing line, leaving the sheath in place through the boom, completely not what I want to achieve. Lance and James are called for consultation during which the line comes apart completely.

Lance finds an old halyard to replace the line with and James is sent up the sail edge to thread it through the reefing point eye. However we end up having to put two reefs in the main before we can get this done. All in all this means two hours spent putting right my error. 😩

Day 9 (Thursday 12 Oct)

Pushing on through the south Atlantic. Wind in the 20s (knots) and on the beam. Great sailing conditions and we have caught up with Qingdao, sailing harder and faster than they are. A great feeling. There is still lots of spray and waves washing over the deck so it is very wet out there – but great fun. Spent an hour on the helm earlier and enjoyed it so much that Wes said he hadn’t seen me smiling so much since the start of the race.  I finally seem to be really getting in to this, living the race, enjoying the company and feeling fantastic. (OK, minor reality check, I still struggle to wake up after an off watch, but can cope with that!)

90 Degrees course heading reached!  This means that we have reached the southernmost point of our course to South Africa. From now on, until we reach Cape Town, we should be heading north of East. Don’t know why, but that makes me happy, probably as it implies moving towards hotter places (though ours will get colder as the sea temperature drops)

I go on deck for an hour during dog watch. Lead coloured sky and dark cold seas surround us. Nano is on the helm and I am “spotting” for him which means I keep an eye on the instruments while he focuses on steering. I can relay any relevant information to him such as if he is straying from course or if there is a significant change to the wind. The boat is storming along under a full main and Yankee 2, which is probably more than we should have up in the conditions but everything is just going too well. We have 6m swells to surf down when it works and 27 knots of wind. Nano is enjoying himself and manages to set a new speed record for the race at 26.9kt!

At skippers brief at 18:00 we learn that we sailed more than 300 miles in the last day and are on track to repeat it today. We are also the fastest boat in the fleet at the moment, gaining on those ahead of us. So far this is all good news.

It is also time to change the clocks again. So tonight we will have two 3 hour watches, the first being good as it means only a 3 hour stint on deck, the second meaning that I lose an hour of sleep. Oh well, you win some and lose some.

Roll on Cape Town. We have about 1200 miles to go so with luck could be there by 17th October though I doubt that the race office will allow us to be in that early, we will probably have an extension added to the race to take us to at least the 19th.

Race 2 Start and Seasick Again

Leg 2 – Race 2 – Days 1-5

Race Start

The razzmatazz again!  A nice sunny day greets us and this time Liverpool 2018 are the last to slip their lines from the quay and head out to the bay for the customary parade of sail. Farewell had been said to Bronwen an hour or so earlier and as we sailed past the harbour breakwater, I looked to see if I could spot her in the crowd. I think I did but maybe she had gone back to the flat to prepare for the bus to Montevideo and her plane to Cape Town.

A quick MOB practice follows the parade of sail and then a short pause before the race start. Wozza and I head to the sail locker to put away the forestay banner and boom banner. By the time we have finished we are minutes away from the race start and the cockpit is a hive of activity.  Not the time to go up through the companionway hatch so we are confined to the saloon for the whole of the round the cans part of the race, not surfacing until we are heading out of the bay into the open waters of the south Atlantic.

We are prepared for it to get cold but at the moment the clothing is foulies with very little underneath.  The expectation is that the seas will get larger than we have had before and seasickness may prevail. So I am doped up with Stugeron to avoid that. I have been feeling nervous the last couple of days, aware that in some ways, this is a bigger leg than the last one. Of course it is shorter, expected to be about 15 days, not 5 weeks, but the seas and the weather could be a lot less forgiving than the somewhat benign weather we had on the way down from Liverpool.

The change in crew will also make a difference. I will miss all of those from my watch who have left, Mark, Chris and Pat.  The conversation will be different, and the humour, not to mention the muscle power they brought.

The watches have been changed around for this leg. So while I am still on Port Watch with James as Watch Leader, Helen, Sharkey and Wozza have moved the the other watch. Wes and Carrie have come across and we have three new leggers: Mark W, Stephane and Julie. They have a lot to catch up with and are a great bunch – as are the others on Starboard watch.

Days 1 – 5 (Wed 4 – Sun 8 Oct)

We head out into the South Atlantic, following the Great Circle route to Cape Town. Some of the fleet head due south from Punta del Este in search of the faster winds but our plan is simply to head to Cape Town via the shortest route and this is the same plan that Dale evidently has. We follow him east for a day and a half before we manage to overtake him. For a while we are leading the fleet.

Reviewing the weather forecasts, Lance and Claire reckon we have nothing to lose by heading for the scoring gate and any additional race points would be valued. So again our paths split so that only three of us seem to be heading for the gate.

Sadly my 2 weeks ashore in Punta del Este have ruined my sea legs but I am learning.  Dosed up with Stugeron I am not seasick but I live on the edge, not sick but far from being 100%. I feel tired and slow, getting up for a watch is a struggle and although I know that activity makes me feel better, I still live in dread of it. It is amazing how mentally debilitating being seasick is. However I know that I will get over it and there are others in the crew who are suffering more than me. I do my best to encourage them that they will get through it.

The sea here is very different to the conditions we had in leg 1. The seas are bigger we frequently have waves sweeping along the deck. This means that foulies are replaced by the dry suit. This is a new experience, trying to figure out what to wear under the dry suit. For the first couple of days it seems that trousers and a couple of base layers are fine, but as everything gets wetter this is no longer enough. Strangely my feet seem to get wet through my (waterproof) boots and (waterproof) drysuit. I can’t work this out but maybe it is just the cold. I even try wearing my “Sealskin” waterproof socks but the results are the same.

My sleeping bag is too warm! I replaced the second fleece layer on leaving Uruguay in the expectation of colder nights in the south Atlantic but I wake up far too hot, so I have to strip the extra layer out again, not easy on a top bunk having to balance against the heel of the boat with a foot against the bunk opposite.   Yes, this leg is again all about learning how to make his all work!

By Day 5 of the race I am over my seasickness stage and feeling better again. There is a smile on my face and it feels great to look out at the rolling ocean.

Punta del Este Stop-Over

Punt Del Este

Arriving in Punta Del Este in Uruguay was a relief after 34 days at sea.  We all needed a rest and time to recover from the race and reflect on events.

Nano. being the representative Uruguayan in the fleet was the star of the Clipper Race show in town, being interviewed by the media and, with his father as Mayor of Punta Del Este, being feted by all and sundry.

Punta del Este put on a great welcome for us all, starting with beers in the local yacht club as soon as we got in.  I struggled with beers at 7 in the morning and Bronwen and I soon headed off to the apartment that we were staying in, sharing with Chris and Julie.

An early surprise was an Asado (Uruguayan version of a barbecue but on a grander scale) laid on by the mayor for all Clipper Race crew and supporters then present in Punta del Este.  A whole cow was cooked over an open fire, complete with its hide still on to retain the juices and ensure a slow cooking process.  This with other cooked meats, salads, wine, beer and deserts made for a wonderful meal in a wonderful location – a local sculpture park.

As is always the case with boats, there was plenty of maintenance to be done on the boat, starting with the deep clean.  After 5 weeks at sea with 24 people on board, the boat was pretty disgusting and needed a real deep clean from the bilges up.

The days in Punta del Este passed very quickly and my ability to speak Spanish improved from zero to being able to order simple things in a restaurant!

A quick trip to Montevideo at the end of the stop-over was an added bonus, including one night in a hotel.  The only down side was that both Bronwen and I got food poisoning and were sick on the bus trip back to Punta del Este.  As a result we missed Nano’s party at his grandfather’s house.

We did enjoy our stay in Uruguay, a country we would probably never have visited were it not for the Clipper Race.  The people were lovely, the country feels really safe and, being the beginning of spring while we were there, while it was slightly chilly, there was plenty of sunshine to keep us warm.