"I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose but aye be whaur extremes meet..." Hugh McDiarmid

Sunday, 22 December 2013

leg 3: cape town, south africa to albany, western australia

parade of sail in cape town. don't we look smart!
immigration to leave south africa is as stringent as it was to arrive. face to passport checks, with whole crews in alphabetical order led by the skipper is the order of the day. murali, one of our round the world crew who left the boat in rio, was here with his family. they and rob from mission were on a spectator boat for the start which was pretty cool. the start was pretty interesting as there is a massive windhole caused by table mountain. the first bit of tactic was who would go inshore and who would go offshore to avoid it. us and jamaica were the only two boats to go inshore, but it didn't really seem to make any difference as the offshore fleet had to sail that much further anyway.

it didn't take long before the breeze had built so we dropped the windseeker and put the yankee 2 up, with a reef in the main. then the reefing line blew and we had to replace it. I am lucky mother on day 2 again, so I do the bread while mick takes his morning sleep and the day passes relatively without incident.

the next day isn't so smooth. dave was on the bow as #1 for a headsail change when he got hit by a wave. it knocked him to his knees, then he got hit by a bigger one and this one pushed a deck cleat cleanly through his leg at the top of his calf. he managed to get off the foredeck and down below, with matt and bee (our medic) assessing him. his race is over unfortunately and we need to divert to port elizabeth to medevac him. this is bad as it means a bit of a detour, but we need to look after dave now so off we go. we did still need to do the headsail change, so I am despatched to the bow to take dave's place and the sail is changed. we are being smacked by waves all the time, and I hurt my foot a bit but no broken skin :)

the 7th is full of media for me. clipper need some interviews doing and the footage sending back in so the bbc can use it in their lunchtime news. I interview dave, matt and bee then cut it down to 4minutes 30seconds and transmit it via the dish to clipper well before time. I edit out me asking questions to shorten it. dave is doing ok but is clearly upset that he has to get off. he was only doing leg 3 and I feel for him so much. how heartbreaking for it to be so short. the same day, we are met by a lifeboat from the south african sea rescue. they have come to retrieve dave and I am filming it for clipper. we prep dave on deck and heave to, as we've been told we'll face a time penalty if we start the engine. the lifeboat arrives, drops one of their guys off, then comes back to collect both dave and the rescuer. it happens so quickly. these guys do this all the time. the weather is pretty hairy though, and dave sends us an email some days later telling us what happened on the boat after they left us:

"This was reinforced by the Sea Rescue team who picked me up. These are very experienced seamen, who've encountered first hand all manner of horrible weather on the cape. They didn't know who we were or what we were doing, only that they had to take someone ashore. As we watched you guys sail back into the teeth of the gale (more tears on my part), they asked where you were headed. When I told them 'Australia', there was a long pause as they all stared at you on the stern until someone broke the silence saying "that's f***ing hardcore"."

now we are down to 15 crew, we have to instigate a standby system as there just isn't enough of us to race effectively. the deal is that two folk from each watch will be on standby for the other watch so that if an evolution has to happen, the on watch wake those two folk first. if it's a big evolution, we'll try to wait until watch change to do it. this means a reduction in sleep for the leg, but it's safer to try this than do evolutions with not enough folk.

on the 10th we have our first kitemare. peeling to the code 3 we don't hoist him quickly enough and he goes in the water. we retrieve him and try to drop the code 2. this also goes a bit wrong. one of the spinnaker halyards has run out again, so I'll have to go up and put that back in at some point, but the yankee 3 needs to go up first. the hoist of that goes ok but not great, and I end up going up the shrouds to free the sheets which have flogged together and are massively tangled.

the 12th is my first mother watch with beth. I am unlucky, and while I am asleep one of our 3 liferafts accidentally deploys after being taken out by a wave. I wake up to a fully inflated liferaft in the cockpit. the on watch are dealing with it, but it's a weird old sight!

the video here is taken from the 24-7 CCTV camera which we have mounted on the a-frame at the rear of the boat. unfortunately the one mounted on the mast isn't working, or that would have been an epic view!!

the next day I am up the rig again, inspecting the mast cranes for damage post kitemare. only one block is useable in my opinion, so we hoist the code 2 onto it. it lasts for almost 24 hours before the block explodes, with the bearings disappearing entirely and the code 2 ending up in the water, streaming alongside the boat. once again, it is an all hands call to retrieve the kite from the water. we are getting really good at this...

the morning of the 15th I go straight up the mast. it takes me an hour and a half to strip out both spinnaker halyard blocks (well, the remains of one really and the other) and I come back down. once I've rebuilt them, I go back up to refit two working blocks, then splice and whip the four spectra strops back on. it takes me just over three hours. that's almost 5 hours up the mast in one morning. I am a bit wrecked. I miss lunch and watch changeover, but eat when I get down and go directly to bed. I manage an hour and a half's sleep before I am woken to get my tea and go back on watch.

the first thing I do on watch is drive the bus. in around 35 knots. unpleasant but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. the clocks seem to be going forward an hour every other day at the moment and everyone is exhausted. on the 16th we hoist the storm jib in anger. the weather is awful. we are being nearly drowned by waves and the wind is high. we see 85 knots at one point which is hurricane force. this is the storm we've been talking about. some of the boats see 100 knots plus, and we feel fortunate. hardly anybody wants to helm in this. it's terrifying.

the 18th sees our next kitemare. the tack line strips its sheath, and the kits ends up around 25 feet in the air and we can't reach the tack to spike it. the dousing line also ran out so there seemed to be no way to get the kite in. matt came on deck, sorted out a dousing line and the tack line was cut. the kite came in pretty easily after all that, but we have to repair the tack line again, and be ready to fly a kite in less than 12 hours.

mother watch on the 19th seemed almost relaxing in comparison to the previous few days! it was me and sophie which is always a good laugh. I am looking forward to a full long sleep this time! please!!

an uneventful few days followed, then on the 23rd we have another kitemare. the tack line again. it seems to be chafing where it exits its own jammer! we rigged up a spectra strop to take the strain off it. that works nicely.

now we are only seven on our watch, it's mother again on the 26th. unlucky this time :( unfortunately, I had a media request from the office for footage for a singaporean TV channel so ended up interviewing bee, filming bee and then cutting it all together for paul. sorry sophie!

we are so close to albany now, we'll arrive the 27th. it will be so nice to see dave hopefully. the southern ocean is amazing but terrifying all at the same time. I will never forget it. I drove the bus loads on the morning watch as nobody else wants to helm upwind. we saw australia around 1030 and chris shouted 'land ahoy' like he'd been practising his whole life to shout it! it did seem to take us ages to get close to it though...

as we approached, we spotted another clipper boat. who was this?! then another one. where did they come from?! that was it. the race was on. it was old pulteney and invest africa. as we beat towards land, derry~londonderry~doire appeared from the north as well. four boats! this close to the finish! as we rounded the final headland and entered the estuary, we were fourth in the group :( we hoisted the kite and pipped invest africa on the line. it was less than half a boat length. one of the most exciting finishes ever apparently. and the locals were impressed because nobody ever hoists a kite in that bit of water. sweeeeet :)

just pipped invest africa on the line :)
we got put on the quarantine pontoon, so customs and immigration could turn the boat over. it didn't take too long though, then gillian was there organising us as usual! we all got taken up to the boatshed for our welcome meal and who was there but dave!! and a camera crew... it was so good to see him all fixed up but on crutches. the local volunteers who were manning the barbecue were awesome and I had such a good tea! after tea we went into town to the white star hotel bar and left the deep clean til the morning....

cape town stopover, or the week that I forgot...

I haven't written anything in my diary for this stopover. and writing this after the fact it is difficult to recall everything that happened this week. I know that we did the deep clean, rig check and maintenance. but apart from that I'm not sure. I know that we had a corporate day sail for mission on the 2nd of november because I put that it. me, dave and joe were on it with matt. I know it was one of only three days sailing that dave got before he was eventually medevac'd just off south africa.

I also know that we had the mass crew brief on the 3rd, but I didn't go as I had a lot to do on the boat after matt dropped the bombshell that I am now bosun as well as media, because ed has had to go home and mark doesn't rejoin until leg 4. this was the day I was supposed to go to robben island with pete and his mum, but couldn't as I was working.

there was shopping, eating and drinking. there was a little bit of sightseeing, and a bit of hanging out in kate's posh hotel room. apart from that the memories have gone. my poor little brain is being overloaded with stuff. images and thoughts that I can't keep track of.

and I'm afraid that's just going to have to do!!

leg 2: rio, brazil to cape town, south africa

leaving rio :)
the race start was delayed by a day to the 12th of october, which was a relief to us and invest africa! the inshore route took us past sugarloaf and almost onto copacabana beach (much to the sunbathers' surprise) before heading for the southern ocean.

it was pretty rough going and I was mother with derek. loads of the new guys and a few of the leg 1 guys were seasick, so there weren't many takers for tea that evening. I was happily fine, which I put down to only being on land for 2 days, and that was a massive relief.

the superyacht 'louise' who had been our neighbours in rio came out to see us off which was really nice. the start for us is a cautious affair, as matt firmly believes you have to be in it to win it, although we did get really close to henri lloyd at one point.

the first few days were a mix of folk recovering from seasickness, being exhausted from leg 1 still and just generally settling in (or back in) to the routine of the boat. the downside of being so tired is that the temptation to fall asleep on watch is really high. I got busted on the 1800-2200 watch by matt for sleeping in the cockpit. I was so tired, but I need to just get on with it. whoops...

on this leg, matt is starting to give lunchtime lectures during happy hour. sometimes these are a precursor to actually doing what we've been talking about, like the peel on leg 1. I was on logs and took the opportunity to get matt to teach me a bit about weather, which has always been a bit of a dark art to me, and a little navigation. he is really good at teaching, and I am starting to be able to read the weather files. what's good is that he shows me the forecast and I try to interpret it then he corrects me (if he needs to) and we talk about what that means longer term. it's working out pretty well, and he's loaned me his weather book as well :)

my bunkmate beth, who is doing legs 2, 3 and 4, is my new media buddy after hannah finished her leg. we are on opposite watches so the system me and hannah came up with can continue :)

my ptkd (see leg 1 race 2 post) is still quite bad, so matt and mick are giving me driving lessons. I'm a bit freaked out that I'll be learning to drive in the southern ocean but matt says I have to drive as a round the worlder. gulp. I was never that great a helm in dinghies, except for upwind, and I was awful on the tall ships so I'm a bit apprehensive about that to be honest. I have to try though...

the kite went up on the 17th and we think he'll be up until we reach cape town. awesome :)

had a really terrible time on the helm and just point blank refused to do it again. am just trimming and grinding to keep my head down. I find helming so frustrating when I can't do it but at the same time I want to get better at it. catch22 I suppose. more driving lessons from matt on the horizon.

we started to go through the mission performance team building material which is going to help us develop as individuals and a team. it was really interesting but it took ages. me and kate are still on the same watch, although sophie is on the other one now. kate's mum (who is a legend) has got us both a massage and lunch in cape town. I cannot wait. it's my birthday at the end of the leg, and kate's the day after we leave on leg 3. we so need a massage!
jo, sarah, orla and sophie fixing the code 1

I was mother again with derek on the 21st (but lucky this time!!) but overnight the other watch crash gybed then rounded up and the code 1 ripped its own head off. luckily the luff line was still attached so with careful easing of the halyard and pulling on the remains of the kite, they got it on deck with minimal hassle. sophie, sarah, jo and orla are now working in 4 hour shifts to repair him. unluckily for us we are now in ocean sprint mode and need the kite!! again, we are sleeping on the high side for ballast but I'm in the mother bunk for a solid 14 hours. oh yeah :)

well that was the idea anyway, I got woken around 0300 as the boat crash gybed again then broached this time. my watch were on deck, and they'd got a riding turn around the working kite sheet which meant they couldn't ease the kite out and giving steering back to the helm. they decided to drop the kite and rehoist, but the tack couldn't be spiked so matt blew the tack line from the cockpit. the kite was now flying free with the tack block and entire tack line still attached, but the guys got the kite in. as I was just out of bed, I stayed down below to receive the kite. there was a bit of damage to the code 2 as it got stuck in the letterbox, which wasn't what we needed with a huge repair already ongoing with the code 1...

a few of the deck crew got a huge fright (as you'd expect) and there were a couple of minor injuries. we were woolling the code 2 when I heard matt looking for me. he wanted a full rig check done before we flew another kite as the rig had taken a bit of a kicking in the broach. by now it was around 0430, I was fully awake, and it was getting light. I got kitted up and put my harness on and went on deck. the guys were like 'I don't think this is the time to be going up the rig' but I pointed out it wasn't really negotiable and up I went. I checked the mast alignment first though! it was a pretty hairy climb to the top and I took a bit of a kicking. at one point I lost my grip on the mast and swung all the way around the main, before smacking back into the mast. 'that's going to bruise' I thought as I kept going north... I checked every fixture and fitting from the top to the bottom, got back on the deck and just lay down, exhausted. matt came to unplug me and I told him that the rig was ok and he was relieved. we got the code 3 up - it was now our only working kite - and kept going.

I can totally rock this look!
looking pretty tired...

I managed another couple of hours sleep before the daily meeting and going on watch. this further kite damage was bad news as we were only about 70 miles from the finish of the ocean sprint and using an inappropriate kite. however, we push on as much as we can.

more kite evolutions and woolling is keeping us busy. the routine rolls on and beth is mother. as we bunk share, she gets first dibs on the bunk so I am displaced for the night. I kip in bee's bunk which is right opposite the engine room door. nobody can find me for watch so I get an extra 20 minutes guilt free sleep!! apparently I am quite difficult to wake up...no comment...

we are now trucking along quite nicely to cape town and on the 24th it looks like we could be arriving on my birthday. this would be good :)

spoke too soon. another kitemare, this time with the code 3. the halyard has run through and the kite is in the water dragging the halyard behind it. I go up to re-run the halyard, and the code 3 is retrieved, woolled and back in the air shortly afterwards. the code 3 is dropped a bit later so we can hoist the yankee 2 and staysail. the tack was a little complicated to spike and I have a slight mishap on the bowsprit...
what have we done now?!
pete in his amazing leggings...

the code 1 is repaired!! this means we get jo back on watch with us. me and kate have missed her and her crazily infectious laugh. on the 26th it looks like we'll get in late on my birthday and then have to do immigration and deep clean. oh well...

the jagged line right across the head is the fabulous repair the girls did on the code 1 :)

matt has decided that we'll start the deep clean and maintenance list now to make sure we maximise our time off in cape town after we had none in rio. this is a good idea and everyone gets stuck in. me and kate start with a load of chafe protection to fit to the tack line and both spinnaker halyards. we also decide to fit the donuts which we didn't bother with originally. the halyards have been the wrong way round (red fleck on starboard, green fleck on port) for ages now and we take the opportunity to re-run them the correct way as well. this makes me very happy.

pete our assistant watch leader has been quietly trying to work out my ptkd and slowly encouraging me to helm again. he hasn't bullied or made a big deal of it and this method works. I sneak up to him one day and I am driving again :)

on my birthday, my watch sing 'happy birthday' to me. what a nice way to wake up. matt appears shortly afterwards and sings it again as a solo as he missed the original rendition. we get loads of stuff knocked off the jobs list, then mick and ed have made me dairy free cake to have with lunch! at lunchtime, everyone sings to me. three times in one morning!! a new personal best :)

unfortunately we get stuck in the traditional windhole later that day, and end up peeling to the windseeker, then back to the code 1. not getting in today then...

jo starts to teach me how to play backgammon, which I've never been able to play and have always been intrigued by.

that'll be table mountain then

flaking the main. from above

I spend the entire approach into cape town at the top of the mast, fitting spectra strops to the spinnaker halyard blocks on the mast cranes. when I'm ready to come down, the main is being flaked so I have a great view while I wait.

it's a really great view from the top. on the way in I spot the rest of the fleet. we are coming in 11th again... only beating qingdao, who arrive several hours behind us.

on the approach, table mountain is completely invisible, covered by cloud. as I splice and whip the strops the cloud clears and I'm treated to the full view :)

I also get to watch the crew flake the main. everyone is in mission gear for the arrival and they look really smart doing the flake. this is a really good position, if a little chilly now I'm not working!

epic birthday cake (vegan)
aftermath of being attacked by hungry crew!

we arrive into the marina as the crew from the other 10 boats clap and cheer from their bows. it's a hugely emotional moment and one I wasn't prepared for. coming in at the back isn't so bad...

once gillian has gone through arrivals procedures with us, sir robin hands over my birthday cake which the awesome julie (my housemate in oman) has organised all the way from oman. it's vegan and BLUE. he has the decency to look well jealous. I forget to offer him some, and we attack it with forks. no plates are involved.

we enjoy the cake loads, and shortly there isn't much left. I pick on it for a day or so and then it is gone. the icing is amazing. it dyes your tongue and your lips blue so it's obvious when someone's been eating it!

we get the deep clean done, and I get to speak to david who is the recruitment manager for clipper. he is here with the roadshow trying to get folk to sign up for the next races :)

I'm not feeling too great so I have an early night. I'm looking forward to this stopover as we have almost a week!!

rio stopover, or 48 hours to turn the boat around and get back to sea

waking up with a bit of a hangover and having to do a deep clean is not something I'd recommend. although I imagine it will probably happen again... me and kate were cleaning the sole boards on the pontoon which meant sliding around in bare foot with hoses and many, many laughs. a very beautiful superyacht called 'louise' arrived on the opposite berth to us. much to our delight there are several extremely good looking boys on board :)

the best thing about arriving late into rio of course is that our new leggers are already here and eager to help. amazing. can you do the deep clean please? and they did. what a bunch of troopers! taking our stinky boat and turning her back into something presentable. not that they have a vested interest of course ;)

once the deep clean is done, I do the rig check and start the maintenance list. the victuallers are already away shopping and everyone is hard at work. the pulpit came away, so it has been removed for repair locally. laundry is being done and showers are being had, although the marina facilities at the marina du gloria are pretty awful with only two showers in the ladies - one runs hot, the other runs cold. amazing. there are no washing machines, so the lovely jo takes it away to do at the apartment she has rented with some of the crew. I am staying onboard, being a massive skinflint, so this is really my only option.

there has been a lot of beer trading going on. it's our primary currency at the moment. paul from the media side of clipper gave me some beer from him and tony for the testing I did while at sea. I then gave some of that to the maintenance guys, who have worked so hard for us since we got it. I really like them and we get on pretty well too.

we have the mission performance crew feedback session with christiaan which is really interesting. all our thoughts get fed back to the skippers and the mission guys do individual feedback with each skipper.

there is also the mass crew brief before the start of leg 2, which has been put back a day as we were so late arriving. after this, we have matt's brief. he talks us through his plans for the race as well as a full safety brief for the new leggers. after this I sort my stuff out and settle into my new bunk. I have an elastic washing line which I hang end to end and I keep all sorts of stuff on it. all the things I need day to day, like sunglasses, hats and camera live there, as well as drying socks! I am sharing a bunk with beth on this leg. we did level 3 together and I'm really pleased to be sailing with her again :)

just like that, the rio stopover is done. 48 hours in the marina. I never made it into rio at all :(

leg 1 race 2: brest, france to rio, brazil

parade of sail leaving brest

so our second race start was very different to the first. DLL have a spectator boat full of folk and when we parade out with main up and all our battleflags up, we have to circle them. once the parade is over, we head straight for the start line, drop the battleflags and hoist our headsails. it's a bit of a hike out to the start line in brest, through building seas. at times we can see neighbouring boats' keels come clean out of the water. there were also lots of bowsprits going for a submarine...

the plan for this race is to head straight for finisterre (and its dreaded TSS...) across the bay of biscay. I've crossed biscay a few times now on the tall ships, so I know the weather could be anything but most of the folk on board have only ever heard of it, and are expecting foul weather. we did one crossing on the tall ships in shorts and t-shirts, but I can tell nobody on the crew believes me! even though matt reckons 90% of his crossings have been good weather too.

all the way across biscay we have kites up. they go up, they come down. sometimes intentionally. we start having kitemares. these become the focus of our blog, matt's blog and the rest of the fleet's blogs too. although at the time, we don't know it because we can't read them while we're at sea. we have email, but not internet browser. data is expensive and satellite time is controlled by either matt, or the media crew (me and hannah).

on the second night out of brest, I was driving the bus when the kite wrapped. uh-oh. this was (it turns out) the start of a fairly severe bout of post traumatic kite disorder (ptkd) which I would suffer from until well into leg 2... that night was also the first lesson in how powerful the lines on this boat are. we were all sitting in the cockpit when the lazy kite sheet started flogging. david got smacked pretty hard in the arm, and it immediately swelled up and looked painful. it didn't seem to be broken and that was a relief. I took a bit of a kicking as well, as I tried to climb over chris to get away from the sheet. my ribs and upper arms were bruised and I took the sheet to the end of my index finger, and immediately thought I'd broken it as it was so painful. thankfully I hadn't but it took a long time running it under cold salt water to convince me otherwise!

the next day (11th) we had our first kitemare. the halyard (line holding the kite to the top of the mast) snapped and the sail went in the water. it took most of us to haul it back inboard. the frustrating thing was the other watch were preparing to drop when it happened. once it was retrieved, the preventer snapped. this is the line which holds the boom out when the wind is coming from the side or behind us, and it stops the boom bouncing around. my level 2 instructor referred to is as 'the procrastinator' as he reckoned it didn't really stop us crash gybing, just slowed down the inevitable... anyway, we doubled the preventers up when we got it back inboard. what a day! we gave up on the kite for a bit and poled out the yankee 2, which resulted in better sleep thanks to there being no constant winch noise - the downside of kite trimming...

friday the 13th found me on mother watch with katherine. we made bread and katherine added what could only be described as a jam ciabatta to the lunchtime fare. at this point, we were using the premix which I didn't normally eat as I didn't know if the contents included milk. the jam ciabatta was just too tempting though and I had a couple of small bits. the premix has milk in. definitely. an uncomfortable 48 hours of a lactose intolerance reaction later and I'm sworn off it... the advantage of mother? the long sleep after the watch. I enjoyed it very much as I was lucky mother (so not back on watch til 1100) oh yeah :)

neil is teaching us all kite trimming. he is assistant watch leader to ed on this leg, a fantastic teacher and very experienced sailor as well. he is with us until brisbane, which seems very far away at the moment. we are all learning how to handle the kites under different conditions, and sailing with the kite at night under a big moon is definitely a highlight of this leg. we are seeing so many stars, and phosphorescence it is just magic. the conditions are pretty constant with good wind and big seas, and we feel like we are settling into the routine and the boat.

by the 17th, we are only a few days away from the dreaded doldrums, and henri lloyd are in sight behind us. they are steadily reeling us in, and matt decides we have to peel from the code 1 (bruce) to the code 2 (brian). this is not a manoeuvre we have practised, and matt says it's one of the hardest things to do on a boat. he talks us through it and we peel perfectly, although the halyard is twisted we can still trim while I go up the mast to swap the halyards over. he had prepared us by saying that he thought HL would be in front of us when we had finished the peel, but they are actually still around a mile behind when we're done. it's hugely satisfying and there are smiles all round. it doesn't stop them overhauling us anyway and leaving us behind :(

hello HL. after 2000 miles we are 400m apart!

the weather by this point was starting to flake up a bit with rain and squalls and light winds, typical of the areas around the doldrums (intertropical convergence zone or itcz). it had been pretty warm for most of the leg, and we'd all started sleeping in our underwear on top of our sleeping bags early on - not something I would normally ever do while surrounded by strangers! 

we passed through the scoring gate in 3rd and got ourselves a much needed extra point. there was a massive rainstorm on the 0600-1200 watch on the 19th which allowed me, kate and sophie to wash our hair and have a shaving party, much to the disdain of the boys. matt complained that it 'smelled like girl' on deck but we were happy :)

that night we had the most incredible thunder and lightning. it rolled around us for hours. at one point the storm clouds surrounded us apart from a tiny corridor of light directly in front of us. every time we got hit by a bit of wind though, it dragged us back into the storm away from the exit. it really felt like we'd be stuck in there forever. 

the next day we were all casual on deck trimming the kite when we were hit by around 35 knots suddenly. the boat heeled over massively, with water coming over the low side winches. I was dumping kite sheet feet at a time to try and give the driver some steering control back and we eventually got the boat back. the high point of the watch was seeing a massive turtle bobbing around in our wake! massive!!

helming in the entry to the doldrums

I did eventually helm again, briefly, as we entered the doldrums. I didn't want to, but ed can be quite persuasive and mildly threatening...

so hot I slept in the hatch cover!

there was one night it was so warm that I couldn't sleep down below at all. I had been eyeing up the hatch cover for some days. it turned out to be pretty comfortable :)

all through the heat of the pre-doldrums, we had been having some fairly funky dreams. mine revolved around kite trimming. from my bunk. below decks. quite how I thought I'd managed to run the sheets to my bunk I'm not sure, however it kept me awake or on the edge of being awake for a few days. it turns out loads of folk were having that dream, amongst others.

on the 21st we finally entered the doldrums proper. the barometer had risen and there was no going back. we went in in 1st place, but would eventually leave in 11th some 10 days later. we were aiming for a wind tunnel that matt had spotted on the grib files (weather information) and had gone a lot further west than the rest of the fleet. at this point we started sleeping on deck in nests built from the bunk mattresses. it was more comfortable as there was some breeze at night, and it also meant we were proper sleeping ballast for matt. a few nights me and kate slept on the foredeck wrapped in headsails! the condition of being allowed to do this was that we had to wear our lifejackets and be clipped on to the jackstay all the time. we complied happily and had some of the best sleeps of the doldrums here :)

I did another mother watch on the 22nd with katherine and we talked a lot about how by our next turn, we should hopefully be in rio. how wrong we would be, but at the time it cheered us up in the horrible heat. the clouds and squalls in the doldrums were pretty awesome and days were filled with just trying to get the windseeker (wendy) filled so we could move at all. we spent large portions of time being completely becalmed, although we did sometimes go north accidentally. our daily runs were very low and morale was being sapped day by day.

mission sent us a brilliant podcast while we were stuck in the doldrums, which really helped to focus our thoughts. they are such great sponsors, always appearing with a podcast when we absolutely need it.

ah the doldrums. rubbish...
with everyone getting a bit grumpy and sleepy in the heat, mistakes started to happen. we nearly snapped the boom at one point while grinding the spinnaker halyard up one day as we didn't realise the mainsheet winch was still engaged. the main halyard shredded a bit at the jammer under the strain and I was sent up the mast to swap the topping lift onto the top of the main so we could run a new main halyard. it ran in really quickly and I went back up to swap the main back onto its new halyard and bring the topping lift back down. 

partway through the doldrums, leigh has a hospital appointment. I have been resolutely not signing up for the onboard email as it's another expense I can't really justify, but when I don't hear from her I start to consider it. on this race, I have been doing a lot of testing for tony at mcs, as the video upload isn't working. luckily for me, he is able to set up my email account and get it active while I'm at sea and for that I'm really grateful. email contact is established with leigh and the news that her hospital appointment has been fine and she isn't back for another 3 months cheers me up massively. I hadn't realised how much email would count on the race, but it really does. I'm keeping it :)

the news that the axis of the itcz is moving south with us is not great. we can't seem to outrun the doldrums. we eventually escape in the evening of the 29th. it's the longest doldrums crossing in the history of the clipper race. we are in 11th. this is not good news. morale is pretty low, as everyone reckons that the order the fleet come out of the doldrums is generally the finishing order. we need the points!!

on the 30th matt realises that the windex is a bit off. he sends me up to 'realign' it (with my leatherman) but the swell is massive. I am bounced off one of the more solid fittings at the top and think I have really hurt myself. I have a dead arm and am in quite a lot of pain. I finish the job and smear myself down the mainsail back onto deck. when I get on deck, I just lie there. folk realise that I might not be ok and mick comes over to check on me. I tell him what happened and he helps me out of my harness and into the saloon below decks. katherine, who is our medic, checks me over and decides ice is the best thing. except we are on a boat. we have no ice. what is the alternative? a massive block of cheese. oh good. I am lactose intolerant! oh well. after the cheese icing I am feeling a bit better and the bruise is starting to come out. it's a bit difficult to move around with only one arm as well, so I go to bed for a bit.

we cross the equator on the 1st of october. it turns out only ed has crossed in a sailing boat before, so we are all summoned by neptune (ed) tomorrow morning to be judged. alan has been fixing my arm and shoulder with a bit of light massage which is really helping so I am feeling better as well. I think about the equator crossing ceremony shoot and decide to mount both the gopros somewhere and film on the handheld myself. 

the ceremony is pretty funny. derek is awesome as the bear and there is some skanky porridge/bilge water combination in a pot to cover everyone with. we are quite conservative with each other, because matt is going last. an opportunity to cover the skipper with goo? yes please. he crawls on his hands and knees through the cockpit between the two lines of crew and reached neptune. he kisses the (dead) flying fish on neptune's stick and nearly retches. then the entire contents of the pan goes over his head and down his back. we're going to pay for this, but we'll enjoy it first! with everyone on board inducted into the gang, the cleanup begins. matt gets the fire hose out and starts his revenge. then it's back to sailing the boat. we are going into the ocean sprint phase soon and god knows we need the points. we're told that racey racey is the way forward and everyone agrees to sleep on the high side while we're sprinting. some of us will be on mattresses in the companionway as there are not enough bunks on that side. mothers are allowed to sleep on the low side so they're not disturbed by the watch changeovers.

the watermaker, which is a tiny desalination plant and a great piece of kit on the boat, is leaking massively into the bilges a few days later. I wake up thinking we're sinking as the entire on watch is bailing out below decks. eventually we discover a hose has come off under the companionway steps. once it is refitted and the water is bailed, we are clearly not sinking. hurrah!

the kitemares continue. the code 2 goes up knotted, so we drop it and hoist the code 3 instead. it's pulling us too much off course so we drop that too. into the saloon on top of the code 2. chaos ensues.

by the 5th, the front of the fleet are starting to arrive in rio. PSP are among them. yay! the bromance boat is going to win the leg! we are really happy for them, but wish we were nearly there too. I had hoped to be in rio so I could call leigh on her birthday but that's not going to happen. she'll have to make do with an email from the boat instead. sigh.

matt takes time out very seriously...
on the 7th we pass through what seems to be a whale migratory route. they are everywhere. showing off for us and getting in the way generally. we have loads of water in the crash bulkhead which needs bailing every day, sometimes twice. not a pleasant job unfortunately but I don't mind doing it too much as I am quite small.

me and kate take loads of photos and laugh that this is matt's version of time out for the grief we give him. we are nearly in rio and looking forward to a beer!

we tack down the coast, avoiding a massive reef and travelling through a huge oilfield. invest africa are behind us and they have started to motor as we need to get to rio soon. switzerland are in front of us and try as we might we just can't get to them. it's frustrating sailing as we had been doing so well. on the 2200-0200 watch the day before we reach rio, we get stuck in a massive trawler net. disaster! we sail out of it though, using the yankee and staysails to reverse carefully out. I sweat these sails up on my own a few times. it's hard work and I'm wrecked but we need to do it. it took us a while to clear, all the time the two trawlers who have cast these nets between them are hovering around like anxious parents, hoping we don't need to cut their nets. 

on the 9th we arrive to rio, around 2000 local time. we had a good final run with the code 1 up and matt driving the bus. as we turn in to the bay the wind dies, giving us an opportunity to see christ the redeemer up on the hill (lit tastefully in bright pink). as we drift across the finish line, another clipper 70 appears like a ghost out of the dark. it's PSP, our bromance boat. we go a bit mental, having not seen another boat since HL passed us before the doldrums. what we didn't realise was that chris hollis had our new leggers out on a training sail and basically told them they were going to wait as we were nearly there. there was a lot of jumping and waving and screaming. it was really emotional and such a lovely thing to do. then they were gone, off to the pontoon as there was a do on that night that chris had to get to. 

we were guided in by mark on the rib to a pontoon a little bit away from the rest of the fleet, and were met by gillian, some other clipper staff and christiaan from mission with BEER. matt had decided we were going to do the deep clean that night, but the plan swiftly changed and we went to the bar instead and saw some of the other crews. 

what a leg. we had been 1st, almost last, spent 10 days in the doldrums, had so many kitemares and experienced the sea at her best and worst. the highs and lows are indescribable. but we'd come through it, and were so much stronger as a team. I made so many good friends on that leg. some of the folk were only doing leg 1 and we'll miss them so much the rest of the way round. but some are returning and that will be great.

Friday, 20 December 2013

brest stopover

after the arrival night out, I went running the next morning. could only manage 4km but it was lovely running around the town and the castle, down to the naval base and back to the boat. 
the castle
view from the castle to the marina


we'd agreed to be ready to work by 0900, and we got loads done. matt showed me how to strip down and service the mainsheet winch, which is a 3-speed primary. I also got the rig check done, even in the rain!

we also got our new, taller stanchions here. we had been the only boat to leave london with the short ones, which made the crossing fairly interesting... unfortunately for us, we were one short. so one of the aft stanchions is still a short one. oh well!

we didn't get lifted in brest, which we were supposed to. we discovered in gosport we had no antifoul on the hull, so this had been the plan. it looks now like we won't be antifouled until sydney, which is almost halfway. 
kate, the winch wench :)
one of the primary winches. in bits.
we serviced the rest of the smaller winches on board, and the other two primaries as it's important to keep these running well. the intention is to do them in every port but we'll see :)

old pulteney had a corporate event on one of the days in brest, and everyone had to suffer pipe music blasting out of their on deck speakers. gah! to top it off, patrick (their dutch skipper) was wearing a kilt but it was too low and I felt compelled to go and show him how it should be worn. ten minutes of instruction later, he looked quite presentable and I went back to my boat. not sure he appreciated it, but I can't look at a badly worn kilt!

jay's sense of humour :)

we are getting used to dealing with the maintenance and engineering guys as well. these are the guys who fix the stuff we can't manage and give us advice so we can do more ourselves. we'd put a post-it on one of our trip boards laughing at the fact we had a water heater on board (which we're not allowed to use) and jay saw it, and left his own response... 

on our third day in brest, it was crew brief time. the race starts tomorrow again! it has flown by trying to get everything done and see a bit of the town. the brief was at a place called oceanopolis and we were on the first bus so got a bit of time to look around and get some food beforehand. after the briefing, we went back to the boat, then went out for our team meal to a tex mex place in the marina. at first it didn't look like they had anything suitable for me, but after speaking to the really helpful waiter, I got special vegan enchiladas. kate looked pretty jealous :D

we decided to be sensible and had a (reasonably) early night as the race start is 1330 tomorrow