"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....

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