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

Friday, 2 May 2014

leg 4 race 2: hobart to brisbane

after a really nice few days in hobart, mainly involving going to customs house and the traditional quiet little drink celebration on the 1st of january, we were ready to leave on the 2nd. 

we had a pretty good start, made some good decisions and trimming like craig had taught us. as we were only 12 (including mike from garmin) we decided to split into 3 watches of 4 to start rolling through to brisbane. we were first off watch at 1800 and were just starting tea at 1930 to go back on for 2000 when the accident happened. derek had gone back down the starboard love tunnel for more jumpers and katherine was trying to get out of the heads. they kind of crashed into each other as we were heeling quite a lot and
they went from the high to the low side of the saloon. derek banged his head really badly and katherine smashed into the sink area with her ribs. the angle he was lying at and the fact that his eyes were open but glazed, I thought he'd broken his neck and was dead. later when we talked about it, so had matt. and ant, and mike. I went for a neck brace, and in that time derek had a seizure then slowly started to come round. 

while I was in the nav station looking for the brace, matt appeared and sat down. he picked up the remote for the radio and said 'mayday mayday mayday this is charlie victor two three charlie victor two three charlie victor two three'. my blood ran cold. this was serious. these are not words you want to hear. ever. he then went on to describe the emergency. it takes a really long time to issue a full mayday, and after what seemed like an eternity, qingdao responded with the news that they were turning back to our position. they had a GP on board and they would wait with us. the coastguard then came through saying they were sending a helicopter. 

back in the saloon, we got derek into the neck brace and onto the collapsible stretcher and strapped him down with sail ties. in this time, the guys on deck had dropped the main and headsails, but then we discovered the engine wouldn't start as the batteries were shorting under the bunks. with a bit of manoeuvering and taking the galley to bits, we got the stretcher up on deck for the helicopter and I stuck derek's sleeping bag on him and kept him talking and awake. gareth by this point had also dropped his sails as he knew he was taking us back to hobart. 

the helicopter arrived and made a bad noise, their engine warning light had come on so they were off back to hobart without us. the next thing we are aiming for a little town nearby to meet with a police rib who would take derek and katherine away. the rib appeared and they took stephen and mike on board, to help get derek across. we cut the safeties for the guardwires (nearly dumping sophie overboard in the process!), they lined up next to us and we got the stretcher across. katherine followed, with much complaining. she felt fine and I think was worried she wouldn't be allowed to rejoin. but we were going back to hobart anyway and it made sense to get her checked out, so off she went.

we realised that now we had zero coxswains on board - ed and mick had got off, and now derek was injured. we sailed most of the way back to hobart, then the wind dropped. qingdao had set up a towing line, so it was connected up to our bow and they took us up the river. berthing was going to be a different issue. they couldn't tow us onto the berth, we'd have to be pushed onto it. both boats put fenders out on starboard, and they rafted up to us on our port side. this way they could push up onto the berth. I drove most of the way in under gareth's excellent instruction, but once it got complicated gladly handed over to matt. around 0430, we were met by gillian, justin and mark on the quayside. 

after some discussion, gareth agreed to give us brian (a coxswain) and jess to make up numbers and they left. they had to motor back to where they'd suspended racing and restart. news came in that derek had been airlifted to hobart royal which we didn't think sounded good but is actually just a matter of distance in australia. we got a few hours sleep then prepared to leave in the morning with henri lloyd, who were going to be leaving dry dock.

jay, the fleet engineer, arrived early the next morning to fix the engine so went out for breakfast. by the time we got back to the boat, henri lloyd were there loading up their stores and crew. they had decided not to race, as they had been awarded average points for the race, but would be our travelling companions up to brisbane. it didn't take him long to repair, and by around 0930 we were heading back down the derwent heading for the bass strait. again. third crossing in a month.

our marvellous volunteers! (l-r) mike (garmin), brian and jess (qingdao)

once again, the bass strait did not disappoint with some fairly heavy weather. why does it always hit us on the nose?! once across, we got brian (our code 2) up. this involved a bit of explanation as we don't have a brian on our crew normally, and now we had brian from qingdao on board! we had a really good kite run up the coast and it didn't take us long to get to brisbane at all.

me and stephen having a kite trimming 'discussion' :)

dolphins. showing off. they do this all the time...

predictably, after our delayed start, we were second last into brisbane. it was a long haul from the finish line up to the marina. and we wouldn't have much time for sightseeing. 

this had been the first race where we'd only had twelve crew and had to adapt our mother watch. normally for mother, there would be one person off each watch. these two would do all the cooking, cleaning and tea-making for the day. with only twelve on board this wasn't feasible. we decided to do it on a per meal basis instead. so one person from the on watch would cook, and another from the oncoming watch would tidy up and do the cleaning. this meant we were doing a meal once every other day. and it was exhausting.

but we were in brisbane. leg 4 was complete! derek would be waiting for us on the pontoon and we'd all be back together again. however we also had to deal with the reality that jo and neil (legs 1-4) and beth (legs 2-4) would be getting off and new leggers would be joining. me and jo had really bonded and I knew it was going to be really hard leaving her behind. but we weren't thinking about that yet...