In 2001 I watched the start of this spectacular race. Little did I know
that 14 years later I was going to be one of the lucky ones on the water.
Of course there was much hype this year about the weather (as always?) and perhaps that increased the anticipation somewhat added to the occasion.
After our parade of sail in front of the opera house adn bridge and our
compulsory pass of the committee boat with the storm sails up it was show time. Every time I glanced up there were yet more boats. And more. I have sailed a couple of times in the round the island race with 1200 competitors but this was different, so much more exhilarating. The narrow channel created by the natural harbour and the flanks of spectator boats added to the drama as did the competition; wild oats, camanche,
rambler…all the big boys. Dad and Karen were somewhere on the listing
Manly ferry but I couldn’t pick them out. It was quite simply incredible.
Further, I think I had the best seat in the house on the pulpit of Missi.
There was only one time I retreated at pace and that’s when there was
almost human transfer with Derry! I am so glad that we were on our 35
tonne, 70ft monster.
The start conditions were perfect for us and our new yankee 2. Enough wind to get us going at a good pace. Greg once again pulled off a blinder of a start and we were in the top three Clipper boats across the line and at the pointy end of our startline fleet. After the last leg know we can hold
ourselves the only diference being that this time we were even hungrier.
As we passed through the heads and hoisted our code 2 (also new) we had our first lightning on the horizon. A gentle reminder that the weather was due to turn. It was quite a spectacle to be leading the Clipper armada (LMaX off to Starboard and most others in tow) with the fading sun illuminating
Almost to the minute (10pm on first night), along came the wind, the change of direction and a call for the yankee three and three reefs in quick succession as planned. I’m glad we’re not on a natty little carbon fibre number and I’m also glad that we have seen and survived mother nature trying to kick the woolly socks out of us before. With wind speeds of 50kts and a very angry sea state Missi did us proud. Carving through or
falling off each wave, neither particulary pleasant, Missi was tough as old
boots. I understand that others were perhaps less lucky with 34 boats
retiring so far?
Just as we thought the wind was starting to fade (late morning of day 2) it
changed its mind and we were back to three reefs and dropped our staysail. The white froth was spewing over the low-side helm and I think it has sadly taken our boat head-cam with all the start footage as casualty. At this point a smaller yacht with its storm jib passed ahead of us. One of the few vessels we’d seen since the commotion of the start and dispersion soon after we’d left the heads.
For the first 36 hours Missi looked like a scene from a warzone with bodies
everywhere. At one point there were only 3 able bodied people in our watch and our watch leader Mike was not one of them. The sea state has caused many to pop their sea-sickness cherry and many others to turn animal-like in their behaviour. People being sick out of the companion way, in the galley sink, in the heads, in their hands, in bin bags. Oh jeeeez. Those that felt fine, I was one of them, set about the chores of many to try to make the place slightly more habitable. Surface wipe down, bilge emptying, heads cleaning and so on. A pretty brutal time.
It was just at the end of this time that we fell off our biggest wave to
date. The usual eerie silence coupled with weightlessness quickly followed
by an almighty bang. The boat was fine, the crew less so. At precisely
that moment after having moved our ailing spinnaker (yes, I found a riped
seem in our new code 2) and had cleared the bilge area ready for bailing, I
was traversing the galley to the high side. Before I knew it I was
apparently 4ft in the air. Its rather unfortunate that my landing sight
would be the metal bar or bilge workings of the lower wet locker some 6
feet or so away. I had gathered enough momentum that the rib-first landing was going to hurt. It did. And it still does 24 hours on. I am so very grateful that Nicholas was there to ‘catch me’. When the almost instanaeous ‘is everyone ok’ shout went up I had to say no. Initially I held off taking painkillers because I wanted to know the extent of the damage. That changed about 15 minutes later!!!
Sadly that marked the end of my likely contribution to this race. I have
spent the last 24 hours below trying to heel. Don’t worry because I have
made a marked improvement as I can now walk around unaided and am smiling again. Here’s to hoping that it is not the end of my Clipper experience and I do get some champagne sailing to the Whitsundays. Thankfully my incident coincided with a significant drop in wind and a flattening of the sea state and boat. Everyone has been amazing coming to help me tack in my bunk (avoiding pressure on my left side!) or resupply me with paracetamol. I’m sure I’ll make it on deck before the finish and will be right as rain in no time. Mum, be rest assured it is not serious as I can breath easily and have no sticky-out bits!!!
The watches have worked tirelessly together to compensate for being light-handed. We’ve only had one position report since the start and that was a few hours ago to tell us that we were second in our fleet. Wow. Good on Missi and her crew. I can assure you of one thing. That podium spot is
gong to be fought for like no other. I will do my bit (whatever that is)
and everyone else will keep doing there’s to ensure that we feature in the
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2015 prize-giving.
All we need now is for the wind to come around as planned so that we can
point in the right direction!
Come on Missi!!