For the sailing team Gold Coast Australia competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, sailing in Race 10 from Oakland, California to Panama the week started with some playful guests. Strong, sleek and gray the dolphins frolic on the bow in droves cutting the water with ease. All the crew watch on as they click to each other and jump up to catch a breath of air amidst the play causing those on deck to squeal with excitement. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times you are visited by these amazing and agile creatures you can not help but smile every time and it is a fantastic way to start your morning whilst you sail under the early sunshine with the medium weight spinnaker up and and a steady 13 knots of breeze.
Day three started with us sailing ten miles behind the leading boats but the following morning dawned with Welcome to Yorkshire, a lovely three miles behind us when at the sunset of the previous evening they were three miles ahead. A six mile gain in light winds during the night was something to celebrate. By the afternoon we watched frustratingly as we bobbed in the lee of Guadalupe, a island off Mexico that stands 12,000 feet high offering a large wind shadow. We could do nothing as we watched Welcome to Yorkshire sail slowly past as they stayed out of this lee. We gybed to get out of the lee and very slowly started to make up for the lost ground.
With the helmsman pulling out all stops and using every trick in the book to sail faster in light winds not participating in conservation or the usual banter with our watch we simply sailed with maximum focus. We were rewarded at sunset with not only the glorious view of the setting sun colouring the sky with reds, pinks and yellows but we could also see Welcome to Yorkshire once again over our stern as they tried to catch us up once more. It was to be a game of cat and mouse.
Once we had sailed past Welcome to Yorkshire we were now in second place with the leading boat being De Lage Landen who were currently nine miles to the south of us and 30 miles to the east. By the night of day four 'bow girl' was called to action once again as we had been sailing with the medium weight spinnaker on the light weight sheets (rope) when the winds increased to 23-24 knots of breeze at around 0200 in the morning. So using my climbing skills I was hoisted up the sheet in the dead of night under a cloudy dark sky to attach the heavy weight sheet and remove the light weight, once the line had been transferred. Mission completed.
With the boats sailing down wind in warming airs and light breezes it allows for the mothers (cooks) to create all sorts of culinary delights from Thai Green Curry to a Mexican special of Burritos and corn chips. Yummy. We have also been having to opportunity to do a lot of helming training and allow people to move around the different positions on the boat and gain the full experience, for once it is not storm conditions and I still wake up each morning and need to pinch myself at the sight of sunshine.
We have now lost sight of all the surrounding boats but they do drift in and out of the radar screen so we are tracking our progress in relation to their’s and the tactical decision was made to go close to the coast line and hopefully pick up some more current and sea breezes.
Almost every day we have been visited by a form of wildlife from dolphins, whales, sea lions and turtles as we sail further south into the warmer waters of the tropics and by day seven at sea our tactic of going along the coast line have paid off and we are finally in first place with a fantastic 30 mile lead on the next boat. And tactically there is to be more wind to the south of us over the next few days so we should be feeling the benefits of this before the rest of the fleet and hopefully increasing our lead further.
- Lisa Blair
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