The fog hangs thick and heavy for the crew on board Gold Coast Australia our view was reduced to 300 meters, sailing downwind with the heavy weight spinnaker in a healthy 25 knots of wind on our tenth day at sea. Racing across the North Atlantic, competing in the Race 13 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. Throughout the sail from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland the fog had become a regular occurrence, experiencing only sunshine once so far we often feel, as our skipper Richard Hewson suggested, that we are in a simulator or bubble, our own little one mile long world.
By the following day we had changed up to the medium weight spinnaker and were sailing along happily when the winds once again built to 23-25 knots at the lunch time happy hour so with all the crew on deck we once again hoisted the heavy weight spinnaker and were able to come up slightly on our course so that we were sailing directly for the northern tip of Ireland that we needed to round before arriving in Derry-Londonderry. Still holding our lead with Welcome to Yorkshire a comfortable 89 miles behind. The rest of the fleet still stretched out over 500 miles.
With these long ocean crossings chafe was always a concern with the watch leaders performing routine chafe checks of all the lines and sheets around the deck. Something that we had been unable to check for a few days had been the working spinnaker guy so once again I donned the safety harness and climbed out to the end of the spinnaker pole. Because the guy rope was in use I attached a new line to the end of the spinnaker and climbed back down. Safely the deck we performed a half guy dropping the pole down and changing out the guys, then re-setting the spinnaker pole. Just a simple matter of climbing out to the end of the spinnaker pole again to retrieve the old guy. This time there was no chafe on it but it pays to be careful with these as they take a lot of strain and it became very messy when they break, broken spinnaker and poles.
Still a good 95 miles ahead of Singapore on day 12 at sea sailing in a lovely 17-20 knots once again under the medium weight spinnaker. By the afternoon the winds backed around so much that it became impossible to maintain course under the spinnaker so we dropped the spinnaker and hoisted the Yankee 1, altering our course further to the north and on a direct line to the finish. The fog lifted long enough for us to have a very small patch of blue sky but then it once again came down. The winds also lightened to 6-12 knots and became shifty making it hard of the helm to try to maintain a direct course but trim, trim, trim and we will get there in the end. Only 388 miles left to run so we are all anticipating the hot showers and even better a hot meal with a cold beer.
As the sky’s lighted on the morning of day 13 at sea with a constant drizzling rain. I was awoken at 0330 am for watch only to come on deck and find the boat drifting in 2-3 knots of wind going nowhere. With 150 miles left to run this was so painful as we potentially could sit here all day while land was so close. It was a case of wind seeker up, wind seeker down, light weight spinnaker up, light weight spinnaker down, wind seeker up, wind seeker down and finally Yankee 1 up with a nice 7-9 knots of wind by the end of the watch. Meanwhile Singapore was still sailing with nice winds and reduced our lead down to 60 miles.
By the afternoon watch we had less than 70 miles left to run and were merrily sailing in 17-20 knots of wind with the heavy weight spinnaker flying under blue skies with sunshine, something that we have seen very little of these past two weeks. The winds continued to be fluky as we closed in on the finish line. At around 2300 pm that night the horizon was filled with the lights of Ireland. I was on the helm when out of the corner of my eye I saw something drifting down the side of the hull. Oh ho it was two buoys marking a lobster pot, something that we definitely did not want to get stuck on. I watch as we sailed past and looked behind to see if we were dragging it with us, “Rich, Rich, we have caught a lobster pot.” He comes up on deck just as the buoys disappear into the darkness. I assumed that we had shaken off them as our speed was the same. Only a few minutes later we went from 7 knots to 0 knots of boat speed as we were halted all together. Big bummer.
Potentially we could sit here for hours trying to work it free and allowing the rest of the fleet to catch us up. Not good. After 40 minutes of trying Rich was just about to jump over the side when we tacked and sailed free. What luck. Keeping a very careful eye out for anymore pots we continued to the finish. Finally after lots of fluky winds we arrived at the finish at 0330 am to a flotilla of boats to welcome us in, the Irish Coast Guard gave us a gift of whiskey and another supporting boat gave us some Champagne. Let the celebrations begin as we receive one of the best welcomes yet. For two hours people lined the bank of the River Foyle and waved to us as we made our way to the marina. What a lovely place.
- Lisa Blair
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