This Leg was always going to be the most challenging with only 13 crew plus the skipper and the reputation of severe weather causing the most damage and injury on previous Clipper races. After leaving port, a ‘fake’ race start, we motored out avoiding the major shipping. A comforting voice on the radio from the lead boat, reminded me of how close we are across the fleet and I knew that once we hit shore again there would be a great support network. The challenge came from an unexpected place to start with as I came down with a 24 hour sickness bug which laid me out for one of the night watches. Its one of the worst feelings on a boat as you struggle to get comfortable in the bunks and also being so short-handed, you feel like you are letting the crew down. My advise to anyone considering this ocean journey would be to make sure you are fit and healthy before setting off.
The mighty North Pacific was kinder to us than previous races and although it was tough, the weather was a little less testing. It was one of my most unenjoyable ocean crossings as everything was grey, grey, grey. The weather cooled dramatically and it was as wet on deck as it was below (with condensation building on every surface, including any clothing not in a dry bag). The engine room looked like a Chinese laundry as we attempted to have dry gloves and socks to put on for the next watch. My own fashion statement was the addition of some plastic bags in my boots in an attempt to try and keep my feet dry and warm. At its coldest, I managed to squeeze myself into 9 layers and still managed to move enough to do a head sail change. Dan’s hot water bottle was received with lots of thanks.
The days were relentless, although the rain did stop for some of the days. We started well as we headed up to Japan….First the Code 2 went on a bit of a trawling expedition, with a few holes to repair on the head. Less than 24 hours later, our race campaign came to an abrupt end with clusterf*** number 2. The Code 3 wrapped around the outer and inner forestay. Scotty, Jim and skipper bravely took their turn to go up and try to unwrap it in over 60 knots of wind. It took nearly 48 hours to eventually pull it to the deck (after loosing some to the North Pacific) and some frightening noises as the rigging was pulled from side to side. All our moments were captured on camera by Ollie. Here is a link. Crossing the North Pacific It shows our spinny wrap in full detail…
Team Garmin are known for their tenacity and after our clustf***, we managed to regain our mojo and focus on trying to crawl our way back up the fleet positions. We became a very efficient crew, managing to change a head sail with only 5 people – 1 helming, 3 on the foredeck wrestling the sail down and 1 in the pit working sheets and halyards. Even flaking the sail (putting it into its bag) became an art form as we pulled it into shape at a 45 degree angle. Physically it was tough but also for me personally, it was the lack of ‘girl talk’ that proved challenging. Someone to share thoughts with and get a bit of empathy back. The boys did their best to step up but sometimes ‘muscle up princess’ isn’t what you are looking for! We did have some interesting chats about being a father, waxing and who would you put in a liferaft first.
A key milestone on this leg was to cross the International Date Line or Groundhog day as we called it. I expected the lat and long to read the exact place of the date line but it passed by too quickly to take a picture. I did have to use a ‘notes’ page in my diary to capture the additional day. The real milestone is that we were now officially homeward bound, which was a great feeling.
For others, there was a more frightening milestone as it came through by email that Derry had a MOB (Man OverBoard). It was Andrew, a close friend. He spent 90 minutes in the water, he’s saving grace was his dry suit and personal AIS beacon (thank goodness I have my AIS too). A very real reminder of how quickly it can all go wrong. He is a very lucky man and I’m sure this will be a pivotal moment in his life. We weren’t without our injuries as Lindsay and Scotty both seriously damaged their ribs. Hopefully they will recover before the next Leg but for now its light duties only.
We managed to claw back some time and finished in 9th.