Race 4 – Cape Town to Albany – The Southern Ocean 24 days

After gearing up for the race start and being in the leading pack for the first two marks, the Team Garmin bad luck reared it’s head to stop us in our tracks.  Ben and Scotty noticed that the rigging wasn’t quite as it should be.  It was with a great deal of disappointment, that we turned the boat round and headed back to Cape Town.  After a great deal of scratching of heads and a bit of going out and testing the rig set-up, we eventually left 48 hours after the rest of the fleet.  Our focus was now on making sure we became a more rounded crew in terms of skills and taking a few flyers to see if we can make up the time.  After only 72 hours, news reports started to reach us of some of the boats having to med-vac people off with injuries.  The crew were a little subdued at this news as it is a reminder of the harsh environment we were entering.  The first storm came about 12 days in.

For those who haven’t experienced the Southern Ocean, Jim Bennett wrote a fantastic blog for our crew diary on how to recreate it involving sprinklers, a fire hose, buckets of ice cold water and a bucking bronco. The Southern Ocean Experience

Being washed from the rail down into the pit by a wave like a pack of dominos looks good on camera but can hurt a little as I became the cushion at the bottom of the pile.  I can say that I have never been so cold and wet and even took to sleeping in most of my clothes (only getting rid of the wet foulies).  Thanks to Tracy, I now have a spare pair of base layers to take the Pacific.  Was it scary – of course but you forgot how much after the event and just feel exhilaration that you managed to survive something that not many others have gone through.

The highlight has to be surfing down a wave at over 20 knots with the spinnaker, something that I now try and emulate whenever we have some waves.  Others have done faster but I also know that some have confessed to shutting their eyes as they hold onto the wheel!  You do have the life of 21 crew in your hands when helming so feeling in control as much as is possible given mother nature has just picked you up and is propelling you through the water is quite important.

We arrived in Albany in the small hours of the morning to a huge reception – two boats came to meet us with over 40 people onboard and the same again stood on the dockside to greet us.  It was an emotional hello as we also knew that we were loosing almost half the crew in Albany – many of whom had family there to see them.  I learnt an amazing amount on this leg and thanks to Ben for stepping in.  He provided a crew who were feeling a bit battered with a renewed sense of purpose and ‘we can do this’.  If we had been with the fleet, our elapsed time would have given us 4th place (making up over 24 hours) but in reality we may have had better weather as the front runner did and could have been up there on the podium.  Hopefully something we can build on for future legs.

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