Race 11 – San Fransisco to Panama – 18 days plus 3 days motoring

After a night of talking boats with Bill, Pete and the team at the South Beach Yacht Club, the race start was iconic, sailing past Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge back out into the Pacific.  A new crew who bring loads of energy to the boat and a new watch leader – me!  One of the best elements of this journey is the crew turnaround as you get to meet amazing people.  This leg is no exception and I have the honour of coaching them through their first ocean race.  We popped the Code 2 early and worked hard to make sure we kept up with the leaders.  I think the presence of the 50 ft fin whale that popped up a few metres off our starboard side must have been a sign of good luck, but a little scary he was so close.  Our effort and tenacity paid off as we gained our first points through a scoring gate – 2 points added and pipping Derry to the gate.  This is the first time we have really done match racing with the rest of the fleet. and its great fun.

There was a morning where we had Derry trying to come up onto us and DLL behind.  I was helming and having great fun holding them both until Derry decided to tack away.  Everything seems to have come together in this race.  Taking on the role of watch leader has given me a new lease of energy.  I have perfected my kite helming and learnt a new technique that sends me almost trance like state (learnt from Doctor Dan’s dancing technique).   Being involved in the tactical decisions has also given me a new understanding of weather routing, sea breezes and currents.  Our decision to go in-shore and catch some sea breeze paid off, especially making the move to the east in stealth mode.

The race finish was nail-biting as we match raced with Jamaica.

Interchanging the Code 1 for the Windseeker and back again to try and eek out any bit of speed to keep going.  With Jamaica less than a mile off our port side, they seemed to get some wind we didn’t and our fight for a podium finished.  Although we got 4th, we celebrated.  It’s our best result so far and we proved that both the boat and the crew can achieve if we are put in the right position in the ocean.  We celebrated with a swim with Jamaica and Henry Lloyd and a few jelly fish (fortunately we have vinegar onboard and it created a good scar for 24 hours).  Through the race I was, on occasion, distracted by dolphins swimming through the phosphorescence, a ‘pod’ of turtles circling the boat when we had no wind and plenty of stars (I can now spot the Scorpion as well as the Southern Cross).  There was the mystery of the ‘Midnight Baker’ who seemed to provide the most delectable treats, even when it wasn’t anyone’s birthday.  Rumours suggest it was a crew member who we stole from Derry.

Whilst we are on this journey, the normal world continues.  I have two friends who will have a  new addition to their families and I haven’t even seen them getting fatter.  One of our crew had some sad news about the loss of two family members.  It reminded me that time with those I love is precious and I intend to spend time with them when I return to the UK.

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