The End - Thanks and Praise

Post Race…..Blues?

So it’s been a good long while since the race finished. What have I been up to? You won’t be particularly interested Im sure. Certainly not as exciting.

I stayed in the UK to complete my Yachtmaster offshore exam, did some sailing in Cowes week. Caught up with a lot of friends in London. Moved back out to Cayman and took the old job back - big thanks to Estera for having me back.

It has been awesome being back in Cayman, getting to catch up with everyone. I guess Cayman isn’t a particularly hard place to come to after such an adventure as there is a lot of adventure to be had here. Sailing, free diving, fishing, scuba, paddle boarding, coaching, getting fit again, 

I am still being asked a lot of questions about the race. I love it. It lets me relive it time and time again. I really don’t get bored of it. Sitting in front of a computer day in and day out has been hard after a year off. Still trying to remember how to do certain things that I thought were rote memory, like how to switch the damn thing on!

One of the main questions I get asked is “would you do it again?”. I would always quote my friend Ine (RTW on Nasdaq) who had the best response, “I wouldn’t do it again. But I would definitely do it again for the first time”. As in, I am so glad I did it, not a single regret, but I couldn’t do the same race with the same team on the same boat again. Would I go round the world again? Yes certainly. If the right opportunity arose - a fast boat, the Volvo Ocean Race, slow relaxed cruising on my own boat with all the time in the world - but these are pipe dreams. 

But that was then. Now 5 months later and I miss it. I’ve had some time off. I could do it again. Maybe I should apply for the Mate role! Maybe I should apply for Skipper! Who knows! Next post on this blog may well be the start of the next campaign…..but don’t hold your breath.

Thank Yous

I would like to say a few quick thanks.

Firstly to all of you who actually read this. I thought it would just be family and a few weird friends (JT and JCon) but the amount of messages, emails and post race comments I have had really have made it worth while and I’m so glad you were interested but also gave me a bit of confidence to keep writing it.

Thanks to the Clipper Race office, maintenance team and PR team. You lot were both great friends around the race and made the race the epic event it was. Cheers.

Thanks of course to Elliot Brown for the ambassadorship. Provided a lot of laughs on the boat and I love my watches. www.elliotbrownwatches.com

Thanks to JR and Peripheral sunglasses. Great boat sunglasses. Affordable, fairly robust (well robust enough for ocean racing just not robust enough for smashing between head and bulkhead). Along with Peripheral we were able to raise a couple fo grand for the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. www.peripheralls.com Cayman crowd check them out and buy them.

Thanks to all the friends I made. Total legends.

Thanks to the Liverpool 2018 crew for one hell of a year and to our circumnavigators who were my surrogate family during this time. We will always be bonded, I know its a cliche but now I understand why. 

Thanks to Lance. My skipper. You taught me so much and will forever be one of the biggest influences on my sailing. We had a ton of laughs and I hope there will be more sailing together in the future. But mostly thank you for getting me and the rest of the crew around safely (especially considering I was meant to be the medic) and in such good spirits and camaraderie. You really know how to skipper a boat.

Thanks of course to the fam jam who were pretty damn supportive and encouraging.

Liverpool 2018 no photo.jpg

Leg 8 Race 13 & 14 - Round the Ireland Race/ Sprint for the Line

Leg 8 Race 13 - Derry Londonderry~Doire, Northern Ireland to LIverpool, U.K. (HOME!!!!)

Number of souls on board: 24

Distance sailed: 973nm

Number of days at sea: 5

Finish position: 2nd

Oh what a race! This was one of the best. SO EXCITING. So disappointing. So rewarding. 

After the last race, we were feeling a bit low. We had a good start and yet came last again due to circumstances outside our control. This was also our home run…the run into Liverpool. We wanted a good result. We really wanted a good result. 

Londonderry gave us an incredible send off. A fantastic parade down the river and then a very tight start in the river mouth with some fluky winds and some funny tidal whirls. It wasn’t great for us. Shafted on the line when we were in the right of way. And a crappy start to the night. But I have to give props to the port watch first night shift. We killed it! Sailed very carefully and crept up a few places….or maybe the other boats dropped back a few places! When starboard watch took over they set a new tone in the early morning. They showed us we were going to play these wind shifts tacking along the northern Irish coast. We were chasing a wind shift out to the west of Ireland. The first few boats that got there would have an advantage the rest would have to fight harder and longer. Luckily thanks to some clever tacking on the shifts, some great sail trim and a slightly heavier boat than the rest of the fleet we made it in front of that shift. 

We started charging down the Irish coast to a virtual mark and unbelievably made it to the virtual mark first. Not by a long way but we were in the lead! Then surfing east past the fastnet rock before turning up the Irish Sea and st. George’s channel. 

This where the disappointment kicked in. Our heavy boat advantage, which had helped us keep upright and to punch through the waves on the way south now turned against us. We were sailing north, with the wind behind us and the spinnaker up and the Qingdao boat bearing down on us fast. Inevitably they caught and overhauled us. But then the panic really began. Garmin weren’t far behind them. It now looked like we might concede 2nd place as well. 

We pulled out all the stops as we approached the finish line. The off watch were first woken up to move to bunks on the high side of the boat as we started reaching for the finish line. When that wasn’t enough they were woken up to get on deck to sit on the high side - sorry guys! We watched the chart plotter closely and saw Qingdao ahead of us having a hard time in some fluky winds. Despite foreseeing it we still got stuck. Eventually this brought Garmin far too close. We finished the race just 6 minutes ahead of them!

That was it. Our circumnavigation was complete! We had crossed our outbound track on the way up the Irish Sea - and as I have claimed many times we were the first boat to do in this Clipper fleet, so technically (by a really far stretch) we were 1st! We hung around to congratulate the other boats as they finished. Particularly, Sanya and Seattle who finished the overall race 1st and second - both female skippers - amazing and historical for sailing. 

The next day would be our final race on Liverpool 2018 down the river Mersey into the grand finish and last prize giving.


Leg 8 Race 14 - Liverpool, U.K.

Number of souls on board: 24

Distance sailed: maybe 20 nm?

Number of days at sea: 1/2

Finish position: 3rd

Number cruise ships trying to kill us: 1

This was the best race for me. This was basically in-shore racing. We had another Le Mans start. My skipper, Lance, was in charge of organising the start so he left me to organise the boat. Unfortunately/fortunately just before the start he wind started howling and all the boats were pretty heavily overpowered. Brilliant! Certainly was going to be a great spectacle and this is what these boats are designed for anyway. 

I thought Lance would grab the helm back once the start sequence had cleared and we were properly underway but he left me to it. As we made for the channel, fighting gust after gust, only a few metres from the other boats it was some of the most exhilarating helming..or so I thought. Again I assumed once we turned into the river that Lance would grab the helm for the close quarters stuff. He left me to it. We had a good rhythm at this point - Lance calling the shots, Claire Bear in the nav station, Nano getting soaked and battered on the bow calling the trim, all hand working their nuts off to keep the trim. We were holding good position. Then drama struck.

We had been following a big cruise liner down the river but when it reached its dock it had to spin 180 degrees to go alongside. This meant the stern (the backside) swung out into the river cutting the river width in half as it did so. This was the point we were trying to overtake…with three other boats! A fierce tacking battle ensued. Lots of big bear aways and dips. Lots of screaming. And some amazing nerves from both Lance and myself to make it in front of boats by a dolphins hair. We came out on top and crossed the line in third place. Some of the most exciting sailing of the whole race. 

And we were finished. For me it took a while for the adrenaline and the high of this race to wear off. But no sooner had I come down from that cloud to realise I was still floating. This race had finished. But so had Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 17-18! We really were done. We really had done it. I just circumnavigated the world. Even now writing this I cringe with the sensational-ity I am attempting to use but I really cannot coney the feeling. I didn’t expect it. I thought I would just take it in my stride I mean it had been a year coming. It had been over 7 years of dreaming, saving, wondering and hoping. 

The crowd on the banks were loud. We could hear them despite all the wind around us. The colours were awesome. We packed the boat up and prepared for our parade of sail. The short journey up and down the quayside and into Albert Docks was spectacular. What a welcome. Makes you feel kind of heroic. 

Most of the end of this is kind of a blur. I had amazing support from family and friends, the Keane-Simey’s, the newly ribbed Gibbs, McMillans and of course Moons. Lots of excited conversations. The final prize giving. Some beer. A case of pink Moet (thanks DeeDee). A million and one congratulations both given and received. So proud of our whole crew. So privileged to have met and sailed with them all. So proud of the Liverpool 2018 round the worlders, legends. So proud of my skips, Lancelot. So proud fo the fleet. Mostly so proud to have been part of it because of all these amazing people, to be counted in that number.

Leg 8 Race 12 - Heading for Home

Leg 8 Race 12 - New York City, U.S.A. to Derry Londonderry~Doire, Northern Ireland 

Number of souls on board: 24 at the start!

Distance sailed: 3,195nm

Number of days at sea: 16

Finish position: 11th

Firstly, sorry this has taken so long.

New York was an epic stop over but the number of people and the level of consumerism was pretty overwhelming when you’ve spent the last ten months on the ocean with nothing but the same 5 pairs of undies and your only purchase has been technical wear!

Our race day started with a parade of sail up and down the Hudson before we motored out into the Atlantic overnight for another Le Mans start in the morning. How epic this was though. Just after the start, while all the boats were still compacted and in a pretty tight line a small pod of humpback’s dissected our fleet. We were probably the closest boat to these great whales slapping their tales on the water and giving us a wave good bye. We were close enough to smell…and practically taste…the spume from one whales blow hole. Horrendous. This was one of the greatest events fo nature throughout this whole race.

Over the first day and night we raced hard and were performing quite well. Our re-tuned rig probably helping a lot. This was always going to be a very interesting race tactically to see which boats went the most direct route and which boats took a gamble to head for the Gulf Stream current. We were the latter. By the third day it was paying off. We were screaming along, contesting with in the top 3 positions. Some of the boats that had also shot for the current were either too far north or too far south, we had it perfect. But it was uncomfortable. We had the wind on a beam reach or just in front, with the current behind us. Fast sailing but the boat was bucking around like a rodeo bull. But the sailing was so damn fast.

Unfortunately this bucking boat didn’t bode well for one of our crew. The only new guy on the leg started to suffer quite severely from sea sickness. The old green monster. Even more unfortunately he was type I diabetic so the sever sea sickness led to a potential of other problems. After consultation with the telemed team we were instructed to divert to St. Johns, Newfoundland. This put an end to our racing. St. Johns was a good way due north, above our ice limit but was the closest practical place to pull in. Of course once we had gone far enough north to leave the gulf stream the boat settled down and our man started to recover. 

The journey up there was pretty sketchy. We knew we were both above the Clipper Race office ice limit and the NOAA ice limit so we were on a sharp lookout. But that was pretty difficult in all of 25ft visibility due to fog. And it was damn cold. Even hailing on us at one point. Luckily for a few VHF calls with passing boats coming from the North they had not seen any icebergs.

Once we had come to terms with it, a night in St. Johns wasn’t the worse thing. Given the situation we were all pretty well accepting of a night in a proper bed, a skin full of booze and some of the biggest steaks you’ve ever seen. St. Johns was very kind to us but what a weird place. Some crazy full blown Irish accents descending from the original settlers there. 

The next morning we set off again and motored directly south until we had cleared the NOAA ice line and then set the sails and began our charge to the east. Luckily we had some pretty strong weather for some exciting sailing and the right conditions to start to catch up with the fleet a little bit. Not much more eventful happened (luckily) unit our arrival into Derry. But a great warm welcome and and beautiful drive up the river Derry. 

Our first night arrival was unfortunately on the anniversary of the Orange March and there were some ridiculous number of petrol bombs thrown that night - fortunately I was totally oblivious to the whole shebang. 

Derry was an incredible stopover. Its the final stopover. The last time you might be with most of these people. The last time we will get back on the boat.  Lots of old crew made the effort to come over for it. It was heavy. But one hell of a party. There is a great sea festival going on while we were there and the city was alive. 

It was also my birthday. Dangerous. A huge and emotional thanks to the whole crew that threw me a surprise party including the scary masks of my own face. I will get revenge one day. Red, Jonny P, Dani, Simone, Claire, Dee, Charlotte, Carrie, Wes, Vic, Nano, Nikki, Anne-Lise, Bex, Harry, Jacobo, Mia, Roy, Ribber. These are some of the friends who made this race for me outside of the Liverpool 2018 crew. The folks I won’t lose touch with. Its amazing the people you meet on this race, in these weird circumstances. And what good friends they can become.

Leg 7 Race 11 - Home Turf

Leg 7 Race 11 - Panama City, Panama to New York City, U.S.A.

Number of souls on board: 19

Distance sailed: 2,287nm

Number of days at sea: 13

Finish position: 11th

 

We had a short stop in Panama City. Just a couple of days. But enough time off to get some rest and explore Casca Vieja (the old town) and catch up with some Tawnie and David Farinez in their new home town. The old town in Panama is very cool, a nice rum bar (Pedro Mandinga) and some very cool rooftop bars. 

But the really exciting bit was the transit of the Panama Canal and crossing under the bridge of the Americas. This was slightly less spectacular than I imagined. With the locks being smaller than expected but the magnitude and understanding of the engineering feat and the impact on global economy that was driven by the building of the canal did not go missing. Plus it was ridiculous to have a 250ft container ship squeeze into the locks behind you, so tightly fit that there wasn’t even enough room for fenders down the sides of her hull. 

Once in the Atlantic and clear of the shipping lanes we had another Le Mans start to kick off Race 11. We missed a tactical opportunity to head east at the beginning and instead remained with most of the fleet heading north into the Caribbean sea. In the end this wasn’t the right call as we never got the right angle to tack back east and the boats that did go east initially all did really well in this race. 

In fact we made all our mistakes early with a few calls that unfortunately didn’t play out in our favour. You do what you can, analyse the weather and the information available and try to make the best call but it doesn’t always go to plan. Unfortunately throughout most of this race the old adage “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” has applied and once a boat has or starts to fall behind the weather systems haven’t been kind and these boats have fallen behind. Such was the case for us, with wind shifts and wind holes making our progression even slower. 

We spent the race of the race trying our best to catch the two boats in front of us but with no avail. However it was a fantastic race. Beautiful Caribbean sailing. Fast sailing for the most part. And great team work. Beautiful weather too. 

Plus we caught a fish finally! We have carried a fishing rod thew whole way round the world and this is the first fish we caught. Now admittedly we haven’t had the rod out that much. We lost all our lures on Leg 1 and we are often sailing too quickly or too slowly for fishing. But in Panama I bought some new lures and set it up. We had three strikes the second of which we landed. Who knows what it was. To me it looked like a snapper but was dark green, it had a beautiful white flesh and tasted amazing - any suggestions. 

We are now in New York exploring this amazing city. It is insanely overwhelming at times with the volume of people and the consumerism after a nearly a year of the complete opposite. I have been able to catch up with some good friends as well - Ash, Cas and Jeff plus the Estera Crew. We have got an awesome set up here. The boats are based at the Liberty Landing Marina on the New Jersey side and it is just a short ferry ride or subway trip across to Manhattan. 

We had a spectacular motor in in the dark being completely awe-struck by the lights of the Manhattan skyline, passed the illuminated statue fo liberty and Ellis Island. Unfortunately due to low tide we couldn’t immediately enter the marina and were therefore also afforded sunrise over these same views. Truly amazing. 

I also have to shout out Ali B who trekked all the way up here to surprise me. It was a complete surprising and really endearing to have such a good friend make so much effort. Al has been my biggest supporter and follower of this race, I’m so glad ~I could get to show him the boats and introduce him to my skipper, crew and the friends I have made on this race. It was just a shame he wasn’t here for a Liverpool podium prize giving!

Now we look ahead to final leg. Mixed emotions starting to rise already. It will be immensely sad to leave this circus show but after such an intense year I am certainly looking forward to a break and a change. I don’t think I will know how I really feel until it really is over - watch out for tears!

Leg 7 Race 10 - The Downwind Derby

Leg 7 Race 10 - Seattle, U.S.A. to Panama City, Panama

Number of souls on board: 19

Distance sailed: 4,293nm

Number of days at sea: 30

Finish position: 11th…..a spectacular last.

Number of spinnakers torn: 4 

 

So what can we say about the first race of leg 7? Quite a lot actually. I had been really looking forward to this race down the west coast of the States. I have definitely worked out that I like warm and fair weather sailing…so sue me. Its just more enjoyable wearing minimal clothes and sailing in the sunshine and on flatter seas.

Seattle had been a great stopover. It was nice to be in familiar lands after China. Being able to buy toothpaste and deodorant simply and easily made the admin that is necessary in each stopover considerably easier and less stressful. We were also treated to mostly sunshine and clear skies which is unusual in that part of the world. Seattle has a beautiful scenery looking out over the Cascades, Mount Rainier and the Olympic National Park. My folks came up to surprise me and and Laura Colley Mallulla Titcombe also paid a fleeting visit. We can recommend the views of the city from the Columbia Tower Club 73rd floor.

This race has turned out to be one giant spinnaker run mostly in pretty light airs. I think we only had the yankee up for about half a day while all three spinnakers were in for repair, otherwise it has been one spinnaker or another the whole way.

We started the race with a short in port race that proved quite amusing. A number of the leading boats had not read the course instructions properly and were running in towards the finish line. However the finish line mark had to be rounded into to finish up wind - this meant we snuck into a third place finish. Unfortunately this doesn’t count for any points but was a nice boost.

We then proceeded to motor back out of the Puget Sound and down the Juan de Fuca straight. This is a beautiful area with incredible scenery of mountains and thick everglade forest. I will certainly keep it on my list to come back to and would love to sail up and down the coast but I hear there are a lot of bears.

Once we were back in the Pacific we lined up for another Le Mans start. This all went smoothly but that was about it. Due to some nervous flying the spinnakers on the first night with a new watch leader in marginal conditions we sailed (in company) a slightly further route offshore. During this time we continued to drop back. When we did launch the kite the same continued to happen. Very quickly we were struggling in different winds from the majority of the fleet and fell further and further behind. Add to that the fact we (when I say we I mean I) tore all three spinnakers in the first 5 days and we were nearly 250 miles behind within the first week. 

It was insanely depressing. A week into the race and already fighting thoughts of just giving up and cruising the rest of the way. We kept each other going, fantastic emails from friends, family and loved ones helped to buoy our spirits and most importantly we had seen other boats gain or lose this distance in a matter of days on previous races. All could not be lost.

We set about our usual attitude. Spend a lot of time coaching the new joiners in spinnaker flying. Test out some theories on what might make us go faster and keep trying our best and pushing hard. It is certainly a lot easier to do the latter when you have the other boats on AIS range to compare your boat speeds to. We have done a fantastic job of this. The new joiners are flying the spinnakers beautifully with very little input from us coaches. The gybes, drops and hoists run incredibly smoothly. 

Apart from one incidence where a gybe went wrong. Bad enough that Lance (skipper) flicked the engine on to spin the boat through the gybe as the spinnaker was wrapped round the forestay in a funny way. While doing this we lost one of the sheets over the front of the boat and before the engine could be pulled back into neutral we had caught it in the propellor. We couldn’t get this undone. The next morning our hero and sexy Uruguayan, Nano, went for another very cold swim. But sue to the swell action lifting and dropping the boat he felt unsafe and unable to get under the boat to the propellor. So we neatened up the trailing lines as best we could and continued on our way looking for a calmer day. 

Finally that day arrived. We strapped all the fuel cans and our MOB dummy to the end of the boom and swung it out as far as it would go to try and heel the boat over. Nano jumped in and was able to reach the propellor and free the line. Amazing. Off we went. However, of course the boss went to check the engine ran fine and realised we had no drive. On inspection the gearbox adaptor plate was cracked and split. So no engine. The really funny thing was that this hadn’t split when he looked before. He also noticed that the drive shaft was further back than it should be and not aligned with gears. Had someone been trying to crank the spinnaker sheet too hard when it was caught in order to free it and therefore yanked the prop and drive shaft backward causing this issue? We will never know but we now had no engine.

Surely this is no problem in a sailing race? Well we were expecting to use the engine towards the end of the race in order to motor through the doldrums and reach Panama in time for our canal booking. 

Anyway, as we sailed south, the temperature rose….and then soared. We cruised down the Californian coast and then the mighty Mexican coastline. Did you know Mexico has more pacific coastline that the US (excluding Alaska)? It is fricking huge. Very quickly I was in nothing but boardshorts, even by night. At times we were just 30 miles from the Mexican coast and could see big mountains and the lights of various lighthouses. There was plenty of sea life particularly in the calmer days often we say turtles , dolphins boobies and seagulls.

This part of the race was characterised by light winds and we did our best to play the angles and shifts to Mae any gains we could on the fleet. We caught up a little but it was not enough. The worst part was the rest of the fleet were all so close to each other. Fighting tooth and nail for every half knot of boat speed in what must have been very tense but incredibly exciting racing. Unfortunately Qingdao who had led the entire race finished in 8th. Gutting for them but one hell of a finish.

Once the race had finished we still had a huge number of miles to motor. And we had no motor. So we continued our sail in order to rendezvous with two other boats who would tow us through the windless patches. During this time I had one of the best days on this whole adventure so far. 

The racing had finished so there was no pressure. The wind had picked up and we had about 8 knots fo boat speed with the Code 1 up on a beam reach. Fantastic sailing. I had a great conversation with Mikey Star why helming. We played some great music from Bob Dylan, Juzzie Smith, Bendouin Soundlcash and Ben Howard. We interspersed the heat fo the day with salt water bucket showers and finished the evening with a snooze on the foredeck lying on the sails watching a bull blood red Mexican sunset. It reminded me how nice it is to sail when cruising. To sail in nice places. It is also why we came on the Clipper race to do something so different from the every day. This was exactly that, it was even distant enough from the everyday that we have been living on the race. It was exquisite. 

The other nice thing about the race being terminated but still being at sea is the opportunity for learning. We have a ton of books on board on sailing related stuff. And I have been reading tons to take the opportunity to soak it up while I am in this environment. There was a book on VHF radio licenses and one really good one “How Boat Things Work”. I have also read “A journey for madmen” and fantastic read about the stories of the sailors who took part in the Golden Globe Race - a race to be the first solo non-stop circumnavigator held 50 years ago. The Chairman of this Clipper Race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnstone being the only one to complete that race and the winner.

With it being a relatively long sail and the heat we were all looking forward to reaching Panama. Thoughts were drifting to pool parties, cold beers and air conditioned hotel rooms. And of course the excitement that awaited us in crossing through the Panama Canal.

Despite the poor result it was a fun race. We had a great crew and the dynamic was fantastic. If we forget it was meant to be a race then it was a truly lovely sail down the west coast of the North American continent. That’s certainly how I will remember it.

Leg 6 Race 9 - As cold as the cold wind blows

Leg 6 Race 9 - Qingdao, China to Seattle, U.S.A.

Number of souls on board: 20

Distance sailed: we’re going to call it 6,000nm

Number of days at sea: 29

Finish position: 10th

Damage: very little

Injuries: none

Stupid moments we won’t tell my mother about: just 1!

 

The mighty north pacific they said. A race to endure not enjoy. Well that was true. No, this was not my favourite race but I can say I feel proud to have completed this part of thew race. Very proud.

We started with horrible light winds. Totally unexpected for this leg but we sat drifting around and moving only 500 miles in the first 6 days. This essentially added an extra week to the whole race. But you got to be careful what you wish for. Once we had made our way into the middle of the pacific, miles from any human contact, the big north pacific low pressure systems began to swing through the fleet. One of these in particular produced 75 - 100 knot winds (hurricane force) and 14+ meter swells (known as “phenomenal”) and battered the fleet. Luckily we all made it through with little damage or injury but there are certainly a good few stories circulating around the fleet here in Seattle.

But despite this rough weather the biggest challenge for me was not physical but mental and emotional. A constant fight to keep myself motivated and competitive day in, day out…watch after watch for 30 days. That’s 75 watches. 75 times I had to climb out of a warm, semi-dry sleeping bag to put on cold wet clothes and climb up onto a freezing cold deck blasted with wind, rain, sea spray and occasionally sleet. No lazy Sunday lie ins. No days off. 

As a watch leader on Liverpool 2018 boat, part of the responsibility lies in motivating the rest of the crew. It took great reserves of energy to get myself motivated to get on deck not to mention trying to excite our crew for another headsail change. “Come on guys, let’s go drag a heavy sail around where we can barely balance enough to stand up while icy buckets of water are thrown at your face…..oh and we will probably have to change it back…..but not till the sweat has dried and you are really really frozen”. 

How do you do this? I would love some advice, expert or otherwise. It has been a steep learning curve. Can I give anyone else advice on this? Not really. I was lucky to have a great team who motivated themselves and me. I led from the front. Literally. I tried to be the first one on deck and the last one off. I would try to be the furthest forward on the boat, dragging the heaviest part of the sail, getting the wettest and the coldest. But I have to say this wasn’t always the case. And that is the only real suggestion I can give. You need the power of a great team to get through these conditions. The guys and girls that keep you motivated. Keep the laughs. Remind you that this torture is meant to be fun. To stand next to you getting just as cold and wet and waking up to do it all again 4 hours later again and again and again. But with each rotation of the hands around the watch face, each time the date window rolls forward one more day we were closer and closer to the end. Closer and closer to crossing the mighty North Pacific. Closer and closer to where we are now standing tall as proud sailors having survived an ocean very few are inclined to sail.

There was a really low moment I can recall. 7th April. Same situation as above. Cold, wet a little bit bored and insanely tired. I don’t think my toes have warmed through in the last 5 days. My finger tips are still numb when I wake up. Back home in Cayman everyone is waking up full of excitement for Simon and Harriet’s wedding. These are two of my oldest and best friends and most of my favourite people are going to be there for one hell of a party. And its going to be warm! That was a dark day.

What else do you want to hear about? The layers of clothing I had to wear? The list is long. I had on a merino wool base layer top and bottom. A thermal base layer top and bottom. Ski socks. And a thin insulting fleece. These items I never took off, seriously I slept in all that inside a double fleece lined sleeping bag. I was still cold and my feet never warmed up. When I woke up I would put on waterproof socks, a fleece lined mid layer salopettes, a down jacket and another fleece. Then my foul weather gear or dry suit. My boots. A fleece lined hat, neck buff, fleece balaclava and gloves. All of which was generally slightly damp all the time. All the mid layers that I didn’t wear to sleep in would get in the sleeping bag with me so that they were warm when I went to put them on.

On these boats, we would get wet on deck and below deck surprisingly. The condensation forming from 20 people and the cooking would leave consistent drips all over the boat. When you leant against a wall your back or bum got damp. We became like ninjas to get out of your waterproof layers and into your sleeping bag without touching anything. We would also get damp under layers from sweat. What is gross, I had one shower in the whole month. For the last two weeks I didn’t even change my boxer shorts. Gross. 

Or how about the fishing net we got caught in in the Yellow Sea. It was unmarked on AIS and we only managed to spot the small white boys at the very last minute as we ran into it. We just about managed to get untangled and freed off before the colliding with the fishing boat that was reeling us in! Unfortunately over the next day we realised we were sailing slow so at first light the next morning we dropped the sails and Nano jumped over the side to take a look. We had arm full of monofilament netting caught around the propellor shaft. Nano spent an hour and half in the water diving under the boat cutting the netting off and pulling it on board (think of the wildlife). But once we got the sail back up the problem was solved. As well as this we were constantly checking the rudders and under the boat (using the Garmin Virb) for weed we we had to continuously shake from the boat using the boat hook and leaning right over the back.

Something that was surprising about this great big storm we had (supposedly the biggest the Clipper race has had) was that it was not that terrifying. The waves were indeed big. These great walls of grey, blue and white water. And the wind was howling through the rigging. But running down wind and down waves was relatively comfortable. It was a lot of work on the helm, but down below you barely noticed save for the occasional really big surf. On deck looking forward and concentrating on the numbers and sails there was almost not enough time to notice. You really had to stop and look back at the oncoming waves to remind yourself what you were. Its also a decent credit to the boats themselves, after all they were built not just to handle this sort of thing but to be raced in it. 

So we are here in Seattle. We were warned about the amount of rain and yet we have had nothing but sun. It is a beautiful city in the sunshine. Very easy to get around and it is nice to be back on familiar turf after our stops in China where everything is easy and understandable! I have had an amazing surprise from my folks who showed up unannounced and Mrs. Laura Titcombe has come to visit. Incredible. 

For the Cayman guys remember to keep buying sunglasses to support the guy Harvey ocean foundation. Thanks again to Peripheral Life and Style and Elliot Brown Watches.

Leg 5 Race 8 - Attack of the Chinese Fishing Fleets

Leg 5 Race 7 - Sanya, Hainan Dao, China to Qingdao, China

Number of souls on board: 18

Distance sailed: 2,081nm

Number of days at sea: 12

Finish position: 3rd - another podium!!

What an interesting race. Truly one hell fo an experience. We had an exciting race start with Sanya pushing us and Garmin out of the start line so we were over the line last. We raced down to the giant Buddha statue and were 4th around this mark then the race really began charging up the East China Sea. The wind was building and on the nose, perfect for our Liverpool boat and we climbed further up the fleet. The first nights saw us passing some massive oil rigs which was disconcerting to be sailing along at night but having enough background light to see everyone on deck perfectly fine.

As we passed Taiwan we received our heaviest weather but luckily it only last a couple of days and no one suffered too badly with the sea sickness (although someone didn’t make it out of there bunk and a bundle of mattress protecting sheet and sick was found stuffed down the side of a bunk making an awful smell nearly 5 days later! 

The wind shifted round behind us which was a nice surprise because we had expected a tough upwind slog the whole way. We popped the spinnaker and then the fishing fleets attacked. These fishing fleets creep up on you. First you see a couple of boats on AIS then as you get closer they just multiply and multiply. We counted 100+ boats on AIS at one time. You would be sailing in a constant circle of lights on the horizon. Pretty unnerving to be charging to towards lights on the horizon (i am only used to this meaning land and buildings) at 10+ knots with a spinnaker up. We had an difficultly half an hour trying to sail low enough to miss a massive fishing net - too low and we would wrap the spinnaker, too high and we would wrap the keel. We passed 150m from one boat. We hit a net but fortunately it bounced straight off the keel. All very interesting sailing. 

Another issue we had as we entered the Yellow Sea was the amount of seaweed, which we assume was kicked up by the fishing operations. We tried to fish it off our rudders but eventually there was too much and it was slowing us down. So I get woken up early for my watch by Nano handing me his neoprene top and shorts as he climbs into his wetsuit. “Hey bro we finally get to go for that swim we keep asking Skip for”. This would have been fine if we were still in tropical climates but I knew the water was already freezing. “Umm, don’t you think this is a one man job I said!”. But no, we wanted to do it as fast as possible to reduce the time we were stopped for. So the spinnaker was dropped, we rounded up into the wind and Nano and I left off the side with knife in hand to clear the weed from the rudders and check the keel.  Needless to say you have never seen two guys move faster, the water was baltic. 

The next amazing part was as we cruised up past Shanghai. Dodging the cargo ships and tankers coming into and out of one of the worlds busiest ports. I don’t think you will ever feel comfortable sailing closer to a ship than it is long. Passing a 100m from a 300m boat is terrifying. 

As we neared the finish we pushed so hard. We were in 4th place but had Sanya just 5 miles in front of us with a couple of clever gybes to be made to get to the finish line. One wrong move, one bad call from them and we would have them but unfortunately we didn’t manage it. We both sailed well but they managed to hold their lead. However, a we fought through a patch of very light wind all of 3 miles from the finish line and made it across the line we were radioed by Seattle to tell us we were in 3rd. PSP who had been in 1st for almost the entire race were caught in the wind hole we just passed through and had been for a number of hours. They hadn’t crossed the line yet. So we had such in with a cheeky 3rd place. Our second podium. We were ecstatic. 

 

Qingdao has been an even weirder place than Sanya. We are stationed and the Wanda Yacht club which is on an island purpose built just 4 years ago. Its like sim city or a toy town. Everything is new and relatively unoccupied. Slightly creepy. The hotels are amazing but there are no bars or places to go other than tiny local restaurants. The Wanda Yacht Club must be the grandest yacht club in the world its incredible and they put on the most amazing welcoming ceremony. All the skippers are presented with a red cape - a tradition given to returning generals who have been successful. We are treated like celebrities with the local visitors desperate to say and take photos with us. 

We have had a fantastic prize giving party and now I will take some time to catch up on rest, prepare the boat and prepare myself for the mighty pacific crossing. We set off on Friday and it is promised to be 4 weeks fo torture. We will see about that. 

 

Again I would like to thank Peripheral sunglasses for their support and contributions. If you need a new pair of decent sunglasses that are cheap (and stop you buying into that massive Luxotica conglomerate - Oakley, Ray-Ban etc) check them out and add me to your basket to send 50% of the price of the sunnies to Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. www.peripheralls.com

 

P.S. Jakey Fagan - the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea have lots fo rubbish. It must be coming off all the fishing boats. We haven’t seen any of the big clumps or floating trash islands but a constant passing of plastic bags, bottles and thanks of wood. Afraid I wasn’t able to catch any good photos for you though. Will keep trying though.

Leg 5 Race 7 - Good terrible but not terribly good

Leg 5 Race 7 - Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Australia to Sanya, Hainan Dao, China

Number of souls on board: 18

Distance sailed: 4,665nm

Number of days at sea: 24

Finish position: 6th

So a bit late catching you all up with this race. Hmm, what to say. By quick summary it was a good terrible race…but not a terribly good race. 

We started the race with the fleet’s first Le Mans start after motoring out of the Whitsundays and through the great barrier reef. The start was in very light winds and it we quickly learned (read: stole) a new idea on flying our Code 1 spinnaker in light airs using it to reach along at a 50 degree apparent wind angle (spinnakers are generally used to sail downwind and 50 is basically fully upwind). 

With our new found enthusiasm after such a good race up to Airlie there was lots fo energy on board and we fought pretty hard. We tied ourselves to the half the fleet that headed almost straight north, avoiding the scoring gate and a potentially massive wind hole. This paid off for us and put us into 5th position about a quarter of the way into the race. Here we seemed to stay. 

We worked our way through the Luzon straight into the East China Sea. We tried a tactical call on the weather to cut off the corner and hopefully allow us to catch up a bit with the leaders. 

Of course, as is the Liverpool luck, the wind hole we thought we were skimming moved in an unforecast manner and enveloped us allowing the the leaders to pull slightly further ahead. Unfortunately it also allowed Seattle to sail up and over us seeing us stuck in a windhole. 

A mid fleet finish not too bad. And a grand welcome to China. We had a fantastic crew with all our new Leg 5 joiners and have to thank all of my watch for a fantastic attitude and positivity it was a very fun leg and I loved sailing with all of you.

Oh and did I mention we managed the magic trifecta? Yup, we broke all three spinnakers in one race. I have truly pissed off the sail repair team this time.

We have all enjoyed Sanya. It has been an amazing experience with the change in culture and particularly the lack of English anywhere. Sanya is a top holiday destination for the Chinese and Russians. So ordering in  restaurants involved a lot of pointing and hoping - but still yet to eat the delicacy that is chickens feet. Communication with hotel concierges and waiters is almost directly through Google Translate and Waygo apps. 

We ventured down to the beach where there was a beautiful boardwalk full of restaurants and bars with a relaxed atmosphere by day and a party atmosphere by night. The grand central park had the group dance sessions and tai chi on going. I took a tour to the jungle and a Liu family village but these parts seemed very “put on” and much like going to Epcot, Disneyworld and a little bit fake. 

Now we set off again up to Qingdao in northern China. The expectation is that it will get ridiculously cold and be very windy and upwind which makes for a slow slog and boring sailing. We will see.