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.