Exciting times

Things got perhaps a little too exciting early this morning. First I was rudely awakened by a slosh of cold salt water on my feet – obviously waves were splashing over the deck and finding their way through the open port onto my ‘lower monkey’ bunk. I tried to ignore it for a moment, but form the sounds I could hear on deck (a reef going in) the wind had obviously increased and there was a good chance I’d soon get wetter. SO I crawled out and shut the ports, then used my towel to mop up the worst and went back to sleep. Not for long – it seemed like I’d only just dropped off again when I was woken by Eric politely asking us all to go up and help with a headsail change. Exactly 2 and a half hours into our off watch is a terrible time to go on deck – you just know you probably wont get back to sleep for at least 6.5 hours.
But at lest at 6.30 it was daylight, and we had time to dress in waterproofs against the spray. It was nice to see QingDao abeam and probably less than half a mile away – we had definitely caught them overnight – hunted them down as we’d planned. It was the usual wet struggle, getting down our massive yankee one after the wind had increased dramatically. We were doing a racing sail change, where we hank the new sail on below the old one before we drop it – the idea is to minimize the time without a headsail. But with the tiny narrow space these boats have at the bow, the 2 sails soon make it very difficult to move around up there. We were in the lowering phase, about 6 of us on the lower rail, jammed between the staysail and the lifelines, pulling down and back on the flogging yankee 1, when suddenly Maaike, on the bow, gasped, and yelled ‘Man Overboard’ – definitely too exciting. Even where I was, close to the bow, I couldn’t see who was over and if they were still attached to the boat – it must have been impossible to tell from back at the helm. As I stepped forward though, I could suddenly see a crew member (who wishes to remain anonymous). swinging by his atrms below the bowsprit – he was still clipped on and atached to the boat, but boy did he have a surprised expression on his face! SO did we all, looking down at him, I suspect. We swiftly hove too, to make the side he was on the new high side, putting him further above the water, and the bow crew were close enough to grab crewmember X’s arms and his harness and pull him back inside the boat. We let him flop and recover on top of the sail for 30 seconds, but as soon as we were sure he was OK. Morgan told him he had to get off the sail so we could carry on with the change. We even decided to stay on the new tack – Eric joked that we had to tack sooner or later anyway, so crewmember X had done us all a favour. I think in future we should stick to more conventional means for deciding when to tack, just for the sake of our nerves and to avoid waking the Falmouth coastguard at inconvenient hours of the morning – yes all our emergency procedures were followed, and worked perfectly.
So we parted company with QingDao at that point, and attached ourselves to another unknown CV we’d seen faintly ahead for the last few hours. As the day wore on and we caught up with them, we found tht we are now sailing with Derry and Poultney, and we have been gaining on them too. SO some of the things we have been experimenting with for upwind saiing are definitely working. It’ll be interesting to look back at the tracker when we finish this race – with everybody so close, meeting and crossing and tacking before taking off in new directions again, it must be almost as hard on land to figure out what is going on as it is out here. From team HL50YOPS in the SOuth CHina Sea, Goodnight.

One thought on “Exciting times

  1. Great post! I enjoyed reading about all the excitement and I’m happy to hear that crewmember X and everyone else is ok. Go HL!

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