First day out of Derry

We had a beautiful day for our send-off from Derry, wind and sunshine, and enthusiastic crowds waving us all off down the river. Down at Greencastle, we all enjoyed the spectacular show by the Red Arrows – I haven’t seen them in decades.
And then race start – we did quite well, starting on port tack, just ducking under Old Pulteny and ending up right next to GB and just down wind of them. It didn’t take long for the fleet to separate a bit, as where we need to go is dead upwind, so each boat made different decisions about where and when to tack to best make use of the wind and the tide. Our most important job this race is to stay within a couple of points of gB, so we tacked when they did – it was inline with our planned use of the stronger offshore current, anyway. Everbody has to keep their AIS on for the entire race this time, so there is no stealth at all – unless you fall so far behind or pull so far ahead that you are out of range. It should make things interesting
It was a late afternoon start, and it seemed a long day with sunset at around 9.3 and dusk stretching on forever. We had leaping dolphins gilded by the sunset, and were visited by larger ones in the dawn and through out the morning. We’ve also had whales spouting and even breaching, as well as gannets, guillemots, and so far, a solitary puffin.
THe wind became light soon after the start, and has fluctuated up and down for the first 24 hours – but it is definitely rather sedate sailing. We were treated to a view of the mountainous Scottish islands – Jura and – as we left Lough FOyle. I hadn’t realised they were only sisxty km away. But now it is cloudier and we see no land – occasional large ships, and a smattering of white sails ahead and behind as we all plug along, headed towards the all important tidal gate, still a couple of hundred miles away. Deb and Mike are mothering today – it’s Indonesian day again. All ou plans to shop for fresh food and a varied menu in Derry fell apart, so it’s very much same old, same old on the menu. But this SHOULD be our last ever Indi Day. We now have only one sink in use, as the other is draining straight into the cupboards. It seems Henrietta’s internal systems are almost as tired as here staysail – not to mention her crew – as we start these last few days of racing. But it’s beautiful summer weather, and we’re keeping Great Enemy behind us so far, so spirits are pretty high here for Team HLFiftyYOPS.

and the race ended

This race, all the dramatic events seem to have involved the crew, not the wind and weather. At noon today the race ended. A little later Eric emerged from the nav station – his big announcement was simply ‘OK, just carry on, it’s faster than motoring’. And so we continue on a flat grey sea under a flat grey sky, flying our A2 and proceeding calmly towards Derry. THis afternoon we did have a large fin whale and then a big leaping fish fleeing a shiny black head – both events more exciting than the race finish itself.
Yesterday evening at six we had a very good sched, which showed we had gained on everyone, and were now only 1O miles behind GB. Crew clustered around the whiteboard with baited breath as Chris wrote up the numbers. But alas, our good breeze did not continue – we went through a light patch, where you could see rivers of smooth current flowing between the lightly ruffled areas of wind. We even altered course to skirt a visible wind hole- a huge mirror-like area stretching away to leeward.
Meanwhile, inside the boat, our pain sufferer was put back on morphine. THis has really not been a good race for our health, with SKipper and many crew fighting a coughing lurgy, a couple having flu-like symptoms, and the pneumonia, fall, and mystery pain to cap it all. I think everybody is feeling just drained, and ready for restful stopover and the chance to recover in Derry.
We are actually very happy for Derry, with this great win into their home port, and for Garmin, finally on the podium after all this time. ANd Old PUlteny certainly showed a great turn of spped this race too and deserve their podium place. We are just happy not to have lost too many points to our closest rivals – there were times in this race when the situation looked much worse! So we live to fight the next one – let’s hope we are back to full strength and health. TOmorrow, Derry.

In stealth

Well things continue to be calm and quiet – no crew drama, and little obvious drama in the weather, either. We move forward in our little bubble, the wind is sometimes up, sometimes down – but continues to be quite mellow overall. Sadly, Old Pulteny ‘stealthed’ past us to take the sprint, so our delay in turning towards Derry did not pay off in the long run. I was granted 14 hous in my bunk last night, as the persistent coughing lurgy has just been wearing me out. Especially, I think, as I skipped ‘good mother’ to helm in the sprint, so my last proper nights sleep was back on day 4 of the race. I only asked for 2 extra hours in the dog watch, but my watch were super kind and refrained from waking me at midnight as well. What luxury! But it did mean 3sheets went into stealth mode yesteday, too.
The highlight of yesterday was another pod of pilot whales – a big one this time. The leading whales looked as synchronized as the animals on a carousel, surging up through the water to reveal their blunt heads, then their big dorsal fins, then rocking down again, over and over again. It was probably one of the highlights of the whole voyage, actually. Ollie the media man seemed a little miffed that we didn’t go downstairs to find him when they appeared – but the truth is you never know whether the wildlife will still be there by the time you’ve been up and down the companionway to wake someone or fetch a camera.
This Atlantic crossing is not at all what we expected, on the whole – most of us ad imagined riding a series of weather fronts from west to east, getting a last taste of some wild weather and big surfs before our voyage is over. Clearly that is not to be! At least my feet have stayed dry.

All change

We’ve been sprinting since a little after 4 this morning/ It’s been a precise upwind grind in uniformly grey conditions – grey sea, grey sky, almost no horizon. We’ve worked hard and pulled away from DLL – but now it’s all change.
News has just come from the CLipper office that the race will end at noon on Sunday, and honors will go to the boats closest to Derry by a great circle route. I expect you all know more about that than I do! Many of the boats around us have already abandoned the sprint to hoot-tail it towards Derry. As we’ve only got 20 miles to go, and things seem to be going OK, we will finish the sprint – but then we too will be in the drag race to Derry. At least we have two and a half days warning this time. At least we’ll be off this hard anle of heel, so my upper monkey bunk will become possible to sleep in again – I’ve felt in iminent danger of getting launched through the nav station complete with sleeping bag and pillow these last few off watches. ANd we’ll all beglad to get a break from perching on the rail with our feet over the side too. No flapjacks in evidence yet!

More drama – fast and slow

You could be forgiven for thinking that this race we are deliberately providing drama for Ollie, the media man. Early this morning, as we sailed along close hauled so at quite a heel angle, a crew member took a nasty tumble down the companionway. The result is a grazed and bumped head, temporary numbness in the shoulders – now gone – and the need to wear a neck brace and be basically immobile until we reach Derry. No fun at all. It is alarming how the simplest things that we do every day, like climbing down the companionway steps or into an upper bunk, can turn out to be the most fraught with danger.
In racing news, the drama is at a much slower pace. During the night we gradually pulled past DLL, still just visible through the grey haze astern. And we’ve crept up on PSP, so that from a glimmer ahead on the horizon at nightfall, they are now clearly visible on our port beam, their pale sail nearly the same color as the silvery grey sky. We are sailing upwind on almost calm seas and in mostly steady winds – just concentrating on keeping Henrietta at exactly the best angle for speed, gradually grinding the others down. Eric has almost promised to make flapjacks for the sprint – if we are ‘good’, which probably means all sleeping in the right places and sitting dutifully on the rail with our feet out. Come to think of it, throwing fellow crew down the companionway probably doesn’t count as good – we may have blown it already.
We saw – almost ran over – a big sunfish a little earlier, and Chris saw a shark. There are many feathers floating on the water – we wonder if the sharks are feasting on the many birds – shearwaters I think – who are now mostly resting on the water in little groups. As we pass we disturb them just enough that they start flapping and running to take off, only to flop down again once they realize we pose no threat. THere was a bird – a tern? – attempting to land on the windex early this morning. WIth the proximity of DLL, we can only assume it was one of their spies – luckily it soon desisted.
In other news, the aft heads, heroically repaired by Kevin B. and Herb to much jubilation and adulation yesterday, has failed again. It’s a long way to Derry with 22 people and only once working toilet! We have to remind ourselves frequently that we all CHOSE and PAYED FOR this level of discomfort and indentured servitude. Perhaps the fact that London, the end of the race, and all the comforts of home and civilization are now less than four weeks away is brining our mass insanity into sharper focus. But spirits are high ad the lurgy is dying down, so it’s not all bad here on TeamHL50YOPS

Living in interesting times

Life aboard took quite a turn for the dramatic yesterday evening. We were celebrating Herb’s birthday, and we all knew that Herb and Janet were expecting news about a new grand-daughter any minute. Life was pretty good. But we’ve had another bug going around – a coughing one – and yesterday one or two crew were diagnosed by our resident medics as now having chest infections, and one had pneumonia. All quite managable, as we are well supplied with antibiotics and have 2 nurses and a doctor aboard this trip. But one patient began to have what seemed to be a very bad reaction to the antibiotics, and was in such pain that nothing would touch it except morphine. Very scary! We were so lucky to have Fiona and Herb aboard to treat the situation with great calmness, and the Praxis doctors to consult with.
But it was certainly unsettling for all the crew, and sleep was in very short supply for a while. The news of the grandchild’s safe delivery on Herb’s sixtieth birthday almost got lost in the noise, and the fact that the ridge of high pressure dumped all over us and had us stuck not moving while the boat in front sailed away, and those behind caught up and even overtook, was just a background issue.
FOrtunately our crew member recovered completely, and was back on deck this afternoon to a round of applause – and a flutter of admonitions to wrap up warm, go get a jacket and hat. It has been a gorgeous sunny day, and although we now have DLL in sight AHEAD – just a mile or so – and Garmin and possibly PSP ahead and just over the horizon, at least we are moving steadily again, THe sunshine has been gorgeous, the sea calm, although the wind is cold. THere has been much less wildlife today too – but after our traumatic times last night, we are all quite grateful for the easy sailing. We’ll just keep grinding away at the boats around us – in TeamHLFiftyYOPS, that’s what we do,

Wildlife

Well the sailing has been quite mellow for the ast 24 hours – at time far TOO mellow, but there’s little we can do about that except endeavour to keep moving and avoid being swallowed up by the high pressure areas apparently building all around us.
THe nights are pretty short now – last night we were treated to a spectacular roange and purple sunset under glowering xlouds, with Jacobs Ladders almost worthy of the tropics. Moonrise, too, was a moody orange one – sending some of the leggers checking the AIS to see what that orange light on the horizon could be. Of course us jaded RTW crew have seen it all before. And yes, we were fooled too, the first time. Dawn too was orange and purple, with shades of grey and pink spreading across the sky behind us. It’s beautiful out here! The wildlife has been laying on quite a show – we had dolphins in the evening, phosphorescent ones at night, and gleaming ones leaping in the sunrise. We also have many different birds – storm petrels dart about all night, sometimes dive bombing us alarmingly, and looking for all the world like bats with their jerky flight patterns. We’ve had a pair of terns – common or maybe arctic – flying overhead at intervals night and day. Or maybe it’s a succession of different pairs, we have no way to tell. Highlights today have been a shark, lazily circling a drifting piece of wooden palette as though scraping his belly on it – probably eating whatever small fish were underneath it. And then we caught sight of what seemed like a pod of large, black, slow moving dolphins. We later realized they were pilot whales – much more exciting. They cruised lazily past us, then spent quite a while porpoising and spouting astern, but they never came back close enough for Ollie to film them.
On board, we are celebrating Herb’s sixtieth birthday. He looked quite content standing on the stern, wearing a balloon crown and smoking a cigar. And Maaike’s apricot and chocolate chip cookie flavored cake was voted her best so far.

Interesting times ahead

We’ve had quite a mixed bag over the last 24 hours. Last night we went from some nice kite surfing with the wind good and free, to edging along with the A3 as close to the wind as we wanted to push it. We had a little bit of excitement in our midnight watch, when dark rain clouds appeared ahead – but according to our radar watchers, there was nothing to see. As the clouds approached – or we approached them, the wind suddenly doubled in strength and our new leggers got their first taste of a knockdown. Nothing too major – just the down on our side, boom in the water variety. But the new crew now know that being ‘on the vang’ can be a serious job, and that while you might be sitting comfortably in that role as we tootle along, when the time comes to actually release it, everything will be at crazy angles and it is very hard to brace yourself properly and do the deed. Still, I don’t think anybody fell out of their bunk, and no serious harm was done. But we changed to white sails and altered course in a more northerly direction for the rest of the night.
TOday was mostly a bit more grey and overcast than lately – but warmer, especially once we were able to gwt the A2 up again this afternoon. Sadly, this probably heralds the giant sized light wind randomizer the fleet is about to enter. It seems like it’s a case of ‘too high can’t go under it, too low can’t go over it’ as far as the high pressure is concerned. It’s going to mean interesting times.
In other news, there is once again a major shortage of teabags aboard. THe North-American victuallers are astounded that 2 bags have been consumed in 9 days, but that’s only 2 or 3 cups per day for each Brit aboard, perfectly reasonable consumption. At least there’s still plenty of coffee, but we don’t know abut hot chocolate as the dry bag containing drinks is missing. Right now there is a more serious and imminent emergency – it’s approaching the end of mother watch, and no bread has been made. It’s going to be a long hungry night for Team HLFiftyYOPS. Apart from the fifteen tons of chocolate and sweet snacks we are loaded down with… maybe it’s all part of a plan to lighten the boat.

Icy night, and day

Last night we continued our ice watch – and t was certainly icy cold on deck. I fished out my dry suit again, for the first time since the Pacific. We maintained a radar watch downstairs, as well as having two people specifically on ice watch on deck. At one point we saw an eerie white glow of to starboard – we wondered if it could be moonlight reflecting of ice, or a ship, or an alien spacecraft. It turned out to be a hazy beam of moonlight, coming straight down through the heavy overcast that was blotting everything else out. It was quite funny when Fiona sent Kevin H down to ask Debs if she could see the moon on radar. Obviously, at that range, she could not.
ALthough the dawn did not come at 3 am, it did arrive by about 4:3O. THe clouds had cleared in the east, and the big round moon was riding on top of them, still shining on the sea as the colors turned from the grey and black of night to the pinks, blues, and whites of morning. First there were ragged patches of palest blue, looking as if they had been painted on top of the clouds, rather than showing behind them. THey certainly made steering in the lumnpy seas and erratic winds a lot easier. A little later there was a beautiful display of ‘jacobs ladders’ – shafts of sunlight shining down through the clouds. ANd then the sun rose dazzlingly above it all – it made for particularly spectacular silhouettes of the crew on the rail, with the shining spray pouring off them, and our bow wave surging and seaming alongside, all lit up by the sun.
We’ve had some quite good surfing, when we’ve been able to hold on to our course! Eric R. (NOT the Skip], almost joined the 2 knot club, there was whooping and hollering as he achieved 19.9 knots just at wake up time this morning.
At lunchtime we were finally able to raise the A3, so we are sppeding along with the kite, ice watch still in force as we hear that yet more Clipper boats have reported sightings. There are many birds, storm petrels and larger shearwaters and petrels too. We just hope that none of them are known for roosting on icebergs. Every now and then a solitary dolphin leaps alongside, then disappears, clearly intent on his own business and not interested in playing with us.
TOday is the day that we will once more cross the longitude of Rio – so by crossing all the lines of longitude on the planet, we will have sailed round the world, in one definition, at least. Any excuse for a celebration. Debs has prepared cupcakes, and Maaike is inflating balloons. As we discussed the various egg substitutes at our disposal while on watch this afternoon – at the tops of our voices as we are flying along with the kite up – Ollie the Media Man commented that that was the first time he’d heard yelling about cupcakes on one of these boats. What can I say? That’s how we roll on Team Henri Lloyd FiftyYOPS.

Night and icy day

Last night was another beatiful one. First, in the evening, we had vigorous leaping dolphins – little fat ones, each attended, it seemed , by his own shearwater – or petrel. THey were obviously on the hunt, and did not stick around to play with us for long.
Later, the big round moon kept peeking through the clouds. SOmetimes it lit up patches of sliver, or shone on Henrietta, happily surging through the black water. Other times it only shone on distant wave crests, setting patches of the horizon all a-sparkle, or made patches of clouds glow amber. Dawn came very early – the clouds just tearing apart enough to show some clear azure sky between them. It was about 3:3Oam!
Today started sunny and clear, but there is a real bite to the wind. We are on iceberg watch, and at 11am we had our closest point of approach to the wreck of the Titanic. I’m glad we didn’t pass it at night – it was gloomy enough by then under a solid overcast, to make the mood quite sombre. CLipper have moved the ice gate further south, making the iceberg watch even more vigilant. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad ting. Are we more or less in danger of seeing one? WHile an iceberg is something I’d love to see, right now, thundering along at 12 knots or so, it would be a very bad thing!
Many birds today – Manx shearwaters I think, and other lighter ones, plus some little storm petrels. ANd aboard, most have recovered from their sea sickness. Olly COusteau, the media man, is once more in evidence with his red wooly hat and his camera. I hope he’s getting some interesting footage.It is COLD – the sea temperature and air emperature have dropped noticably. Layers are being added liberaaly, all around. TOday we also change our clocks 2 hours, so no 3am dawn for a while.