Race 16

Well, obviously., we didn’t vote for the booze cruise option. Cruising is just not really in our nature any more. We had a great start out of Den Helder – in the pre-start maneuvering we flew the Y1 and the staysail,. We had the A2 on deck, but in the final few minutes Eric called for the A1 instead. So there was a scramble changing sheets and halyards over in time. in the final seconds before crossing the start line we peeled to the A1. – flawlessly. I was busy trimming the kite so couldn’t look back and see what was happening, but soon we were able to gybe onto port and I could see 11 other CVs, flying a cheerful assortment of A1s and A2s as we crossed ahead f them all. It did seem like a wholly appropriate way to start our final race together.

We kept our lead as we left the channel – Old Pulteney was sailing very fast a little upwind and behind, but as the fleet closed up to pass through a narrower stretch, the began to get dirty ar from the boats behind them, and stopped gaining. Mission were doing well, furthest to windward – everybody would like to see them on the podium in this final race. Unfortunately, about an hour and a half after the start, I noticed their kite flapping strangely, and within seconds the bottom 2 thirds of it were trailing alongside, while the top still flew from the masthead. Not a pretty sight at all. Fortunately the luff rope must have stayed intact, as they seemed to get the top portion down quite easily.

As the evening progressed, our little cruise,across to London turned out to be quite a busy race. The wind increased and the angle tightened, so that we all,switched to white sails. Then, just before,dark, as we started the upwind part of the course, we had to do a headsail change – for only the second time since leaving San Francisco! We were one of the first boats to do it, so fell back a little. We didn’t even do a racing change – in the spirit of conservatism we brought the Y1 back before we even attempted to hank on the Y2. The wisdom of our choice became clear soon enough, as we caught up again with the other boats in our group. Garmin was dragging their Y1 over the side like a sea anchor, and Jamaica suddenly and terrifyingly hove to and seemed to be coming right at us, Eric on the helm yelled for us all to hang on and was just about to do an emergency tack before we realized what they were doing. Pulteney and DLL were ahead with full mainsails still up, but with our reduced sail plan we soon began to overhaul them.

I’ve already forgotten the details, but for the rest of the race starboard watch (my watch) seemed to be incredibly busy – we’d be dropping and woofing kites, gybing them, peeling from one kite to another or from Yankee back to the kite, hankimg headsails on then dragging them back and flaking them. Not necessarily in that order, of course! We even spent an hour in the middle of the night crouched at the back of the boat struggling to resecure the liferafts and rebuild the wooden frame holding them in place, as our North Sea bashing had proved too much for it. Then when we went down to sleep, it seemed port watch did nothing but tack, so that just as soon as we dropped off we’d be woken by the danger of rolling out of the bunk, or being compressed into the cubbies behind it.

We did have some splendid sailing though, kiting along at 15, 16, 17 knots, and at breakfast time on Friday we were only 70 miles,from the finish, and caught our first sight of Blighty in 10 months! We had Derry and DLL, locked in the battle for 3rd overall, just ahead, and GB and Jamaica just behind, all hazily visible through the mist as we charged past the Sizewell nuclear power station.

Crawling bleary eyed from our sleepless,bunks at lunchtime, we learned the reason for all the tacking and bashing that had kept us awake – Clipper was sending us around in approximately 18 mile loops to make the race longer. It looked like all the wooling, peeling, and hanking was set to continue well into the evening. GB had cleverly chosen an inshore course and was now ahead of everyone – quite close, and we were definitely catching them upwind, until they tacked,for the buoy marking the end of the upwind section, and got their A2 up quicker than we did as they bore away downwind. We certainly tried to catch them, but this time our “old black magic” did not quite do the job. So GB won the race into their home port – congrats to them!

So in the grey evening we finally crossed the line off Southend Pier – closing the circle and completing our circumnavigation. All of us gathered behind the wheel, and we each had a hand on it as we crossed – perhaps making for some slightly erratic steering. Then it was hugs and congratulations all around – we’ve achieved something momentous as a team, not only sailing around the world, but still being a happy boat, and winning the whole thing. No better way to finish the Clipper Race!

 

Race 15 in Pictures

And what a race it was!

Waving goodbye to Derry

Red Arrows

Aw, sweet

Race start

Ghosting past the Outer Hebrides

Not Morgen’s favorite kind of sailing

Canada Day cake

Skirting the wind hole – and Switzerland, I think

 

Reflections 1

Reflections 2

Sunrise over Stroma and GB

Leaving the Atlantic – Switzerland astern

Entering the North Sea, close racing with GB and OP

 

Gloomy evening

 

North Sea sunset – and Old Pulteny hunting us down

 

Nightfall – one last night for this race

 

North Sea sunrise

Arrival day morning

We’re on the rail again

July 4th is a good day for winning

Winning skipper = happy skipper

GB’s Olly congratulates Tash on the win. Or the outfit?

 

The end of the world as we know it

It's a strange thing, knowing we have one more sprint to London, and then our voyage is over. It's even stranger that we've done what we set out to do, and to know that we could just cruise across to London, not even bothering to race if we chose to. Eric told us it's a decision for us as a crew – but I can't really imagine there'd be many votes for the cruising option. Racing is what we like to do, and we really don't like deliveries.

We'd already spent time in Derry taking everything off the boat that we didn't need – all that stuff we've dragged around the world with us because we might use it, might just need it some day. Pressure cookers, scavenged spinnaker cloth, kilos of split peas,, team shirts that don't fit anyone, dozens of jars of Chinese jam and tens of jars of Nutella – it was all given or thrown away. That was the beginning of the end.

But the evidence that the end has really come was as we put the sails away on our way into Den Helder. We dropped tha Yankee 1 and dragged it back to the cockpit to flake and bag it. Fitzy and I both had the same thought – it was tied up quite neatly and we could just put it straight in the bag without flaking. “But when are you going to flake it properly?” asked Eric. “When we inspect it” said we. “We're not doing that here” was his reply. We were a little shocked – even though we know there's only a day or two left, we've never not inspected the sails in port before. I'd fully expected we'd be checking all the kites, the windseeker, the Yankee 1 and 3, and the staysail. We used most f our sail wardrobe in the race from Derry!

But no, we're in a different world now. Most of the work we did here was cleaning Henrietta, sorting her stores, and getting her ready to hand her back to Clipper. Our epic journey is really drawing to and end. I'm sure though, whatever branding CV21 carries in future races, she'll always be Henrietta to us.

Race 15 Finish

 

The sunset on July 3rd was a strikingly gloomy one – we had beeen pursued down the North Sea all day* by Old Pulteny, wth Switzerland and Derry also in sight, not far behind, and DLL close to them. We've seen how fast 'the Chicken' can sail when it really wants too, and we knew there was no room at all for us to relax.

 

Pulteney's tricolor, glowing red, was in sight all through the brief darkness that night. we also had a crescent moon as the clouds cleared a little – the first time we'd seen it this race. The moonset too, was a foreboding red one, the crescent eerily distorted by low,clouds. GB was far enough behind to be out of ÀIS range, but as the wind angle tightened up for us, we knew that their upwind position could turn out to be a good one. Even less cause for relaxation – although in the early hours we overheard a VHF conversation between GB and a ship, whose position we could pinpoint, and I it appeared that we were still pulling away from them.

Soon, our concern became the Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) that we were required to cross at right angles, if we didn't want to incur a 5 point penalty from the race committee. The trouble was, the wind wasn't!t blowing the right way for an exact 90 degree crossing – and we were pretty sure they didn't intend us to motor across instead. The four leading skippers conferred on the radio, and agreed all they could do was cross at the best angle they could and all at the same one – which in the end was not too horribly off the required course. As the TSS lanes curve around the land, we had to bear away for some of them, then head back up until we reached the next one. Plenty of work for the navigators as well as us helms and trimmers. We also had to keep clear of all the shipping in the lanes, and once again we had some luck as Pulteny had to bear away to pass behind a tug with a long tow that we had passed in front of, allowing us to increase our lead a little more.

The 7.15am sched (boat time) said we had a 15 mile lead over GB. We could almost breathe again! We'd been doing 10 knots for the last few hours – and the miles to the finish were ticking down nicely. Although the wind lightened, and we had some scary moments as Pultemy seemed to gain on us until they too lost their stronger breeze. We had both watches up, feet out on the rail, to make sure we ddidn't give them any opportunity to sneak by. Land, low lying (with windmills!) and smelling of grass came into view in the bright sunshine, and we knew the race was ours. Not only race 15, but the whole thing! With eager anticipation we craned forward, looking for the South Cardinal Mark we had to pass to cross the line. The finish came surprisingly soon – no Clipper boat or gun, just an imaginary line on the chart. But the shouts and hugs were real, the three cheers for Eric – best Skipper in the WORLD – and the jubilation. To all us Americans on board, our victory over GB see,ed a wholly appropriate way to celebrate the Fourth of July. who needs fireworks? For once we didn't have to instantly get the sails down or pose for photographs – we could take a minute for the huge sense of happiness and relief to sink in at the realization of the goal we'd all worked so long and hard for.

Soon enough the Clipper RIB came out for photos – this time we had no problems smiling and cheering for them. And we could hear Maaike's family, and then Meg's, shouting and celebrating on the shore. We got the sails down, as usual our flaking of the main slower and uglier than Pulteney's – but we didn't care! Itt was a great welcome as we went through the lock into DenHelder. Sir Robin shook us all by the hand as we disembarked, saying that we were now mathematically unbeatable (tempting fate – we could sink and then there'd be penalties) and that he knew we'd worked damned hard for it all year.

*The post I wrote on July 3rd seems to have vanished into the ether. If I find it again, I will add it to 3sheets. The gist of it was that we were in the lead, feeling hunted, and too superstitious to say anything about final positions – out loud, at least!

 

 

 

Into the North Sea

We’ve had 24 hours of enormous contrast. Yesterday evening it was still beautiful summer weather, and we were ghosting along on blue seas, sometimes glassy, and sometimes faintly rippled, with lazy dolphins circling around, barely enough wind at times to keep the A1 flying. ANd now were are bashing along on steely grey waves flecked with white – two reefs in the main, and we’ve done a yankee change for the first time since San Francisco.
Between these two states was our rounding the top of Scotland. After close racing in the evening, particularly against Pulteny and Switzerland, with GB and PSP on the horizon having taken a more offshore and windier route to reach us, we eventually switched to white sails. The wind increased overnight, and we had up to 2O knots as we close reached past the Butt of Lewis and Cape Wrath. THe dawn found us close reaching on slatey grey water, large dolphins surfacing alongside, and hosts of small creamy jellyflish drifting below the surface.
We wereracing towards the Pentland Firth with about siz other CV’s around. THe sun rose behind the impressive ciffs of Orkney – GB’s sail stood out against the
dark imposing islands, downwind and further out in the channel. PUlteny and Switzerland were between us and the Scottish mainland shore, and PSP was just behind us as we passed the old Doun Ray nuclear power station and the slabby cliffs of Dunnet head. Pulteny put on quite a burst of speed and passed us. I went down to make breakfast – last mother! – and when I next looked up on deck PUtleny and GB were neck and neck, almost touching, racing just ahead, and we were on the strange white-whipped waters of the Pentland Firth. We had all arrived before the ideal tide, but the current against us was not too strong, it being neap tides right now. THere was some very tight racing between the three boats – in the end we cut inside GB and Pulteny, and eventually took the lead. We were able to leave gB further behind when we made it past the windward side of an oil installation, but GB were too close and had to go downwind to avoid the exclusion zone. LUcky for us, but I’m sure they’ll fight back. With up to 3O knots of wind, and plenty of bashing and slamming to go with it, this has been our first taste of bad weather in a long time – we’d all become quite fat and lazy, I think. We are back to waves streaming over the deck and down the companionway – everybody is thoroughly soaked, and Eric has been on deck almost the entire day. THe racing is just too close for anyone to relax! It has not been an easy day to be mother either, with the usual bevy of things throwing themselves around the galley, and water pourig down the hatch, too, but Emma and I have managed quite well, and the crew has been fed. At this angle, opening the oven to put the bread in is one of our biggest challenges, but we’ll find a way. From TeamHLFiftyYOPS in the North Sea, goodnight.

Outside the Outer Hebrides

It’s been a slow 24 hours of sailing. Last night we traded tacks with Old Pulteney and Switzerland, with a dramatic backdrop of the everlasting dusk’s orangey glow above the mountainous Hebridean islands. It never got truly dark, and it was hard to judge when dusk ended and dawn began – the sea was always silvery, and started to lighten just perceptibly at around 2:3Oam.
We’ve had a light wind, summery day, and progress has been very slow towards the Butt of Lewis and our waypoint at the Northern tip of the Hebrides. WHile the night was cold and clear, today has warmed up as the wind has lightened. We’ve been flying the A1 most of the day, and the crew on deck have dug out shorts and other lighter gear – not really aht we expected so far North.
We’ve been celebrating Canada day on board – an array of tiny Canadian flags appeared around the boat before sunrise, and we all have maple leaf temporary tattoos, while Eric is in formal attire, with a maple leaf tie over his blue pirate shirt. Fiona and Phil have labored all day in the galley – pnacakes, bacon and maple syrup made for a Canadian breakfast, and Fiona produced an amazing chocolate cake from under her bunk for dessert this evening.
We unfortunately managed to put a new tear in the A1 during a light wind gybe – we were so busy making sure it didn’t wrap on the spreaders, that somehow we managed to tear it on near the foot by catching it on the bowsprit. The wind was so light though, that we just dropped it on deck, repaird it with sticky – flying the A2 instead – and then rehoisted without even wooling.
THe light wind has given the boats further back a chance to catch up – GB and PSP managed to stay further out to sea, sailing right up to the sisx or so clippers currently bobbing about on roughly the same patch of water. THe shipping forecast is talking about south westerly gales – they seem very far away right now. A lot is going to depend on who gets the new wind first. Until then, it looks like it’ll be a slow night for TeamHLFiftyYOPS, in the Atlantic, somewhere near the Butt of Lewis.