After spending New Year in Hobart it was back to sea once more for the 6th Race and final part of Leg 4.
The start was just outside the marina and following on from my fear at the Sydney-Hobart start I was happy that we were back to just 12 boats trying to get the best position to cross the line. Dan got us in a great position and we were first to cross the start line. It was a beat out of the bay which was exciting and even at this early stage there was a lot of tactical sailing going on.
I was on Mother Watch with Sally on Race start day, so once we had left the bay we were on to getting dinner ready. It was odd being down below after the excitement of the start but also enjoyable to have a semi flat galley to work in.
It wasn’t long before the spinnaker was hoisted, which is what I dream about every start if the weather allows, as it means I’m less likely to be sea sick! The wind was indecisive as usual and so it wasn’t up long.
We decided to head for the scoring gate, which was not on the most direct route to Airlie Beach. It meant that in the race standings we weren’t doing so well and were billed as being 11th or 12th for some time. However the gamble paid off when we made it through 3rd (1 point) and then managed to fly to near the top of the fleet. We sailed hard to try and catch those in the lead and for a number of schedules were leading, but were the most easterly boat. This tactic would have had us laughing if the wind had done what was forecast, but it seems luck was not with us as the wind became more favourable for those more inshore and we realised we weren’t going to catch those in 1st and 2nd. The frustrations continued when we saw Garmin, who were in 3rd, get stuck in a wind hole, so decided to change our course slightly only for us then to get stuck too. The situation got worse about ten miles from the finish when we were hardly moving as Da Nang snuck up on us and overtook. I was sat on the rail in the dark in disbelief as this mast light passed by, stealing 4th place from us!
This race was the 3rd time we crossed the Bass straight – each time we have had wind on the nose which doesn’t seem quite fair! We have been treated to wonderful starry nights and deep orange sunsets. It’s been a long time too since we have been warm enough to sail at any time of day or night in shirt sleeves and shorts. We also all arrived in Airlie Beach days before the scheduled arrival window, so the poor Clipper race team didn’t really have a chance to prepare for us!
Leg 4 hasn’t been ‘our’ leg and 5th is the highest we have achieved. I glad that we have managed to be in the top half of the fleet but know that as a team we have the ability to top that. We are now half way through the legs and are 4th overall. I hope that we can build on earlier success, learn from our mistakes and see the results pay off. The Clipper race is hard – I always knew that but not sure I appreciated how physically, mentally and emotionally draining it is. The highs are good but when you don’t make the podium then the lows hurt that much more. I’m missing friends and family back home a lot more these days but am so grateful to the new Clipper friends and support networks I have made too, as without all these I honestly don’t think I could carry on.
Airlie Beach is a stunning place for a stop over – the water is so blue and the weather warm so I am soaking up as much sun as possible before we head back for the longest race yet to Da Nang. I’ve also managed my first hair cut since leaving the UK and it was nice to look and feel ‘normal’ for a short time!
From here on we are making the journey home. It’s a tremendous feeling making it to Australia under the power of the wind only and I hope that the wind will be kind to us for the remainder of the journey. Here is to the next half of the race and all that is thrown my way. This is the race of my life and life changing it is, so please think about me often and send energising thoughts! Right I must get out of this hammock and send this blog to you all (see it’s not all bad!).
Love you all,