As we prepared to leave Rio, Daniel, my skipper, said to me ‘it’s OK Ruth, the weather looks set for spinnaker off the start line’. Great I thought as the angle of the yacht under spinnaker is good to ease one into life back at sea. However between this conversation and actually setting sail, the weather had other ideas. We left Rio with the wind right on the nose, so there was no easing us back into things but straight into life at 45 degrees, crashing waves over the bow and not many hours into the race the seasickness (which I avoided in leg 1) paid me a visit.
For this leg I have been made assistant watch leader for Port watch which brings more responsibility which brings a mixture of excitement and apprehension. It has been good to take on this challenge and stretch myself but I have to admit there were times when I was glad to be the assistant and not the watch leader! I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to helm in the varied conditions we have experienced on this leg. At times the helming was really challenging and I struggled to have the strength in my arms to keep the wheel in place when big rolling waves were crashing into us and pushing the yacht off course. I hope as this race progresses I will get stronger and as we have spent a lot of time on port tack I have slightly uneven muscles forming! I surfed my first wave which was awesome – this is when the waves are coming at you from behind and then push you forwards and you surf with it (like you would on a surf board) building speed as you go. There have been some downsides to helming with the new aches and pains as well as a few waves directly in the face!
We had a good few days of wind on the nose before the wind came round so that we could finally hoist a spinnaker and have a slightly more comfortable sail for everyone. We have had all sorts of weather to keep us on our toes including times with no wind at all. For the last part of the race we had the additional challenge of no wind instruments as they began to fail and ultimately the instruments gave up completely which meant no accurate reading of the wind at all for the rest of the leg.
This race was different from the first as LMAX and Qingdao had problems in Rio so they started the race three and a half days behind us, meaning this leg was decided on elapsed time. This meant we were never fully sure what position we were in race wise. We were the first boat through the scoring gate but then Qingdao came along and pipped us to it so we were pushed back to second (getting 2 points). Going through the scoring gate then also saw our race position drop to middle of the fleet as those who chose not to go for the gate had more wind further north. This was not a great feeling as we are used to being in the top end of the fleet! However skipper Dan was right again as he said we would be back near the top of the pack again soon.
We have seen lots of birds on this leg which you wonder where they are heading to as we were miles and miles from land. Two tiny birds spent a few hours resting in the cockpit and I hope that enabled them to get to their destination OK as they looked shattered! Albatross was what we wanted to see and we think we did although some reckon it was just a very large seagull! There have also been whale sightings. Amongst the massive waves you can see them spurting in the distance and occasionally making more of an appearance above water.
The waves have definitely been much bigger on this leg and at times all you can see is sea! This has made for everything being harder to do as the angle is so great and sometimes hitting a big wave pushes you off balance. This also has meant being on deck is a much wetter and colder experience. My so-called waterproof gloves made my hands even colder than not having any on at all and waves crashing over your head, although funny, also meant water down inside the waterproofs so another time of being damp for the most part. Being on duties such as heads cleaning or bilges was a welcome respite from the deck duties. Saying that, being on deck was also great fun and there have been many comedy moments, mainly involving trying to do a drinks run. You start with a full cup, a wave hits you and then if you’re lucky there is liquid left in the cup, which has a salty tint! The massive waves that crash over the side are always met with a little yelp followed by laughter and working out who was the one to get the biggest drenching!
It’s funny how there are thousands of miles in the race and we saw hardly any other vessels at all on the journey, yet the last couple of days ended in a drag race. One morning watch we saw a light behind us which appeared to be stalking us. As dawn approached we could see it was Great Britain! Then we also had in close proximity Garmin and Mission Performance and the scheds that came showed us leap-frogging positions back and forth. It’s such an odd feeling the last 50 miles or so when you’re so close to the finish yet there is still all to play for and it could be anyone’s race. We were also conscious of the Qingdao and LMAX results meaning podium positions were at risk. As we turned into the start of the approach to Cape Town it was pitch black but we could see the navigation lights of the other yachts. We were neck and neck, then Great Britain were in front, then we overtook, then neck and neck again. As with leg one we both encountered a wind hole (where suddenly there is no wind) and wondered how many hours we would be in it. We then saw Great Britain get a gust which put them from flat to leaning right over and they flew off. This then happened to us and sadly we ran out of water to catch them. And crossed the finish line ten minutes behind them.
Despite arriving late local time, Cape Town didn’t disappoint us and we were lucky enough to have a band of supporters there cheering us in. We celebrated second place and hoped that this would remain ours once Qingdao and LMAX arrived (which we found out on prize giving day was ours to keep!)
This leg I have to admit was a lot more demanding than I thought it was going to be and hard going on every aspect of day to day life. However being on the podium this time at prize giving was an incredible feeling and made the pain worth it. Let’s see what the Southern Ocean has in store for me next….
Since getting to Cape Town I found out some sad news in that one of my Olympic dancing friends and supporter of my Clipper race had lost her fight to cancer. I had been think of Lucia during this leg as one of the last communications I had with her before I went to sea was to do with the fact she was on chemo and being sick lots, so I said any time I was sea sick I would think of her and when she was sick she could think of me being wet and cold. Lucia this is for you, I’m glad to have met you and hope that you are now a shining star looking down on me and continuing to follow my journey. You told me to live life to the full and I hope that I am doing this for you. Rest in peace Lucia.
YouTube Video of life on board in this leg