Leg 4. Race 4 Albany to Sydney – The ‘Real’ Southern Ocean

Leg 4 is the first we have encountered which has multiple races within it. Race 4 started with a couple of laps of the bay which made for a great sight for anyone watching us from land. I always get nervous at race start as all twelve yachts are fighting for the prime position to cross the start line meaning we are all somewhat physically close together!

We knew that this race was to bring us potentially challenging weather and we were not disappointed. I have to say this was one of the hardest sails to date and there was us hoping for a quick sprint to Sydney. As we left the bay we were in a pack of other Clipper yachts and could see their navigation lights through the night. It was the kind of race where as soon as we could those of us with dry suits were rocking them on deck as any work on the bow ended with a full body soaking from the waves crashing over the bow. (SO glad I invested in one of these as it’s hard enough being cold, but if you were wet too that would be even more miserable!). We experienced everything from 60 knot winds to no wind at all which was a real test for the crew.

I thought I’d experienced cold in leg 3 however this race was even colder than the last. The difference this time though was down below was warm so you would be toasty in your bunk then have to get up, put on all your layers and then sweat until you’d made it on deck. This was life back at 45 degrees, living with the physical strength needed to do anything such as getting out your bunk or going to the toilet being testing on one’s tired body. I have begun to be able to train my body not to need the toilet when on watch in a Drysuit as the effort needed to take that on and off again is far too much!

This race was quite frustrating as at times we went from loads of wind to no wind at all. There were a few watches where we were actually making more progress backwards than towards Sydney which makes it harder to carry on. Bashing into waves takes its toll but can also still be mightily funny when a wave dumps over someone’s head (or into their cup of tea!).

This leg had also brought us our first big injury with Mike being hit by a wave and thrown into the helming cage, injuring his head and ribs. When this happened we stopped racing hard to make the journey more comfortable for Mike and had to divert to Hobart so that Mike could receive medical treatment and get checked out. I have to say the saddest moment of my race so far was watching Mike get into the ambulance in Hobart and then we slipped lines to head for Sydney (as we were still racing). Mike is a fellow round the worlder and a major part of our team. It felt so wrong leaving him (although I know he would be more comfortable on land) as he is part of us. Mike I admit I shed a few tears at this point and know I’m not the only one. Mend quickly please so you can re-join us.

Because of our divert to Hobart we were no longer in the big winds but instead much lighter winds which slowed our progress to Sydney. It’s ironic really that it took us a day to get out of storm bay! Slow progress continued to the extent that we were in danger of not reaching Sydney in time for the scheduled lift out the water for maintenance. 60 miles from Sydney, where we were not sailing but drifting, the race director asked us to make the decision to accept 10th place and motor in to Sydney. We now know how other crew feel who have previously finished down the pack in previous races. It’s not a great feeling at all, on arrival I felt completely drained and empty and like I was going to burst into tears. Arriving with out all the crew we left Albany with added to this blow. This was not our race, however we have learnt a lot about one another and there are more races to come which I hope we will get back into the groove for.

We’ve made it to Sydney – I’m a long way from home but glad to have made it this far. I’m looking forward to a bit of sunshine and a rest to get ready for the next race.

(No pictures en route from Albany to Sydney – camera still mislaid. But here are some pictures of the Sydney stopover, including boat maintenance)