We left Da Nang to another impressive Vietnamese ceremony send off and realised it would be the last time the shorts would be needed for some time! It was lovely that Lizzie, Jonny and Timothy were there to be my personal fan club and wave us off too.
This race has been one that I’ve always known could be challenging weather-wise and the race briefing filled me with further dread as we were shown photos of frozen-looking crew! I’ve always been one that feels the cold but I have to admit that I never thought it would be possible to feel as cold as I did this race! Once you get wet, the cold seeps in and it’s so hard to get your hands or feet warm again. At times it felt like I had shards of glass stabbing into my fingers and toes.
After reporting in my last blog on the lack of wildlife I was pleasantly surprised when we were surrounded by a pod of dolphins. Apart from that we haven’t seen any other signs of life. We have encountered mass fishing fleets and it makes you wonder if there are any fish left for them to catch! Because of the fishing fleets we had to have someone stationed in the nav. station watching the AIS (Automatic Identification System) to ensure we weren’t on a collision course with anyone. The fleets drop nets which also have AIS attached to them so you can think all will be well and suddenly you see a string of new targets appearing. It was also hard sometimes to communicate with the fleet and for them to understand we can’t sail into the wind so aren’t able to get out of the way! Fortunately we navigated all the fleets without mishap.
I’ve got to do a lot of helming again this race which I love. There have been new challenges as we encountered a lot of massive areas of seaweed which became know as the seaweed slalom as we didn’t want it caught on the rudders. Maybe this is my new calling in life as I got quite good at slipping between clumps without affecting the boat speed or needing to go wildly off course!
Most of this race has been upwind sailing. This has meant bashing into the waves which at times has made for an uncomfortable sail. We have also have some massive swells and waves which can punch you powerfully as they hit. I’m pleased to report however that although I felt sick I didn’t actually succumb this time, so slowly I’m catching up on beating joining the green club!
Each race has the opportunity to get extra points through the means of the ocean sprint (fastest time over a set distance) and also the scoring gate which is off the beaten track. We work hard every race to decide if tactically going for the gate will help our overall place and to sail as fast as we can across the sprint. This has very much been ‘our’ race as we managed to do what we called the ‘shamrock’, by winning the sprint, being first through the gate and first to cross the finish line gaining the maximum 17 points for the race! It has been hard, and at times very close with Garmin chasing us. It is amazing when all the hard work pays off and I’m happy we have achieved so much.
Our arrival into Qingdao was a spectacular welcome. Again we were involved in a press attack with cameras flashing in our faces from every angle. We were all presented with a scarf and monkey teddy (as it is the year of the monkey) and Dan was presented with a cloak and staff! I feel that whatever happens from here on in we have proved to be a team that can achieve great things. We’ve been lucky to have a fantastic crew this leg who have all given their all so this was truly a team win. Obviously I love being on the podium and hope that there will be chances to do well for the remainder of the race but to have won two races in a row is quite an achievement and I’m proud to be part of the Derry~Londonderry~Doire crew. Let’s see what the Pacific has to offer us as there is a mighty amount of water between us and Seattle!
Thank you for all your support and the lovely messages I receive in port. It’s an odd feeling now as I’ve done more legs then I have to come so am thinking of home more and what my future may hold. Miss you all and although I’m not wishing this adventure away, I’m looking forward to catching up with you all in not too many more months.