Leg 8, Race 12: the Beginning of the End

Race 12 marked the beginning of Leg 8 and was entitled the LegenDerry Finale. Leaving New York brought about mixed emotions for me as the race is in fact the beginning of the end to my Clipper journey which I not sure I’m fully ready for. We sailed out with the impressive Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty behind us, knowing that there was just an ocean between us and home soil.

We had another Le Mans start as the sun begun to set over the fleet and we headed back towards the UK.

As we were heading for our home port, for this race we have been joined by Rich who works for the company making the Clipper documentary. This has meant that no matter what has happened during the race, Rich has been there to document it. Our team is going to be featured in the final episode so keep your eye out for the publicity so you can get a real idea of what I’ve been doing all year.

I’d got used to warm sailing so it was a shock to the system to return to the kind of seas we haven’t seen since pre America. Waves crashing over the side and lots of heavy thundery showers has meant that it’s been wet wet wet. Oddly it hasn’t bothered me as much as we have known that the Atlantic crossing was to be short in comparison to other races.

It’s been strange to think that this is my last big ocean crossing of the race. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and trying to soak up all the memories. We’ve had some awesome starry nights which I only wish were possible to document to share with others. Wildlife-wise there have been whales and dolphins as well as loads of what we think to be the poisonous Men of War jelly fish. They might be deadly, but oddly pretty in contrast to the darkness of the Atlantic. There have been moments I’ve felt rather sad too, especially when I lost my hat over board which has been with me all race, and when I found a hole in my boot. What does life hold after this race? I’m still yet to decide at the moment as to what the next adventure or challenge will be for me. I’m not the only one in the Clipper bubble to be feeling lost to the future – I keep being told it must be exciting having the chance to do anything… Which it is but also terrifying! After all I’ve been living in this Clipper bubble for nearly a year and all I’ve done is sleep, eat, sail, repeat!

Ellie and I have been mother partners again this race which has meant that we have finally got up to date with the rest of the world and got to the end of Downton Abbey! Only nearly a year behind the rest of you so thanks to those who have managed not to tell us the endings. I will miss times like this with Ellie and am so grateful to have made such an awesome friend in her.

We flew across the Atlantic and as we were coming to the end of the course we were informed there was to be another race extension as the city was not ready for our arrival. This added an extra loop up to Rockall and taking in the tidal Rathlin Island. The news was met with mixed reactions from those onboard and unfortunately for us changed the end result. We were leading up to Rockall and as the rock came into sight, so did ClipperTelemed and LMax. We crossed so closely with LMax as we went round the rock that their crew could have easily jumped aboard. That night there was tough sailing as we tried to hold our lead with LMax closely on our heels. I went to bed and we were winning and when I came back on deck for the next watch we had been overtaken. It was a horrific feeling seeing them so close to us yet still ahead. As we fought to claw the distance back we were approaching Rathlin Island and the tide was against us. Ellie and I were in the nav station and watched as LMax managed to find a gap in the tide and slowly increase their speed. It was at this point, about 8 miles from the finish line, that I realised it was over. We weren’t going to win into our home port despite being in the lead for the majority of the race. We then saw ClipperTelemed fly round the corner and make good speed towards us. We managed to keep going and crossed the finish line behind LMax.

As we got nearer the finish we saw a group of boats forming and when we had finished the race a flotilla of yachts and boats was there to welcome us. It was lovely to have a welcoming party. All the way from Greencastle to where we moored up in the city of Derry there were supporters lining the banks and cheering us in – many dressed in purple to show their support. The nearer to the city we got the louder the crowds became. We were even covered in a confetti cannon on arrival. The city it appears was proud of us, no matter what which made our arrival more pleasurable. We were too quick for Mum and Dad to be here for our arrival but I was glad of their hugs the following day as the last one I had from them was the 30 August when we left London last year.

I have always looked forward to being the home team in a home port but never expected the welcome to be so warm and friendly. People get Clipper here and are truly excited to welcome ‘their’ team. It doesn’t matter that I am not from the city, we have all been treated like heroes. People have stopped me in the street as they recognised me as being Derry crew (even when not in Clipper kit!) and we are all famous as we are are on banners across the city. Thank you Derry for making us so welcome here – this is one of the greatest Clipper memories I will have.

So there are two races to go, I am technically already a circumnavigator as we are back in the UK. There are more land days then sea days left and the end is really near. The next two races are short and a different kind of race from previous ones so it’s still anyone’s game. I want to enjoy every moment that is left and treasure this adventure for ever. Boy am I going to miss it when it’s over……

Watch a preview of the race video on YoutubeĀ  (Opens in new window)