The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is the only event of its type. Anyone, even if they have never stepped on a boat before, can join the adventure and circumnavigate the world in a one year marathon.
Taking part in this year’s race as a full circumnavigator is Andrew Taylor. Andrew is the former general manager of Wembley Stadium with Delaware North Companies (UK) and project director for the Amadeus Olympic Park North team. He has agreed to share some of his race experiences with us via EP and we will be publishing extracts from his blog and some photos from aboard his yacht during each of the race stopovers.
In his latest blog he explains the team’s progress on race 5to Sydney and an exciting development on race 6: Rolex Sydney to Hobart.
As I write this we are in final preparation to depart Australia and head north up to Singapore. We arrived to Western Australia, Albany back in November for a short stopover of only 5 days. Albany was amazing; our race circus arriving there means so much more to a smaller town than when it arrives somewhere like Cape Town or Rio. The town opened up for us and were so incredibly welcoming, everywhere we went we received special treatment. Restaurants, bars, shops all knew the race schedule and who each of the teams were. Even when dressed in civi’s we were recognised and looked after with a welcoming smile. It was a real pleasure to share the race and our experiences with the town. When race 5 to Sydney started on 3rd December the whole town closed down and came out to wave us off. We put on a fabulous show with a formation parade of sail past the marina and waterfront under our spectacular blaze of colour with team flags and banners flying.
We headed out into the bay and prepared for race start, all around the hills and mountains of WA surrounding the bay we could see people lining the best vantage points and a good number of boats were out in the spectator areas to get close up views of us. Race start is a complicated and manic affair and consequently very exciting. Out boats are designed for ocean racing in big seas, they are 73 feet long and weigh 36 tonnes, but on race start day we spin them around and around almost on top of each other in close quarters jostling for position and start line honours. It’s exciting and extremely dangerous. Psychologically it’s great to get an advantage on the start and head out to sea in the lead. We all really work hard for this on DerryLondonDerry. In racing terms however when we are racing over 1,000’s of miles in reality it doesn’t really matter.
The Albany start does not disappoint and we race closer than ever before with Henri Lloyd and DLL, heading out to sea only a few meters apart. On the second turn around the buoys the boats cross each other and behind us GB and PSP Logistics get tangled together and crash into each other. GB rips off their bow sprit and damages their bow and pull pit. One of the massive twin aluminium and carbon fibre helms on PSP is destroyed and their rear guard rails and push pits are ripped right off. Miraculously no one is hurt in this melee. But both boats have to rerun straight to port for major repairs and don’t depart for at least another 24 hours. Later in a detailed independent committee review in Sydney, it is found that GB is at fault and disqualified from race 5. PSP are awarded redress points based on their average points so far on the race. Across the fleet everyone agrees this is fair.
We race hard to Sydney, travelling back down to the southern ocean again, as far south as 44degrees as we round Tasman Island to head north up to Sydney. As we head north it warms up again and we arrive in Sydney to a summer heat wave. Arriving into Sydney in fifth place we are really happy with the result. We actually got our strategy wrong on this race and it cost us at least three places in race finish order. Sailing into Sydney in blazing sunlight during the day was awesome, I have been to Sydney many times before but arriving from the sea is pretty special. My brother and his family live there, and so it was a stopover I was really looking forward to. They make the stopover really very special for me and for the first time since July I have a couple of days away from the boat to celebrate Christmas with family.
For race 6 we are taking part in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race. An opportunity to take part in this is extremely rare in the sailing world and I appreciate greatly how lucky we are to get this opportunity. Very early next morning on Boxing Day we gather ourselves on board the boat preparing for final departure.
The boat is looking great and we are ready for departure quickly which gives us time to take in the surroundings. The temporary car park is now full, the walkway around the outside of the marina awash with spectators and the pontoons which are not closed off to public access are extremely busy, with flags and banners. As we slip our moorings the boats around us applaud and cheer, as do the spectators, some final waves and blown kisses to the well-wishers and we exit the marina into the melee of boats gathering outside. The bay is mental with boats everywhere, spectator and competitor, we make our way quickly out to the rendezvous area and assemble with the fleet. Main sails and battle flags raised we head off up river to the harbour bridge and around past the opera house in formation with a police outrider boat escorting us all the way. Awesome spectacle and I can’t wait to see the photographs from this one.
As we approach back to the bay we head for the competitor start area to give ourselves some space to prepare. Flags and banners away now and sail plan ready, it’s time to go to work!
I take up position on the forward grinder for the start sequence, for this race start I am the hired muscle. We tack round and round again to get some practice and all is going extremely well. We are working well together as a team on deck and our manoeuvres look great. Once or twice I drop down to the Nav station to confirm and reconfirm headings for skipper on the helm. There are so many different marks and sequences it is very important we get these absolutely right.
As we approach the start line under the ten minute marker it gets really serious, boats in all directions and passing really close quarter. Skipper reminds us, he will steer and we must concentrate on our specialist jobs facing inwards not looking out. Easier to say than do in this instance, this is by far the biggest event of this kind many of us have experienced, or perhaps will do so, it is quite awe inspiring, being on the start line competing against Volvo 70’s and Maxi 100’s. The colours and noise are amazing too. All around us we can see thousands of spectators on the cliff tops and in the bays. The start gun sounds and we are positioned pretty much mid field, safe spot and comfortable place to be. We follow the pack out to the marks and it gets tight as the boats jostle for position through the harbour exits and out to sea. There is a radio call for ‘Brindabella’ who has jumped the start, they will need to return and recross the start line.
We cruise around our outer mark with plenty of room to spare and head out to sea. What an amazing experience, we reflect upon this together as it calms down a little on deck. Everyone has a big grin on their faces and is filled with excitement. We split straight into our watch patterns and grab a quick dinner.
During the first night the winds start to build and we make excellent progress. I am surprised at how little traffic we see, with 94 boats effectively heading the same way; there are still times when we see nothing. Gradually the weather closes in around us as it was scheduled to and by late on day two we are already changing down gears rapidly. We start to prepare for the storm worsening, we stow everything below, rig the deck for storm mode and prepare a storm jib just in case. During the night it gets pretty tasty with gusts of up to 55knotts and we hold course as best we can riding it out.
As we head south towards the Bass strait the seas build and the wind eases a little. It’s a rough ride, but we have been here before only a couple of weeks ago so we all know what we are dealing with. We watch closely the water temperature and depth contours to avoid the currents as best we can. We start to see other boats around us and helicopters buzz overhead regularly. We joke about doing stuff and looking professional when they pass for photos. Some of the results we see later on the web site look great and one or two of the crew buy prints of these photos in Hobart.
Through the Bass straits we see the coast line of Tasmania, it’s quite beautiful and rugged, reminds me a lot of Scottish coastlines, with temperatures similar too it gets chillier as we race further south. The winds change and we have to tack back and forth to get around Tasman Island which adds to our time and slows us down a lot, we monitor the fleets as best we can, but there is so much data coming in sporadically from different sources it becomes difficult to do. We know we are either first or second in the clipper fleet at this point. We go around the south of Tasman Island and head west along the south coast, again we need to tack back and forth to make any progress, we try to stay offshore further to give us a better line into the bay. I spend increasing amounts of time in the navigation station now, calculating the angles of tack and distances best sailed for final approach to storm bay. It takes us almost 20 hours to sail the 12 miles west along the south coast and on deck it gets frustrating at times. We eventually turn and head into storm bay, north towards the Derwent River. There are no other boats in the bay as far as we can see, but we know CV10 with Sir Robin on board and GB are now closing in behind us, Old Poultney also show up on AIS for the first time around 25 miles behind, but we know this just took us a day almost, so no pressure from them yet.
CV10 is one of the Clipper 68’s from the last fleet which competed in the 11-12 race. Two of these CV10 & CV5 are now based in Sydney as a new Clipper training base, both are in the race, CV10 is skippered by Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Jim Dobie, head of the new Sydney Clipper operations. More importantly we recall, CV10 was also sponsored by Derry Londonderry in the last race 11-12, so we really do need to beat it, and to be fair if it comes in second to us, that would be a great result.
Our sail across storm bay takes us around 2 hours for the 11 miles, and then we enter the Derwent river estuary, with 10 miles to the finish line. Wind angles in the estuary mean we have to tack back and forth, and with numerous wind holes we drift along backwards at times in between making headway. Our frustrations and nervousness on board now is extreme, we are looking over our shoulder and monitoring radar and AIS constantly, convinced someone is out there after us. We have lead races so many times before and lost position in the last dying miles, we know how this feels. But this one is different; we are as close as we will ever be to winning our first clipper race, and winning our division of the Sydney Hobart race too. This is huge for us and the tension on board is now unbearable. Everyone goes quiet and concentrates on sailing. Skipper is at the helm calling the shots, no one questions anything they just do as he asks quickly and efficiently. Back and forth we continue, it seems to take an age, we really struggle to sail the winds towards the finish line and at times it seems like it is getting further away! All the time we are looking around for competitors, it is electrically nervous. Eventually we get to cross the finish line, an escort boat immediately collects us and we oblige in controlled professional discipline and follow them into the marina, dropping our sails and preparing our colours for arrival. We turn into the dock, it’s around 06:00 and there are huge crowds all around to welcome us in. As we approach the pontoon it is confirmed, we have won our division, also winning race 6 collecting 12 points and then they confirm 29th overall line honours.
Wow! I am ecstatic, everyone on board goes mental, and the celebrations are huge. We just won our division of the Sydney Hobart race; I keep saying this over and over again. Cheers, hugs and many many tears on board and there is champagne spraying, jumping around and trying to take this in. I turn on my phone and it lights up with texts from home, so many people have been glued to this as it plays out. We pack the boat down and head straight out for champagne breakfast, still in our sailing kit. I am really not sure what time we get back to the boat later that day, or even if it was the same day! Over New Year we attend four separate prize givings, including the main official one with the President of Tasmania, we have all our spare stopover time sucked up by media and PR. Our normal team approach would be to play down and celebrate magnanimously, but we enjoy every minute of the celebrations, whilst applauding all the other boats and team as they arrive too. I have never experienced anything like this. The Sydney to Hobart race is one of the premier race sailing events in the world, we are so lucky to have been given the chance just to enter. But to win it too is still sinking in. As I grow old and grey(er) I shall bore future generations with these stories forever.
We depart Hobart for race 7 to Brisbane on 2nd January. Within 3 hours of the start line we are bought very quickly down to earth and the business of ocean racing. CV23 Mission Performance skipper Matt comes over the VHF with a mayday call, serious injury on board. A crew member has a really bad fall on board landing in his head. He is unconscious and unresponsive, major head trauma and possible back and neck injuries. A second crew member is also hurt but less seriously with broken ribs. Over the next three hours I sit in the Nav station monitoring the call, taking copious notes and relaying radio messages in support where we can. one of the fleet, CV22 Qingdao is close by and go straight to the scene to support. The VHF and Satellite telephones busy constantly, and as operating procedure for this calls for a time stamped diary of events, whilst all the while updating our own crew this keeps me extremely busy. We impose a fleet wide external coms and media blackout until family back home are informed. I learn early on who the crew member is, it’s a round the world crew member I previously trained with and a good friend too. A major medivac operation plays out, with helicopters and police & coast guard cutters. Both casualties are evacuated back to Hobart for medical care, and after a few days we receive good news updates on them both. They both later fly on to meet us in Brisbane. The three hours or so this plays out are extremely difficult for me and reminds us of the risks of racing once again. The race continues to take its toll on all of the crews, we have three of our own crew out of service currently with broken bones and injury, and in Brisbane as we work on the boat in blazing sunshine and heat, most of the crew in shorts and bare tops looking around me I notice the cuts and bruises. After meeting up with the injured crew members from Mission Performance I reflect on our own crew. Everyone on board is carrying an injury of some sort. We hope and pray for continual safety of everyone as the race continues. We eventually finish 2nd in race seven, and also pick up three valuable extra points for the scoring gate. We are now in third place in the leader board; spirits are very high on LegenDerry as we head out for some really big races. 53 days and 7,500 miles, racing north to Singapore and then on to Qingdao.
Much love and hugs to all at home, thank you so much for all the great messages and notes of support, they are most grateful. It is a pleasure to share the experience and I look forward to more of the same as we continue on our epic race journey.
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Bon chance tout le monde