Recap from Australia Pt. 1

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 since we last heard from Andrew in Australia. Since then he has travelled across the Pacific from Qingdao, China to foggy San Francisco, California. In a frightening turn of events during this leg of the race Andrew was thrown overboard. EP is happy to report that he is well and has shared the following update.

Since my last update in January from Brisbane we have raced north to Singapore, onto Qingdao and now east across the mighty North Pacific 5,800 miles from Qingdao to San Francisco the longest, hardest and most dangerous of all the races on the round the world circuit. We have crossed back north over the Equator and across the international dateline, currently lying in third place in the overall points table, and still in really strong contention for the race for the title. There are just six races to go before we arrive back in London to celebrate race finish under TowerBridge on the 12th July this year.

09:00 on the 12th January we slipped our lines and pulled out of Rivergate Marina Brisbane. There is no ceremony, no music and only friends, family and race crew are here to see us off. The 12 race yachts form up line astern mid river with our flags and banners flying high, we head off down river and out into Moreton bay. We hear on the VHF Mission Performance have gone back to port with an electrical fault, what a shame for them after loosing out on the last race too. We line up in formation for a Le Mans start. We rush forward on the G of go, to pre agreed and practised positions and set about hoisting head sails. We lead the fleet as we head out into the Coral Sea and morale is high on board. It’s a glorious sight to see the fleet behind us at this stage. We sail reasonably close formation for a few hours as we head out to sea, but as always we start to loose sight of the fleet after the first night.

(c) Clipper Ventures Plc (30)

We make our way out across the Coral Sea and North towards the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, where we turn northwest across the remainder of the Coral Sea to the Louisiade Archipelago southeast of Papua New Guinea. We turn northwest again across the Solomon Sea, along the north coast of Papua New Guinea and through the Vitiaz straights between Papua New Guinea and the island of New Britain. The heat is getting pretty severe at this point, it’s blazing and burning hot sunshine all day on deck, and below deck there is little respite. In our bunks it reaches well over 40 degrees and sleep is a luxury, sweat is full, like a sauna sweat. As we cross the SolomanSea, Old Poultney tack right across our stern at one point, and OneDLL are to be seen clearly on the horizon. We love this kind of close racing and it generates much focus on helm and trim on board.

North of the straights of Vitiaz there are two small islands, which we end up looking at for nearly three days, whilst stuck in a wind hole, then gradually make our way out past them offshore into the Bismark sea. All the time, we monitor the sea temperature to spot the possible currents as there are some pretty strong ones in this area we need to try to avoid.

With 2,700 miles still to run and around 17 days to go, time is getting tight now for this race to finish in time for the next one to start. We always knew, with the light wind forecast, there was a chance this could be a shortened course. With several boats at least 2 days behind us and an average speed of only 8knotts motoring long distance if we stop racing, the race office are rapidly running out of time to call this. There is much speculation on board as to how and when this will occur. By the time we reach the BismarkSea, it is us, DLL and Old Pulteney out in front in a group of three with the rest of the pack between 30nm and 280nm behind us. We catch DLL slowly over the course of the next day or so.

OPTI0128

In between the blistering heat and baking sunshine we experience some amazing squalls- during the day these can be seen building and approaching, at night however it is a different story. We monitor closely our radar which picks up the storm clouds and rain, or at least it did until it registered ‘error code #3362’ whatever that means! For now at least, it means it doesn’t work. So we now occasionally get caught out by a storm we haven’t seen. On one such night storm, we see the thunder and lightning approaching in the distance, in a matter of minutes it’s over us and the rain crashes down. I have never experienced rain like this, almost as though the drops are joined up, like getting fire hosed, it’s hard work to see and just stand up on deck, its raining so heavily. After a fashion we get the sails under control, the lightning continues and the thunder resonates through the hull as it crashes directly above us. At one point two bolts of lightning strike the water either side of the boat, so close you can feel and smell them!

The race office confirms via email, although we are making good progress in line with previous races, they are issuing a shortened course notice to manage our time and the corporate commitment pressures ahead of us in Singapore. The new finish line will be a way point, just south of the Sulu Sea, some 900 miles ahead of us. We calculate with the current weather forecast this will take us around 10 days with a further 1,000 miles to motor sail from there to Singapore. This is becoming an endurance test for the crew now. We are all feeling the effects of the constant heat, wet and the draining pounding we now get below and above decks after escaping into good head on breeze. It is difficult to sleep, on the low side you are pinned hard up against the wall and can hardly move, on the high side you cling on to stop yourself falling out. The days of beating into wind continue, one day blurs to the next, I sometimes forget what time it is and what meal we are about to eat! On one day I ask one of the watch to put the kettle on ready for breakfast, only to be informed it is only 9pm! Ahh right! Maybe not then!

I helm for at least 2 hours on each watch and spot & supervise many others doing so in between. I have blisters on my thumbs from helming and a sore head from the hours on end in the sun. I take a break from deck work as it’s my mother duty day. It’s a real challenge too, heeled over at 45degrees most of the time, pounding through the waves and baking hot temperatures in the galley. I make banana bread and the boat rocking spills the mix twice, then it heels over in the oven and makes a mess again. The sink splashes out onto the floor all the time, I burn my leg from a kettle water splash, then in a massive boat crash on a big wave I loose at least a third of the bolognaise sauce I just made, all over the stove- it’s yet another big slow clean up job. As we say on board “suck it up princess” Ohh what a day!!

500 miles to go to the way point at Sarangani Straights, just south of Mindano island part of the Philippines, which is the location of the shortened course finish line. We calculate with the winds ahead we can make third place to the way point behind DLL and Old Pulteney. The boats in the north will have a steep south course to follow and the winds, which will ease for them over the next few days, will be at the worst possible angle for this. This doesn’t quite play out as we thought, we approach the way point in what we consider to be third place. It’s painful and takes us days longer than anticipated to reach, eventually crossing it at around 02:30 in the morning, after 23 days and 3,900 miles. With the final results cast the next morning we finish seventh. The guys in the North get favourable wind after all. It’s been a lottery of a race all the way and we really feel as though we have done our best. Seventh place plus our scoring gate points is a good result though and we are happy to celebrate this. Now we need to motor sail to Singapore as quickly as possible, with a fuel stop on route.

We head through the straights and out into the Moro Gulf, part of the Celebes Sea. This turns out to be a desert of a sea and we experience absolutely flat calm for the next three days. Despite the frustrations of the heat and not being able to sail, it’s bliss to motor flat and we all take the time to rest and recuperate in between working on boat maintenance during the day. It also happens to be my birthday, which I haven’t mentioned to anyone and it passes unnoticed without fuss, which I really quite like. It is a contemplative and reflective day for me and I really enjoy it.

We exit the Moro Gulf through the Basilian Straights, past the Sulu Archipelago and into the Sulu Sea, then pass through the Belabac Straights, north of Sabah, part of Malaysia. After some fuel calculations we motor at an increased 9kt towards our fuel stop at Kota Kinabalu. I manage to get a phone signal just off the coast of Indonesia and text my daughter Siobhan, I get a really nice birthday text back from Siobhan, I really am starting to miss her a lot now and it hurts when I get her text, I go to my bunk for a cry and to be alone. We refuel and slip away from Kota Kinabalu in the late afternoon, ready for the final motor sail onto to Singapore, past Brunei and Borneo, across the South China Sea.

Continue onto Part 2