CLIPPER RACE BLOG 6: ‘WE ARE BACK’ BY SIMON DU BOIS
In Simon’s latest blog he describes the highlights from the first Clipper Race stopover in Punte Del Este and the much needed push to pull the Visit Seattle crew together as they embark on Leg 2 heading towards Cape Town…
I’m back! WE ARE BACK!
After a hard-working week and a half in Punta del Este, Uruguay, we successfully got the boat ready for the race start on October 4th. Punta has proven to be so welcoming and a nice city to visit. My favourite two moments of this stopover were the BBQ organised by the Mayor at an outdoor art museum. WHAT A FEAST! The other visit I truly enjoyed was visiting the Bodega Garzon vineyard. An LEED certified state of the art newly built vineyard that incorporated the traditional wine making process with renewable technology. The people at Bodega welcomed us with a private guided tour and treated us with an amazing 5 course meal. I must say that these two meals probably made up for the 5 weeks worth of meals at sea!
As for the team, we were already losing 3 crew members (7 exit – 4 entries) and ended up leaving with 6 less. 1 getting injured during work at the stopover, one from Leg 1 injury and one entry that could not make it anymore. This was going to be quite a challenge for us.
We gathered all together and pulled a fantastic start around the buoys, kicking off Leg 2 at the front of the fleet. This was a big statement for us after our misfortune of Leg 1 and a relief. We still had it in us. The scenery of the start and the boat fighting and crossing with the city and the island behind was breathtaking.
The winds were blowing hard on the first days and we had to do many sail changes. With a shorter crew, this proved to be quite a challenge. Much more physical. The leader that I am repeated my procedure of Leg 1 – being the first one sick to get it out of the way and so that others don’t feel bad if they don’t feel right. Haha! I was right back on my feet after.
We stayed at the front of the fleet the first couple of days until the first decision had to be made: Are we going for the scoring gate? After much discussion and after analysing the weather and our option, the team decided to get the points while they were possible. At the time, we are thinking that it doesn’t put us too far out of our route and we will have enough time to catch up to fight for the top of the leaderboard. We believe these points will make a difference in the long run.
After two and a half days, the wind slightly decreased, so did the weather and it was now drysuit time. We were definitely in a different leg. You know it’s cold and wet when you can’t distinguish one or the other. Sadly, we now have a few crew members that are limited in their contribution, two being confined to their bunk (sick from a cold) and two with limited physical capabilities after falling down. This doesn’t leave a lot of people on deck. However, the team really regrouped and everyone is pulling their weight to make sure we sail the boat as well and as fast as possible. Night and Day.
I was happy to see we learned from our mistakes in Leg 1 and decided to play a bit more conservative one night when hesitating to hoist code 2. Everyone was exhausted from a multitude of sail plan evolutions; the winds were on the limit of the that sail and we were not exactly sure what to expect for later. We kept an eye on our competitors and were not losing ground so decided to maintain status quo with the same sail plan.
We had a few issues with some halyard twisting and had to go up the mast a few times. One night 3/4 up the mast, a thunderstorm came across and as the lightning struck Skipper Nikki urgently requested to bring me down on deck and away from the mast. Not going to lie, I didn’t feel so comfortable at that moment. After 1.5 days of strong winds, shifty conditions and rain, we were still at the front of the pack. Then came the champagne sailing. Since Saturday morning, the sailing conditions (yet cold and a bit wet) have been absolutely wonderful providing us with great speed (we even broke the 20 knots barrier once when I was on the helm). Sunny during the day and some nice stars and moonlight at night.
Despite the sickness issue this leg has provided the best of sailing so far and I am thrilled to see how things turn out for us. We are in a great mindset for the rest of the race. A high pressure will be hitting the fleet in the next 48hrs. We know no matter what happens that the race is not over until it’s over so we will keep pushing until the finish.