2015 Campaign

Campaigning for the 2015 AZAB Race & Rolex Fastnet Race

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The fifth "S"

The fifth "S" - sleep. Arrived in Tauranga, checked into the hotel,
shaved, showered & ready for dinner. Hit the sheets for 40 winks, but
slept for 14 hours. Missed dinner!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Arrived in New Zealand

Richard has arrived in New Zealand and I will be there too in just over 48 hours time, just a small matter of 3 aeroplanes first! Thanks for all your support, we will post some pictures from Tauranga, where the next race to Gold Coast Australia starts on Sunday 4th December.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The five S's

We are reaching fast along the north coast of New Zealand with less than
140nm to go and only one more night at sea. At our 5 o'clock team meeting
the Skipper asked each of us to state one thing we were looking forward to
when ashore. And not surprising the old adage of the five "S's" springs to
mind. 1) "Shit" - no need to hang on to a grab handle whilst trying to
take aim at a moving target. 2) "Shave" - looking forward to the end of
Movember and the irritating growth on my face. 3) "Shower" - by the bucket
full with oodles of hot water and plenty of soap. 4) "Shore" - beer, steak
& chips, red wine, whisky, more whisky, even more whisky ..... 5) "S***",
what was the fifth "S" again - "Shouldn't have had that last whisky"

Monday, 21 November 2011

Soggy Boots and sudocreme

We have been at sea for 16 days now with only 5 days remaining until we
reach Tauranga - a mere Fastnet Race in duration! The tedium of a
delivery trip across the Tasman Sea was replaced by excitement last night
as we enjoyed a fast ride in 30+ kts of breeze with gusts up to 50kt.
With no moonlight or stars to guide us, it was a challenge to take the
helm and steer by instruments alone. The weather has passed and high
pressures dominate once again allowing us time to continue with ongoing
maintenance. Each day at 5pm we have a whole team gathering for tea and
"posh" biscuits and share our learning experiences for the past 24 hours.
This time mine was repairing a spinnaker guy, including blood knots,
whippings and chafe protection. Other learning points that I have found
over the past fortnight include a) I'm not fit enough, b) expensive boots
does not mean dry feet, c) I didn't bring enough socks, d) the pixie has
pinched my fleece cap and finally e) sudocreme is very effective in
fighting chafe - but not on the sheets.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Delivery to NZ

For those of you still watching I'm sure you can see our progress on the
tracker. The shortest route to Tauranga is around Cape Reinga to the
north of North Island. Our next option is via Cook Strait and skirt
around North Island to approach Tauranga from the East - 200nm further.
The later option may have the advantage of better winds, but will the
extra speed offset the increased distance? There are currents that flow
around the north of NZ and down the east coast - another argument against
the Cook Strait option. But if there is not enough wind for the Cape
Reinga route we may not have sufficient fuel to get us all the way home.
Such are the factors facing the navigator/tactician, especially when
trying to second guess the weather in 5 to 8 days time. So we have
decided to head due east, half way between each option and make our
decision in 3 days time. It will add only 20nm to our journey but keeps
both options open. If anyone with local knowledge has any suggestions -
please let Grace know so she can pass the info on. We are not racing, so
outside assistance gratefully received. Richard.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Shall I be Mother?

Today I am Mother. Which actually started last night with washing up after
dinner - where's Zanussi when you need her? Then a long night's sleep and a lie
in until 5am - bliss, more than 3 hours sleep. Breakfast treat for the crew -
boiled eggs and fried bacon. 6 mins was just right for the eggs, firm whites
slightly soft yolks - no returns and no complaints. They say an army marches on
its stomach - the same can be said of a yachts crew as the new watch head
upstairs with fuel in their bellies and smiles on their faces. More washing up,
anti-bacterial wipes on all the grab handles, heads to clean out, slops thrown
overboard, tea for the skipper in bed. A brief respite before preparing lunch
for which today's menu consists of something tinned, lightly seasoned and fried
before adding something else tinned. Then served up with generous helpings of
chilli sauce, Worcester sauce, peri peri sauce, red hot pepper sauce - take your
pick. And for dessert we have lashings of something out of a tin, with liquid
out of a carton to wash it down. Difficult to be more specific as all the tins
and cartons have a distinctive yellow & black label. I should know after all
the days I spent in the supermarket in Geraldton. I seem to remember the pet
food also came in the same tins. Woof!

Bass Strait

Following a brief pit stop at Queenscliff, Victoria we are underway again
bound to Tauranga. The welcome and support we received at Queenscliff was
fantastic - no sooner had we tied up alongside than an army of volunteers
jumped aboard with taps & drills to repair the steering quadrant. An ice
box full of beers and a BBQ dockside provided a brief respite whilst the
crew set about fixing the reefing line, crossed halyards, replacement
mainsheet and turning block - all damage received in our all too brief
foray into the Southern Ocean. As I write the iron sail is powering us
into a light headwind across the Bass Strait - a formidable stretch of
water with a fearsome reputation which is being very kind to us. A high
pressure system is moving away from us across the Tasman Sea and we are
expecting Northwesterly winds to fill in behind it, powering us towards NZ
at circa 8kts. Meanwhile we are reading reports from the rest of the
fleet battling it out in winds that have not dropped below 30 kts for
three days - my own feelings of sadness & disappointment that we are not
sharing that adventure. However my frustration is tempered by the
experience and should help focus my preparation for next years
transatlantic TwoStar - self reliance and ensuring we have the right tools
and spares. Even the smallest of components failing could end our
campaign. And how one reacts to such adversity depends on ones own
motivation - is it the desire to finish at all costs irrespective of
position, in which case one would soldier on, or a desire to make it onto
the podium in which case continuing at sub-optimum speeds would offer
little incentive. Why do we race - to finish or to win?

Monday, 14 November 2011


Three days later and the calls of port..... Starboard.... are getting
somewhat tedious. We are still heading for Port Phillip under Secondary
steering. One more day and we will have covered over 700nm. There must be
a way to run a continuous loop through the blocks so one person can steer
- I have some ideas that I might try out on Jangada next year. Tedium has
began to set in with the lads become rather boisterous and high jinx
prevail - the product of too much sleep and not enough sail changes. Now,
keel haul next.....

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Early exit from the Southern Ocean

Steering failure! Not long after my last blog, disaster struck. I was
alone at the helm, crew on the foredeck preparing for a sail change when
the sea started to pile up behind me. The video replay shows me glance
over my right shoulder, helm to port, glance again, helm harder to port,
glance yet again this time with more urgency. By this stage the horizon is
starting to tilt at an usual angle. "Grab the spokes of the helm" had
been the skippers advice previously, so with one final chance I grabbed a
spoke and heaved the helm over, determined to keep Singapore heading down
the face of the wave and avoid a broach. Then, without any drama, the
wheel gave up all resistance and Singapore started a long gentle parabolic
curve up to towards the wind. The wave passed under us without further
incident, but the damage had been done. The loads involved had forced the
steering quadrant to fail, the screw threads on a locating collar
stripped. Despite efforts to fix the problem onboard, we were unable to
find a solution robust enough to endure a further 3,000nm racing under
Southern Ocean conditions. So it is with regret that we are now bound for
Melbourne to pick up the essential tools and parts to complete the repair
ourselves. We are still in racing mode, albeit at reduced speed. The
secondary system involves a system of blocks with 4:1 purchase and two
people to turn the tiller - one to port and one to starboard, with a third
person watching the course and calling the shots. As the tedium set in,
calls of "port.... centre.... port... starboard...." were replaced by
"Adelaide..... Melbourne....". By the time we arrive at Port Phillip we
will have steered over 700nm under tiller. The mood onboard is mixed,
some glad to be out of the Southern Ocean and back in warmer water, others
like my self disappointed that we have been robbed of the challenge we
came to face. But we all have one thing in common - determined to be on
the next start line on 4th December, fully rested and all systems
functioning. The "Race" is not over yet - there are ten more races with
plenty of opportunity to move up the leaderboard once again.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Vicky is dumped by her Guy and takes a swim

11 Nov 0200UTC - I'm starting to lose track of the number of days at sea,
so better to switch to dates. The 10th Nov was as good as it gets. Even
Skipper Ben, at his daily 5pm team talk, thought it was the best 24 hours
he'd ever experienced. After a depressing position report the previous
day showing all boats making gains on us, Ben and the crew rallied around
and hoisted the spinnaker for some spectacular night time sailing and
surfing. Eventually the guy parted company leaving the kite, known as
"Sticky Vicky" flogging to leeward. "All Hands" was the cry that rudely
bought me back to reality, deep in sleep as I was at the time. Despite a
quick swim, "Vicky" was recovered with only minor scratches. Daylight
bought with it perfect sailing conditions - sunshine to dry our boots,
fresh winds to power our sails, music to sooth our ears, Yorkshire within
sight all day giving us some company and a return to the top half of the
leaderboard. But last night saw the next Low pressure system swiftly
creep upon us and spank us with avengeance and 50kt gusts. Fortunately we
were in the processes of changing headsails at the time so flying downwind
with only a reefed mainsail was easily manageable. A cautious night and
probably a few miles given away, but no damage to report and the crew in
better shape than one might expect after toughing out a F8/F9 gale.
Daybreak brings with it glorious sunshine and great sailing. Southern
Ocean at its best. But we are not complacent - the next Low timed to
arrive as we reach the Tasmania Gate in four days time looks like she
might be out to give a good hiding! So enjoy the sun while it lasts.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Day 5 - one step at a time

It's 02:30 local time and I'm lying in my bunk wrapped up in a fleece
lined sleeping bag - so cosy. I can hear the sound of the water surging
past only inches from my ear on the other side of the hull. Every time the
boat surfs on a wave the tone of the water changes. But then my dreams
are rudely interrupted by a shake of the shoulder - time to get up. You
might think that 30 mins is ample time to get out of bed and up on deck.
First find socks, hanging from the bunk above me, slightly damp still and
developing a delicate bouquet. The sooner they get stuffed back inside
the boots the better. Sling legs over the bunk - boots where I left them,
clipped together and tied to my bunk. Everything is clipped to the bunk
otherwise the pixie hides them. But don't hang clothes in contact with
the lee cloths. They soak up all the moisture in the atmosphere,
permanently soaked. Sit on floor, pull one leg into salopettes, then the
next leg. Try to lean forward to tighten up the gaiters around the my
boots, pause as the boat rolls one way, wait for the counter roll and go
for it - if I'm quick enough the straps are done before the boat rolls
back again. More often than not it take 2 or three attempts. For each
boot. Need to stand up again, wait for the right roll of the boat, go for
it. Bump, back down on my bum. Try again. Over compensated and end up
head first in my bunk. Hang on and carefully ease my way back out of the
bunk. 5 mins passed already. Eventually salopettes are on. Croc
slippers clipped together on the bunk ready for my return. The fleece
jacket is a breeze to get on. Just as well really as the next major
hurdle is the smock. Trick is to fold the waist up to the chest , both
layers. Pull over head. Half way the boat lunges. Back into my bunk
with arms pinned inside the smock and no way to brace the fall. Boat
lunges back the other way and I'm out of my bunk thrust against the wall
on the other side. Eventually smock is on. 10 mins and I'm still in the
ghetto. Check my grab bag - gloves, warm hat, and buff. Put them on
ready for the charge to the cockpit. Run tne gauntlet of veg alley - mind
the carrots! After 5 mins checking the Nav station I'm ready to climb the
steps and face the Southern Ocean once more - damn, forgot lifejacket.
Back to the Ghetto. Ouch a bruising sideswipe from the broccoli this time.
Beginning to wish I hadn't put the buff on so soon - getting hot and
steamy inside my gear. Eventually I make it to the hatch - climbing one
step at a time like an astronaut returning from a walk on the moon.
Desperate to make it out on deck 10 mins before my watch starts - any
later and the First Mates threaten to start waking you up earlier - dream
time is precious, so with one final herculean effort I thrust myself up
and out onto the cockpit floor. A tumbled heap with arms and legs bent at
unnatural angles. The top of the mountain has been reached, the wind in
my face, the waves surging past the boat. A real sense of achievement.
Only to be smashed to bits as I realise my glasses are still by my bunk.
Aaaarrrggghhhhhhhhhhh g'damnit - veg alley again!

Day 4 - Vegetable Alley

Every 3 or 4 hours we go through the routine of changing watches. This
means running the gauntlet from cockpit to ghetto (the name given to the
sail locker with our bunks). But enroute we have to pass through the main
cabin where the all the vegetables are slung from the roof in two
hamocks. The trick is to time it right in phase with the roll of the
boat. Time it wrong and first there's a right jab from cauliflower swiftly
followed by a full force of a left hook from the sack of potatoes.
Nothing like climbing into your bunk with cauliflower ears.

Day 3 - The lion roars

As the low pressure system passes to the south of us we are enjoying a
steady sequence of cumulus clouds, complete with their share of squalls,
rain and even thunder. As the day passed the wind started to ease and the
squalls became less frequent. We became braver and sails were changed -
running with the Yankee 2 and staysail, with 3 reefs in the main. But we
were lulled into a false sense of security - just as I was commenting on how
light the steering was, as if the mermaids were singing softly and enjoying
the ride, a short sharp 60kt squall blew through. I was on the helm and
this little pussycat proved that she can roar like a lion. By the end of it
my knees were shaking, just pleased to have kept Singapore upright. Only
later did I see the wind plots and realise that the gust peaked just short
of 60 knots! The image on Singapore's bow is the traditional Merlion - a
mermaid with the head of a lion - how apt.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Day 2 - Cape Leeuwin lives up to expectation

As we approached Cape Leeuwin passing Fremantle out of sight over the
horizon to our left the winds have started to increase as forecast. A low
pressure system passing to the south of the Cape promises to bring with it
a series of cold fronts, stormy cumulous clouds and strong gusts.
At one point in the night all hands were needed to drop the Yankee 2
in readiness for the increasing winds. A line of four seemingly puny
adventures lined up to tackle the wilderness we call the foredeck. In
unison we crouched on our knees, heads bowed low against the endless
onslaught of wave after wave breaking over the bow. Away from my usual
comfort zone behind the wheel or at the nav station I led the way forward,
only to return once the sail was securely lashed to the deck.
But with the new day the Cape has lived up to expectation and already I
have notched up one surf at 18.6knots. And I lost my 50kt virginity as the
gust reach gale force, occasionally up to 40kts and on one occasion
topping out briefly at 50kts. Now heading south esat towartd the first
scoring gate almost 700nm away and onward to a gate south of Tasmania.

Clipper Race 5 Day 1

After an all too short stopover for Singapore in Geraldton, the race is
underway again. This time to Tauranga NZ. The people of Geraldton gave
us a good send off, lining the beaches and waving us off. The fleet
entertained them by racing to windward for a mile, before returning to
gybe around a mark almost on the beach. Once out of the harbour we turned
south, bound for Cape Leeuwin 339nm away. Champagne Sailing with a fresh
15kt-20kt breeze - ideal for the leggers to start finding our sea legs
again. Even the night sky was kind to us with a bright moon.

Orion is upside down and the winds circulate the wrong way!

Friday, 4 November 2011

My home for the 3 weeks

The navigation station on the Clipper yacht Singapore - my home for the next three weeks. Skipper Ben has asked me to take the lead on the navigation. We have 2 PCs onboard - one dedicated to navigation & routing, the other used for media & comms. Our route will take us south from Geraldton, past Perth to a virtual mark 10nm off Cape Leeuwin. Winds are likely to vary throughout the day as the sea breeze blows onshore in afternoon and land breeze offshore at night. Then it's left as we aim to follow a great circle route to the south of NZ South Island. En Route we have an optional scoring gate in the Great Australian Bight, a mandatory non-scoring gate south of Tasmania and an Ocean sprint between Tas & NZ. Then up the East coast of NZ, around the tip and into Tauranga on the North Coast, taking care to avoid submerged containers from the ship beached at Tauranga.
Total distance 3,800nm.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The fleet in Geraldton

As the sun sets on Geraldton, all yachts are now in port. Prize giving is a brief distraction as tomorrow crews return to the task of preparing for the next race which start on Sunday.

Sightseeing in Geraldton

Home for the past few days has been the supermarket in Geraldton. With the weather pattern holding up Singapore those of us ashore have been busy filling trolleys and checking prices.

Bananas at £5 per kilo with the harvest affected by the Queensland floods may be an extreme example but the exchange rate makes everything seem expensive. Especially a pint of lager at $10 AUD, almost £7!