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Race 4 - Day 5

Qingdao - Andrew Harper

09 NOV 2013 - Race 4

One of the downsides of sailing in the Southern Oceans is that you don't see any other shipping.   It's been a few days since we last saw another vessel and although some of the other Clipper Race yachts are in the same area they remain out of sight, except on the navigations systems.

Indeed, I understand that some single handed sailors in this area have worked out that, at times, their nearest neighbours will be the astronauts carrying out their experiments on the International Space Station 300 kms above their heads.

However, we do have company of another kind in the seabirds and especially that iconic bird of the Southern Oceans, the albatross, and this patch of ocean that we find ourselves in today is particularly rich in these solitary birds that spend the first 5 years of their life at sea before returning to their place of birth to breed.

The aerial skills of these majestic birds, with their 2 metre wingspan, would be then envy of any fighter pilot and their grace, the envy of any dancer. One moment the albatross may be gliding alongside us, turning its head to look at these strange beings that are intruding on their patch of sea, then, with no apparent movement of their wings or tail, they soar into the sky to hover for a few seconds before banking away and plunging down wind at incredible speeds only to turn and glide back over the sea with their wingtips inches away from the surface, and all this without a single beat of their wings.  They truly are a bird that is pefectly adapted for its surroundings.

How the albatross manages to find its food in these seas is a mystery but the fact that it has done so for so long is testament to their abilities and a Round the World yacthsman's life would be poorer without them.