Race 14 - Day 2
Crew Diary - THE FINALE: Den Helder, Netherlands, to London, UK
29 July

Simon Rosbottom
Simon Rosbottom
Team GREAT Britain
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Today, we waved goodbye to our last, brief stopover of the race. Den Helder and the Dutch were warm and friendly hosts and a 'Clipper Race Festival' over the weekend, including prize giving kept us entertained.

The marina itself was surrounded by many bars and eateries, plus two maritime museums to which we had free tickets. Amsterdam, with its many attractions, only 75 minutes away by train, lured many away from the marina for a day or two.

After the parade of sail, Den Helder witnessed a close in-shore race start- at times only a few hundred yards off the beach as our penultimate day of racing began. A 'good' crowd were silhouetted on top of the large dyke surrounding the town. Note that the crowd size scale had undergone some revision since the thousands that turned out in Derry.

At times, boats were only metres apart, under spinnaker, providing quite the exciting spectacle. Rounding 'the corner' and turning south caused the newly hoisted kites to be dropped and white sails hoisted. There followed a tackathon down the main channel, depth constrained by shallows to the west, despite the high tide.

Initially, three boats took the inshore route, straight down the coast. Most tacked their way down the main channel and some took the middle option, employing a bit of both. Despite this parting of the ways, the whole fleet were heading for the first marker buoy, TX1. By early evening, the fleet were more or less back together again, engaging in a spot of communal gas rig dodging in the shifting winds. A short hop across the North Sea during the night took us around the mark at Smith's Knoll and a turn due south 20 miles off the flat, East Anglian coast. England is tantalisingly close but still out of sight over the horizon. We keep looking, feeling that mariner's hope, wondering what our thoughts will be after seeing the coast again after so long away.

Presently, Visit Seattle are in the lead, who have clearly discovered how to let off their parking brake. Hi guys! GREAT Britain are in eighth place and with Garmin in fourth, we would still finish overall in third as they started Race 14 seven points behind. However, with a smidge under 100 miles to go, there is little room for error and all crews are making a huge effort in the last few hours to either improve on or maintain their overall places.

Simon Rosbottom