A knockdown, medevac and man overboard

09 September 2014

A knockdown, medevac and man overboard, Derry~Londonderry~Doire crew member Michelle Porter, experienced it all during the 40,000-mile circumnavigation as part of the Clipper 2013-14 Race.

Best Moment:

So many amazing moments, but it has to be taking part in one of the most iconic yacht races in the world the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Setting off with over 90 other yachts on Boxing Day to make the epic journey down to Tasmania. Being amongst some of the best racing teams in Sydney Harbour has to be one of those moments where you pinch yourself and take a moment to realise where you are.

What should have been a short hop (in comparison to other races) turned out to be way tougher than I, or many of my crew envisaged. The buzz and adrenalin kicking in as we all got in position to cross the start line was something I've never experienced before. As with all race starts, Sean, our skipper, instructed us to stay focused on the job we were allocated and not to look up at the other yachts. I lucked out, taking on the media role from behind the helm meant I had the best viewpoint for all the action surrounding us.

If you think taking part in this race is epic, imagine the feeling on board Derry~Londonderry~Doire when we crossed the finish line first! One amazing team, one amazing achievement.

Most Challenging Moment:

Learning to live in a confined space, with no personal space, no luxuries or duvet to hide under if you have a tough day. This was always going to be my biggest challenge, living with 20 people in a 70-foot bubble - amazing how quickly you adapt though, how you learn to bite your tongue when tired and someone says something they don't really mean. How you learn to organise kit to maximise every last moment of an off watch. Most importantly you learn how to switch off and not worry about the little things in life, at sea - they don't matter!

Best Wildlife Moment:

We were very lucky, although I'm sure some of the other crews exaggerated what they'd spotted out at sea, nonetheless no matter how miserable you can be feeling from the lack of sleep, wet clothes, poor position in the fleet etc, watch a pod of dolphins heading towards the boat, I'm pretty confident the mood will pick up in an instant.

On Race 11 we managed to get the GoPro attached to a long pole and with a lot of muscle power hold the pole behind the boat in the water - the footage thanks to our media chick was pretty breathtaking.

We captured hundreds of dolphins playing with the hull of the boat, dipping from side to side. Great work Kristi Wilson!

Most Unique Moment:

The storms experienced on Leg 5 were pretty epic. One night we experienced storms like no other, we nicknamed our watch "lightning watch", before it hit, the sea was eerily quiet and calm, all very dark, just sat on deck just waiting for it to arrive.

Within moments, the heavens opened, bolt lightning either side of the boat, rain falling so hard visibility was close to zero, wind howling so loud the foredeck couldn't be heard, but knowing I wouldn't have missed this storm for the world and will probably never experience weather like that again. Maybe add to the excitement we hadn't seen the vessel who was heading on a direct collision course, amazing what you can see when a storm passes by.

Biggest Achievement:

Working as a tight crew to recover Andrew Taylor in the North Pacific. It was an hour and 40 minutes with the team being subjected to some of the harshest conditions we'd faced on our journey. Remember the crew are just ordinary people, with just one paramedic on board, the rest of us had no idea how this incident from start to finish would affect us, no amount of training can prepare you for a man overboard. All that said, the crew of Derry~Londonderry~Doire are one awesome bunch of people, we stuck together, dug hard and continued our race onto San Francisco and coming in sixth. A big, big achievement!

‘Why am I doing this?’ Moment:

Southern Ocean! Just three days after leaving Cape Town, South Africa the fleet started to experience conditions that we'd all be warned about before taking on the Southern Ocean. Just after watch change over on Thursday, 7 November, Derry~Londonderry~Doire was knocked down by a wave which effectively took us down over 110 degrees. Unfortunately I was injured, which later resulted in the decision being made that we divert to Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape where I was medevac'd to shore. When you are in the navigation station, being held up by two people, another holding a sick bag, the medic working hard to get an IV line in, another person holding the fluids that I needed so badly, one arm in a sling and me muttering the words to my crew to make it end. Yep, that was my moment!

‘This is why I’m doing this!’ Moment:

Being signed back as fit to race meant I could fly to Western Australia to meet my crew when they crossed the line. They weren’t sure I'd be back in time, so jumping in a rib and getting out on the water to meet the crew who'd sacrificed their position on the race to divert over 500 miles for me, and still manage to come in ahead of some of the fleet was a pretty outstanding performance by anyone’s standard. Realising what a tight bond I'd formed with my crew and knowing that I wouldn't want to miss another day of this race, let alone a leg. The crew truly do become your family, no doubt about it!

Funniest Moment:

The mood on board Derry~Londonderry~Doire was usually a pretty lighthearted one, there are moments when you have to laugh otherwise you really would cry.

Myself and fellow round the world crew member Susie Redhouse were always the core members of the "wooling" team. At the beginning of my adventure I struggled to stay below deck for five minutes without getting hot and feeling slightly green, however this soon evaded and we'd be there perched in the smallest of spots wooling our sails which we namedBertha, Marilyn or Lola.

For whatever reason, we had peeled from one spinnaker to another and bundled the sail down below. With lots of hands attempting to make light work of this job and the tunes blasting out in the galley, Sooz (Susie) shouts at the top of her voice, "everyone stop!" With immediate fears that our dear sail is torn in the drop, she then shouts, "everyone air guitar!” So there we are ten crew in the saloon and galley jumping up and down doing our best air guitar dance. Sean’s face when he walked in was nothing other than priceless!

Craziest Moment:

Crazy and surreal are two of the words that would describe our arrival into our homeport of Derry-Londonderry, in Northern Ireland.

As a team when we left New York, we all wanted to win our homeport race more than any other. The three-week crossing threw everything at us that we'd experienced along the way. Sean had the glint in his eye that he too wanted a podium finish into his hometown, the town where he'd sailed as a youngster and where many of his family still lived.

So we did what we do best, raced hard and made as few mistakes as were humanly possible. We gained a fantastic lead on the fleet, but having to change course to avoid a high pressure system, we were losing miles, position report after position report. From being 110 miles in front, to Team Garmin overtaking us just hours before race end, skippy took the helm. We fought hard to get our position back and we did it!

The celebrations that followed were unreal, motoring up the River Foyle with a flotilla of boats following us and alongside, handing over bottles of Champagne, beer and food parcels to welcome us into our homeport.

Thousands of people lined the banks of the river, serious goose bumps moment for the crew on Derry~Londonderry~Doire!

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