“What a ride!”
07 September 2014
Rob Fisher, a 42-year-old Managing Director from West Sussex raced from London to the west coast of Australia during the 2013-14 edition of the Clipper Race.
He reveals some of his favourite moments on board the Chinese entry, Qingdao…
Probably sailing into Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the end of a great race down from Brest, France. We were the third boat to complete the Atlantic crossing, for myself and most of the crew our first ever ocean crossing - and arriving in Rio on a sunny Sunday afternoon was just spectacular after 26 days at sea. We were gutted (and still mystified...) to be bumped to fourth by the Race Committee. But I am over that now...
Editor’s Note: Once Henri Lloyd’s redress was applied to the team’s finish time by the Race Committee it meant Henri Lloyd leap frogged Qingdao into third place.
Most Challenging Moment:
My first night watch as watch leader heading out of Rio. We were crossing an oil and gas field at speed, the fleet was racing all around us and the locals were out fishing in the darkness. I was pretty glad we came through unscathed.
Best Wildlife Moment:
We passed a leatherback turtle crossing the Atlantic, that was pretty cool, but for me it was the constant companionship of our pet albatross, Albie (not my choice of name!) crossing from Cape Town, South Africa to Albany, Western Australia. No matter what the weather threw at us, Albie just banked and soared around us to keep us company. Amazing!
Most Unique Moment:
Going for a cheeky swim when becalmed in the Doldrums in what must have been the biggest deep end ever. Oh, and sailing past the remote volcanic islands of Tristan da Cunha - not many people ever go past there.
Crossing the Southern Ocean of Leg 3 I think. The weather/sailing was a bit 'sporty' to put it mildly, wind speeds clocked on several days at 80-85mph! We started really well, breaking the Clipper Race speed record over one 24 hour period, and although we faded a bit we kept on going as a team. Because we reached the Scoring Gate first, I think we earned the same number of race points over that leg as the winning crew.
‘Why am I doing this?’ Moment:
Any sail change involving bringing down the Yankee 1 in too much breeze! I was usually up at the bow getting drenched and shouting at the top of my voice failing to be heard, several times my lifejacket went off after the show boaters on the helm buried the bow in a wave which didn't exactly help my range of movement!
‘This is why I’m doing this!’ Moment:
Can I have two? First, surfing down a wave on Leg 3, I was helming for once, none too expertly, but we hit 26 knots, what a ride!
Second, as bowman having to spike the spinnaker whilst sat perilously at the end of the bowsprit was always pretty cool, obviously not an official Clipper Race sail change tactic...
Being asked by Leg 1 crew member Olivia James, whom I do love to bits, if we'd get jet lag when sailing into Rio?!
Being hailed by a French radio operator on a Maersk container ship in the mid-Atlantic, just so he could tell us in broken English how beautiful Qingdao looked under spinnaker. I think he was a bit lonely...
The passing squalls added an element of excitement as we reefed down the mainsail, only then to put it back up ten minutes later. It may not have been the fastest leg but it was definitely the most interesting in terms of nature and wildlife, especially with the odd suicidal flying fish hitting the deck.
After drifting in the Doldrums for a week, it was decided that positive action was needed in the form of a Wind Dance. With Jim and Carter prancing around like ballerinas with brooms as partners, Fred (one of our youngest crew members) emerges from a sail bag waving a piece of card like a wobble board to try and summon up the wind. Within hours the wind came so we must have pleased the wind gods in some way.
A shout from on deck of potential pirates sent the crew scrambling for their team shirts and up on deck. We were met with four canoe shaped boats with outboards heading towards us. One was waving something, which we couldn’t quite work out. As they came closer we realised they were local fishermen with today’s catch of Tuna. A fair deal was struck, swapping ten Aussie dollars, a Team Garmin shirt and an Mars bar, for five fresh tuna. That night we had the best meal on board.
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