If and when I stop doing this sailing malarkey, I now know I have a guaranteed career ahead of me working for one of the many utilities companies. Why? Well, I seem to have a natural gift for finding huge amounts of water and areas with absolutely no wind, or areas with huge amounts of wind from the wrong direction. This should make me the perfect person to locate sites for reservoirs and veto land for wind farms.
The last few hundred miles of Race 2 could best be summed up as 'hurry up and wait' as we rattle along like a scalded cat, hurtling down 2 metre swells at 20 knots plus in the dead of night, or sit dead-in-the-water with sails flapping and outhaul squeaking constantly as we desperately try to locate any wind other than the swirl of apparent making our masthead windex dizzy.
I started writing this blog as the clouds once more opened up and poured torrential, icy rain on top of us. Unlike many rain events, our rain events have usually taken place in dead calm conditions. This morning was a case in point, dousing our Code 2 Spinnaker in the process and causing it to hang, limp, from the mast top, bedraggled - very much like the crew below. I was hoping that with just 170nm to the finish, we would get in before I need to write another blog. But if I do, you can expect that my mood will be somewhat... soured.
We have spent the day in the company of Seattle, passing and re-passing each other as we race through some HUGE squalls. The first caught us with our Code 2 Spinnaker up, and as we went to drop the kite the trip line (the line that opens the tack shackle) broke, meaning our tack was now four metres from the boat as wind built to over 40 knots and the kite started chattering (the noise it makes just before it tears to bits). We sat on our side as crew assembled on the cuddy for the drop. We blew the tack line in its entirety and, with superhuman effort, bore away and got the kite down in one piece. It was a struggle but it worked.
The second time we were more cautious. As we slipped under the low hanging squall cloud that seemed to run from horizon to horizon, we were already kite down and Yankee on deck, reefed with just a Staysail flying. As we approached it was obvious this was a monster, so I immediately called for a second reef and as the wind built we prepared to drop the Stay thereafter. Halfway through the reef, 'bang'! 67 knots arrived like a freight train with icy cold wind. The sky went black as night. We bore away just in time to keep control and threw in a second reef, then our ever-improving 'crime watch' foredeck team of Andy McWillwrath, David Carrol and Steve Lavery wrestled the remainder of the Staysail to the deck with Dan, our resident spreader squirrel.
We hurtled downwind as the silhouette of Seattle whistled across our bow about 1/2 a mile distant. The rest of the squall was manageable and we were able to hold course. Seattle seemed less fortunate, getting tangled in the heart of the squall before popping out 3nm behind us. Then we got overtaken by it again and Seattle came back. We are now bobbing along next to each other in the rain, blinding lightning and the ominous expectation of yet more mega squalls to contend with. There must be easier ways to finish a yacht race!
Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to say a few thank you’s. Thanks to WTC Logistics, our Team Partner, who has been genuinely supportive of this team from the start. Thank you to the remaining crew at home and to the Leg 1 crew's partners, who have kept us fed, watered and otherwise looked after us in port. Thank you to the long suffering Race Office and the many support staff tasked with making this happen, and thank you to all of the Leg 1 crew on WTC Logistics, many of whom had never sailed before their Clipper Race training and who have now completed a lifetime ambition and raced from London to Uruguay, and are still chasing down competitors with weeks of racing under our hulls and yet just hundreds of metres still between us.
This race has had its ups and downs. We have had to deal with a variety of challenges along the way and each one has been faced and overcome. All on board WTC Logistics (and throughout the Clipper Race fleet) have truly achieved something remarkable on what is rightly billed 'the race of your life'. Well done to all of you. #respect
Now, where's that steak and cold beer...
All the best from,
Mark, Dan and the rest of WTC Logistics Leg 1 Crew