“That was incredible/wild/weird”…(Leg 1 London to Rio)

I have thought long and hard about the best way to share experience. For the time being I have included an edited version of the diary I keep at sea. It is long but hope it gives a sense of my journey in a way a post leg summary may not. I will try and shorten foor reading ease in future, but right now I lack the time, wit and inclination to do so! Photos will be added as I manage to get my hands on them.

Race Start, Intense loitering and the odd sailors of Southend.

After a morning of “intense loitering” and quite a bit of worry, race start was not as bad as expected.  It took me a while to see the spectator boat my fans were on, until Paul got his bum out. Acceptable in the marines but probably not on the Thames with a plethora of media crew filming. Guess it was memorable, although I hope my memory also retains the amazing site of the boats passing under Tower Bridge too.

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Once the spectator boats left we motored down to Southend where we were met in the dark by lots of boats making duck noises and a variety of other sounds that sounded like an assortment of animals mating. I think they were supposed to be airhorns, but clearly some people had forgotten theirs and had to improvise.

The race begun the next day. Lots of people braved the rain to stand on Southend pier and watch us. We got off to a flying start and were first passed the first mark. One “kitemare” later and we dropped back to 5th but were hanging onto the leading pack. As expected Olivier is at the front.

Wednesday 2nd September – Spinnaker fun.

Feel a weird mix of sick and tired as we settle into the watch system. Most similar feeling is jet lag. Wasn’t sea sick but my helming yesterday did induce some vomiting in others. Still flying a spinnaker and still in about 4th/5th racing with Garmin. Hoping the top 3 don’t continue to push ahead so much. Code 1 spinnaker is still being repaired.

Watermaker filter is already filthy. Guess the channel is pretty gross.

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Home sweet home (my bunk, leg 1)

Thursday 3rd September – Bay of Biscay. My rocky relationship with the watermaker begins.

Today Rob (Rodert!) channelled his inner Volvo and climbed the spinnaker sheet then concluded that “you can climb a yankee ok, but probably not a spinnaker”. Apparently he did a 360 degree flip and everything. I missed this because I was downstairs fixing the watermaker. Being vigilant I had decided to changed the filthy filter. Then the b*stard thing wouldn’t start. We had also changed from port to starboard raw water inlet due to a gybe.

After several times unscrewing and tightening the filter, bleeding the system, trying to use the wanky pump and a call to maintenance, we switched back to the port inlet and, hey presto, it worked. I was almost ready to cry but didn’t want to cry in front of Dan. Without a watermaker our race would have been over, or at least we would have had to pull into Portugal for repairs.

In other news we broke another kite, but this one was repaired in a few hours and is back flying again. Work on the code 1 continues. Garmin have caught up with us and LMAX and GB have extended their lead to 30 miles ahead of us 😦

Saturday 5th September – Off Portugese Coast. Some very sad news, mast climbing and many bananas.

Today was overshadowed by the horrible news of Andrew Ashman’s death on iChorcoal during a crash gybe. Press release from Clipper suggests he was hit by the main sheet or the boom. Everyone is shellshocked by the news especially those that trained with him. Thinking a lot now about the rest of their crew and skipper. They are now heading to Porto. Gave pause for a moment’s reflection. You expect the big bad sh*t to go down in the Southern Ocean or North Pacific, but these boats can be big dangerous beasts anywhere. Everyone is staying clear of “Milton Keynes” now (area between rear grinder and mainsheet winch).

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Life goes on aboard DLD. Yesterday I was mother (Nick did all the work really!) Our main triumph was the patatas bravas for lunch. We are also trying to eat up a monkey’s picnic worth of bananas so we made banana muffin cake. Unfortunately due to the weather I didn’t sleep well last night. To keep the spinnaker flying there was a lot of grinding, shouting, easing and banging.

I also went up the mast for the first time. In wind gusting 20 kts. Turned out to be a fool’s errand because I couldn’t reach the second spreader on the staysail halyard to make the necessary adjustment. You get a good view from the top but a good helping of bruises in

return.

Sunday 6th September. Dolphin show.

Last night some people had a “trippy” experience watching dolphins in the phosphorescence. I didn’t see them. Overnight conversations were a new low. We have quite a lot of toilet based conversations, this one was sparked by the potential of toilet paper rationing. On the one hand we are limited to 6 sheets perr flush to avoid blocking the heads, on the other we have limited underwear so need to make sure everything is properly clean.

We are currently still in 3rd place but boats are choosing different paths so we will see how things pan out.

Tuesday 8th September – Between Madeira and Canaries. Dirty conversations and dirtier lazarettes.

Well we have found ourself in 2nd place behind GB but also in a windhole (with them). Other teams are following LMAX into the inside of Madeira and along to the inside of the Canary Isles. The mean part of me hope this doesn’t pay off for them.

Got a hose down on deck yesterday but still don’t feel too fresh. It is starting to get warm. Despite low winds the mood has generally been jovial on board. Conversation has taken further new lows. The 3rd testical and the skull of St Patrick stories being high on the list. :-/

Still not enjoying helming but I like trimming the sails.

Yesterday I went down into the lazarette to get out more diesel cans and got something skanky on my trousers. I hope it is shorts weather from now on because those were really my only pair of light summer trousers excluding my black ones required for photos. Rebecca was telling us about how some people in last year’s race got it on in the lazarette. I don’t believe this. The lazarette is not a romantic place.

Wednesday 9th September – Almost at the Canaries. Sticky and stinky

Still trapped in low winds. Grr. Probably about to see the other boats come steaming past us 😦 I guess it’s still a long way to Rio. Ridiculously hot. Just feel hot and sticky and stinky all day and night. Will try and wash clothes later.

Actually saw phosphorescent sparkly dolphins last night. Still not considering the dolphin tattoo though!

Daniel is desperate to catch a fish, his pride seems to depend on it.

Thursday 10th Sept – Past the Canaries. Wildlife suicides.

We have some wind and are in 2nd place. Yay! Let’s hope we can keep this up to the scoring gate.

Wildlife is now starting to commit suicide on our boat. So far 2 squid and a flying fish, the latter or which “caressed” Mike’s leg. I have written a blog for the website today, hopefully it will not get too edited before it is posted. Today Rob will have the day off as watch leader so I am becoming navigator for the day as Paul becomes Watch Leader and Sascha assistant. Fortunately for everybody there is not much for us to crash into in the middle of the ocean so I should be ok.

Friday 11th September – Heading to scoring gate. Boat dreams.

I am back on mother watch today. Not sure yet what’s on the menu, but hopefully I will get some good sleep tonight and therefore have some dreams to add to the daily discussion. The last dream I had involved me helping Nicola buy a wedding dress then realising I had bought one for myself however it was a neglige rather than anything appropriate! Sascha has hilarious dreams. Usually part Clipper e.g. I was wearing all my foulies… and then a strange chain of events will follow. I think it is all in the way she tells it.

Physically the (almost) fortnight at sea is beginning to show. My hands were wrinkly and sore and painful when I did the washing up, my feet stink despite the talcum powder and my bits itch even though I have increased  my underwear change frequency. Managed to do some washing to help this situation.

Sailing conditions are nice but days are a bit monotonous. Watch is a mixture of grinding, trimming and occasional helming broken up by regular “highlights” including 1/2 time oranges (yesterday they were frozen, which was amazing). Generally we eat pretty well on the boat. Dan has told us not to give him seconds, probably to keep him trim to hoist in this mighty fish he has promised to catch. So far the boat is doing better with a tally of 5 sea creatures (2 squid and 3 flying fish) to Dan’s 0.

Sunday 13th September – Cape Verde Islands. That was incredible/weird/wild!

We were 3rd past the scoring gate and have claimed our first point! Now in Cape Verde islands although the only thing we can see nearby is GB a few miles ahead. It is funny how we imagine things that go on on the other boats. GB, for example, unleashes their cage fighter hulk style each time they want to go fast and LMAX are powered by camembert (their energy boosting snack of choice according to 360 magazine!)

Yesterday the Lonely Planet Portugese language guide came out the library, the “Love and Romance” section providing the usual hilarity, in particular the 3 options for after the act being “that was incredible/wild/weird”. Also how to sound like a creepy dude in any language “do you want a massage?” And now “don’t worry, I’ll do it myself” has become our watch motto.

Had a not too disastrous turn on the helm today. I still hate helming, cannot believe I will ever enjoy it.

Now seeing loads of flying fish. Quite often they fly across the water in a massive group. I wonder what eats flying fish?

The generator showed its first fault, but I managed to fix it (hopefully!)

Monday 14th September – On the way to the Doldrums corridoor. Attack of the sauce.

Last night we enjoyed some squalls. Got absolutely soaked several times. I am glad they did not come with the associated “extreme” gust promised. We had prepared for rough weather which, thankfully, did not materialise. The clouds around here are amazing. In a calm patch you look around and it is like being in a bowl with a donut of showers and storms all around. We also saw quite a lot of lightning overnight.

In other news my ankle is bruised where I got hit by a flying tub of creole sauce. This was just before Deio got hit in the head by a keyboard.

I am so hot, sweaty, stinky and hairy. I paid money to do this. What was I thinking?

Tuesday 15th September. A failed feminist

Last night we got stuck in a windhole. Eventually found our way out and into the “Doldrums corridoor” where we are allowed to motor, but this has allowed Garmin and Qingdao to catch up, putting our 3rd place at risk, which is depressing and frustrating.

Aside from the oppressive humid heat the weather is like a grey day in Gloucestershire. All our clothes are wet from rain showers and it is difficult to dry them so the boat stinks. I have also had a wet bum for days, which can’t be good. Waking hours are spent desperately trying to rehydrate, then sweating profusely whilst asleep.

I did a terrible job managing the shallow deep clean of the boat and got covered in bilge muck. All in all I am feeling miserable today and I am going to have to hide it because I am sure everyone feels the same.

In other news I caved and shaved my armpits and suspect I will do the same with my legs soon. Makes me feel slightly less gross but feel I have failed a little as a feminist.

Wednesday 16th September – Doldrums Corridoor. Dan finally catches a fish.

The Doldrums weather hasn’t been quite what we were expecting. We have been motoring into 15 to 20 kt of headwind. There has been no paddling pool or swimming. But there have been squalls meaning a rotation of pants is the order of the day.

Dan and Murat finally caught some fish so Dan’s manly pride is restored. Most of Murat’s t-shirts are fishing related so it would have been unacceptable for him not to catch anything really! We are sharing  2 Dorados and a jackfish for tea. I hope they are nice and not like the time we ate dogfish in Dartmouth. Ooo apparently another fish has just been caught, back soon…

…Not a fish, just a clump of seaweed.

Mike and I were speculating this morning when you become a good sailor. Although we have been on the boat for 3 weeks, in some ways we feel less competent because things you do a lot in training like running sheets and tacking and putting in reefs have been quite infrequent (so far).

Although the relative simplicity of life at sea is good, I do find my thoughts drifiting to life back at home. I am coming to the conclusion that it is the people that make this trip so memorable, not neccessarily what we see and do. Maybe there is a life lesson in there for me!

Thursday 17th September – Doldrums Corridoor. Have we got enough diesel for suckin’?

Today I have been feeling stressed about whether we have enough diesel to get to Rio. Looks like it is going to be tight. We carried a lot of diesel with us but the problem is that we have motored through stronger winds than expected requiring more throttle and more fuel than anticipated.

We have almost finished our 60 hours motoring so will shortly be starting to beat upwind. Not particularly looking forward to that.

Friday 18th September – Doldrums Corridoor. Stupid watermaker.

Back at an angle sailing. On the plus side I don’t feel seasick. On the downside I am on watermaker watch. We are not the only boat in the fleet having this issue with our watermaker, apparently GB is too. On the semi-plus side this means Dan owes me a Caipirinha because I bet him he wouldn’t fix the watermaker.

On the sailing side, Qingdao are now in 2nd place, which is annoying.

Saturday 19th September – Heading towards the equator. Stupid watermaker ctd.

This morning was again spent coaxing the watermaker back to life so we don’t all die of thirst. Dan took the freshwater pump used for the showers and plumbed it in line with the w/m pump in some very artful bodging.

Sunday 20th September – Just past the equator. Dogs.

Last night we passed into the Southern hemisphere. King Neptune is planning to visit later.

Favourite conversation of the night was about our “dogs” i.e. orange safety lines that keep us clipped onto the boat in livelier seas and at night. They are dogs because you end up dragging them along like a disobedient puppy whilst you move around the deck. For this reason mine could only really be called Morrigan. Rob has called his Judy and Sascha’s is Kevin (not Kev) the chihuahua. Rebecca’s is a sheepdog called The Colonel.

We are still doing ok in the race but struggling to match the pace of the nearby boats which is frustrating. Would be gutted to miss out on the podium.

Monday 21st September – Sprint towards the Brazilian coast. King Neptune cometh.

I am running out of pants. Sailing upwind is a wet endeavour and changing headsails especially so! The saltwater also really stings my eyes with contact lenses in.

Yesterday we had our visit from Neptune. We had to entertain him. I offered some creative swearing not the “dry hump” that had been rumoured (I had been talking about “dry pumping” the heads and within less than a minute this had changed to dry humping Neptune). After the entertainment we got covered in slimy goop – porridge and BBQ sauce and became shellbacks. The smell lingers. Best thing was that we got a coke for lunch afterwards. And some Prosceco, but it was the nice cold coca cola I had been fantasising about for days. Lunch – a rehydrated mince and salsa wrap – was surprisingly tasty too. As we ate lunch we watched some sea birds diving for flying fish (answers my earlier question). I had no idea how prevalent flying fish were, shame they aren’t tasty.

Today I saw the shadow of a medium sized whale pass underneath the boat. No one else saw it so I am not sure they believe me. I also spent 2.5 hours on the helm and, despite the pain in my shoulders, was actually ok with it in the end.

Nights atm are damp, clammy and chilly especially with the added spray of the sea. Have 2 night shifts tonight, such fun?!

Tuesday 22nd September – off the Brazilian Coast. Toilet worries.

Going to the toilet when we are heeled over is a traumatic experience. In the aft head the outlet pipe goes uphill so it’s hard to flush. In the forward head bouncing on the waves mean a lot of splash. There is a constant worry the doings will come out of the bowl.

The heel is taking its toll – I am bruised, tired and have a sore bottom – like everyone else I think.

We are still neck and neck with GB for 3rd place although our speed is now improving and last sched. was better than Qingdao, who have been very quick.

Today’s food fantasies have included cheese (mainly cheese), pizza, avocados and salad.

Wednesday 23rd September. Generator.

The theme of this entry is the generator since that is what I have spent the past day trying to fix. First it overheated and the impeller had disintigrated. Despite a good search I couldn’t find all the bits but put it back together anyway. As expected, broke another impeller. Although more bits have been found, I am not sure we got the lot. It keeps sporadically shutting down but impeller #3 seems to be holding out. We also had some success priming the system.

Whilst working below I noticed that people’s calm enquiry outdoor voices e.g. for asking “is the staysail trim ok?” sound quite like the voice you might use for “OMG the sail has shred to pieces!!” We should work on our tone.

Friday 25th September – Brazilian Coast (Brazil is big!). Luxury mother watch.

I am on luxury mother watch this morning. The one where you don’t go straight on after 4am watch and then get a full night’s sleep and the morning off. 🙂

Saturday 26th September – Passing the Brazilian oilfields. I don’t like chorizo.

So there I was in the galley quietly chopping a sausage and listening to Johnny Cash, when Nick looked up on deck and says a slow motion “Shhiiiitt!” as the world became a bit more sideways. Knowing what might be ahead I ducked down (in fact I then slipped and ended up on the galley floor). Saw Dan leap out of bed. The broach was recovered by the time he was up on the deck so can’t have been more than 30 seconds. A sheet and the pulley were damaged but Doris the sail is fine. In fact the damaged pulley might have caused the problem because the team had been unable to grind when they needed just before the broach. We had been sailing in over 30 kts wind so I guess we had been pushing our luck a bit with the spinnaker.

Back in the galley the chorizo was everywhere. (We were still finding it after the deep clean btw!) Luckily there was more.

We are currently tacking down the coast in the channel between land and the oilfield. We are in stealth mode as is GB, although we can see each other now. It’s still very close. It would be nice to come 3rd but I have a feeling it won’t go our way.

Windwise we have gone from 35kts down to getting the windseeker out in less than 12 hrs. Now at least we have some wind. The weather files don’t seem massively reliable!

After almost a month at sea we are still learning the boat and I feel very much a rookie still. I have reflected on whether being further back in the fleet the pressure for the podium is eased and people are enjoying the experience more for what it is. However – they will still have several days at sea whilst we enjoy a shower and a caipirinha so I didn’t dwell on this too long! We are all pretty hungry for the finish now. Hungry for fresh fruit and veg. in particular! After this race I don’t think I will want to see a chorizo again for a long, long time!

Sunday 27th September – Rio de Janeiro. We did it!

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Is that GB?

A busy 24 hrs. I am writing this from Ana Paula and Guilherme’s temporary home in Copacabana (their apartment is mid redecoration). I have showered, been fed and watered and washed my clothes (still to tackle my stinky boots). Last few days led to last few hours led to last few minutes battle into Rio with GB. Us being the losers for the final podium place sadly.  Just when we were sulking as GB crossed the line, a combination of tide, wind drop and very large cargo ships pushed us away from the finish line and we spent several hours trying to get back round it, almost costing our 4th place. Lesson duly noted sea gods, be grateful for what you have!

Other than light winds we saw a lot of whales coming down to Rio. A very beautiful coastline to approach along.

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A fantastic welcome into Rio

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