The Raciness of Your Life – No experience Required!

Louis Bleriot before (L) and after (R) flying across the channel. His expression perfectly captures the feeling of most Southern Ocean sailors!

For me this was a leg of 2 halves. I got on in Cape Town having just finished a course of antibiotics so was tired, drawn and still recovering. As such the first week was difficult and emotional. Things did improve though and, although it was a challenging leg, I am very glad to have done it.

Monday 2nd Nov. – My Everest

I think on leg 2 I had the wrong attitude. I was expecting to love almost every minute of this journey and felt terrible when I didn’t. There might be some that do, but for me this is my Everest. As Paul pointed out the people climbing Everest don’t love it at the time. Sure there are stunning views but a lot of the enjoyment comes once they are back down I’m sure. I think for me the high of finishing leg 2 and the encouragement from Paul is why I am here on leg 3.

With Clipper a key is to expect the unexpected. For race start we were promised a 30kt headwind. In reality we put the windseeker (v. light wind sail) up. The wind did arrive though and, more predictably, I spent 24hrs sicking up all my food and am now trying to re-energise as my stomach settles. A special thanks to Diarmuid’s sister Deidre for the rusks. They were spot on. Tip for the seasick prone – Lindt chocolate may seem smooth on the way in but it burns like the fires of hell on the way up. Avoid.

Managed a 6 hr watch in lighter winds but now have a stonking headache.

Tuesday 3rd Nov. – Creatures of the deep

Moving again after a night of no wind. Wildlife on this trip has been good. As we were leaving Cape Town we had a lot of seals swimming/floating past (think quite a few were asleep or doing whatever they do at night in the water with a flipper in the air). Also saw a pod of whales swimming very close to the boat. Thankful they didn’t try and mate with us. Getting over the seasickness now.

Wednesday 4th Nov. – How to fix your generator with a muffin case

Things I didn’t learn in my engineering degree #1 fixing a generator with a cupcake tray. But there you have it. We needed to replace the gasket that had failed on the heat exchanger that could tolerate the temperature. Couldn’t find anything appropriate in the plumbing or engine spares so we used the tray. Seems to be working out. Unfortunately the generator is still temperamental even after replacing the impeller and adding another pump in line (see how we fixed the watermaker in Leg 1 and see if you can spot a theme!)


Weather has been variable – relatively light winds with some squalls, which can be heavy. To quote Deio describing one yesterday “It looks like we’re heading into Mordor!” But today has been beautiful and sunny. I am keeping full foulies on. I don’t trust the weather or the sea 1 bit anymore!

In general I am still feeling out of sorts or “out of salts” according to Dan.

Had a weird boat dream that we had a new crew member who wanted to rename the Code 1 spinnaker “incredible Willy” but we vetoed. Also had a dream that we had to crawl through a massive sandpit and GB came past us looking smug on a sit on top lawnmower. All this and I haven’t even got the excuse that I am on sea sickness medication (is known to give vivid dreams apparently).

Thursday 5th Nov – Feeling sorry for myself

Feel nauseous, exhausted and now upset to add to the mix at Dan’s suggested cure to “man up”. Maybe I need to do that but right now I don’t have the energy reserves. So far I have felt like a passenger on this leg and right now I really wish I was at home. Also people keep having a big poo whilst I am eating which is not nice 😦

Friday 6th Nov – The Southern Ocean

Not everyday in the Southern Ocean is scary and miserable. Today is sunny with blue sky peeking through the clouds rather than the default “southern ocean grey” sky tones. Changed some headsails and put some diesel in the tank. Gary was  less than impressed that the “suckin’ diesel” happens beneath his bunk! Brought shame on myself by referring to the engine room as the laundry room like the rest of the team do, to my disgust.

Oh and we past 40 degrees south so we are now Southern Ocean sailors. Currently in 2nd place.

Sunday 8th Nov – The key to upwind sailing

Woke up this morning after mother watch to go for a wee and found the other watch bailing buckets out of the engine room. Contact lenses in and a quick look round showed a small but significant ingress of water through the stern gland. Pleased to report that has now been fixed so we are no longer sinking.

I was such a grumpy bugger on mother watch yesterday. The tiredness really gets to me. Feeling guilty today about my bad attitude and hope I haven’t made too many enemies. My watch very kindly saved me a piece of cake this morning to enjoy for breakfast.

I think I have now observed the key to upwind sailing. As soon as you think “Ah, this is more comfortable”, there is not enough sail and we shake out a reef so we can resume life once again at a silly angle. A reef goes in roughly at the point where the boat becomes a gradeable climb and the headsail gets changed at the point where you think “bloody hell, I don’t want to go on the foredeck!”

Still have my 1 helm and 1 bow refusal chip, which I exchanged with Rob for a Snickers.

Morning was briefly sunny but we are back to Southern Ocean grey now.

Monday 9th Nov. – What are you wearing?

Right now the Southern Ocean is cold and damp. I am wearing thermals and mid layers under my foulies (a lot of people have switched to a drysuit). New glove system (pair of fleecy gloves then rubber coated work gloves) works ok but it is tricky to dry the fleecy gloves in an engine room full of damp clothes.

We have been quite busy in recent watches so no time for late night storytime. Chris wins the storytelling prize this leg, although the alsation story was upsetting.

My wrist aches and my heel is sore. One thing Clipper will do is awaken forgotten injuries past whilst adding some new ones. This doesn’t appear in the brochure.

Haven’t seen an albagull in a while. Just some small swallow things and the odd sea crow.

Tuesday 10th Nov. – The banana family

Today in the Southern Ocean it is foggy and there are low winds. It is very cold at night so more drysuits are coming out including my own. We now have a family of bananas – mummy, daddy, baby and creepy “uncle” banana. The other watch are mangoes and bananas depending on weather you favour Musto or Henri Lloyd for your drysuit (there is a subtle difference in the shade).

My new drysuit has already been dirtied by a variety of things including soggy brownie, biltong, biscuit and orange slices, all of which I am trying to eat whilst trimming the spinnaker with thick gloves on.

Sascha has promised to write a blog entitled “50 shades of Southern Ocean grey”. I eagerly await this. So far the list includes morning, noon and evening grey, preventer grey, fog grey, grey faces, grey ropes that were once white…

Last night we were 2nd through the scoring gate which puts us into race lead overall. This race was looking promising until this patch of low wind.

Just before we came off watch we saw a group of what looked like penguins leap through the water. Nick is excited because he wants to see an iceberg (Jo and I question the sensibility of this). I offered 2 explanations for the origin of the penguins 1) they swam from a “nearby” island and 2) we have travelled through some kind of wormhole explaining the creepy fog, low winds and penguins. Dan called me up only on theory 1 saying the nearest island is 600 miles away. None of us know how far penguins swim.

Wednesday 11th Nov – Southern Ocean Sleigh Ride, they said

Today the Southern Ocean has been as promised on the posters – big waves, fast speeds, cloudy, grey, windy. We got knocked to our side by a big wave, which made our hearts thump a bit. Down in the galley jam went everywhere. The other watch had some spinnaker excitement yesteday afternoon, thankfully nothing broken.

We gybed and my bunk is now on the high side. To picture how awkward life becomes – the space between my mattress and the ceiling is less than the length of my forearm.

Thursday 12th Nov – Frayed tempers

I don’t write about disagreements in this blog because you would only hear my side of the story and no one else would get  a chance to respond so it wouldn’t be fair. We generally get on well as a boat but arguments do inevitably happen when you are cramped in a small space in a stressful environment taking part in a race. Today we were a bit mean to each other but I think the air has been cleared now.

We are making good speed and the sun was shining this morning. Sort of makes up for the wet feet and gloves not drying. Saw a big whale this morning in the surf.

Friday 13th Nov – Big mean waves

Tired. Have a cold coming on. Spinnaker is up. Code 2 does in fact have some little holes in from the other day so we are flying the Code 3. Feel like this is going to be a loooong day! Passed halfway point and got a coke to celebrate although it was during the mealtime rush so I didn’t finish mine 😦

Seriously considering getting my hair cut short in Albany.

Last night I got taken out by a massive wave and smacked my head against the side of the cockpit and ended up trapped sprawled on my back like an upturned turtle. The footage is probably fairly funny.

Saturday 14th November – Is something burning?

Yesterday the spinnaker and I did not get on. It was very heavy to handle as we sped through the waves. I got taken out by a massive wave, again. Proud to say I stayed clinging on to the spinnaker sheet – there is some great CCTV footage (post race note – the footage of this helped us win the best video media prize for leg 3!) After this incident the spinnaker got whipped out of my hand a few times causing so much friction that Christina and Dan thought the galley was on fire.

I have spent the morning repairing a small tear in the Code 3. Not too bad a job in fairly calm weather. I could sit there stitching away with my music on. The damage to the clew requires more extensive repair. It currently looks like the rag bag Dan bought in Rio.

Sunday 15th Nov – Sewing with a drill

Spent most of the past 24 hrs sewing. Although, unlike normal sewing, this involves a drill. I managed to stick a broken drill bit through the end of my swearing finger. We still have some way to go on the Code 3 clew. The difficulty is we have about 6 layers of thick fabric and webbing to stitch through. You can’t drill through webbing and you can’t push a needle through the fabric without drilling it. Sigh!

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Had a full on kitemare wrap with the Code 2 last night. It probably happened around 9pm and it has only just come down (around 0930 this morning as I write). Quite a lot of damage. Not fixable before Albany.

It is very cold atm. Having trouble warming up my feet.  

Tuesday 17th Nov – Cheese day

Finished our run through the scoring gate this morning. Currently flying Doris again, periodically flogging her then getting shouted at by Dan. Well actually I am not flying her because I am on mother watch. I had to go against my principles and serve wraps today (groundhog day!) but I did whip ouut the posh cheese Paul bought us in Cape Town. After that and the brownies Paul has, deservedly, a lot of fans amongst the Derry crew. Gary says you’re a keeper Paul x

…Tack line just blew and the spinnaker is down, we are not having much luck with spinnakers on this leg.

Wednesday 18th Nov – Koalas

Australia starting to feel very close now. I can almost feel the cuddly warmth of the koalas. I wanted to cuddle a koala in Sydney but now I am not so sure because Ruth says koala breeding involves the male koala sneaking up behind the female, raping her, then pushing her out of a tree. This is why you have to careful where you park your car during koala mating season lest a poor lady koala dents your roof. Not sure I want a koala for my garden pet anymore.

Changed my clothes today. I have now perfected the bra peel so there will be no more flashing when I take my sea kayak to the beach.

Thursday 19th Nov – Horrible boat sounds

Sounds on the boat I hate (in no particular order):

  1. Spinnaker flogging
  2. Boom banging in the water (see leg 2 diary)
  3. Wake up call for 12-4am watch
  4. “It’s tuna/salmon wraps for lunch”

I am sad to say we ripped Lola so we are left with only Doris (slowly she eliminates the competition!) Albany is going to be a sail repair stopover. Glad I brought my Australian hat.

We are currently working our way round windholes on the final 650nm to Albany.

On one boat they encountered both a hurricane and had to eat pasty and beans on the same day. I think that would break me.

We do think about the boats at the back of the fleet and wonder how we would feel to be >1000nm behind the lead boat.

Saturday 21st Nov – The “Raciness” of your life

Still at sea. Stuck in a windhole. Going nowhere fast. The adrenaline leg! Fortunately it seems that our competition (except LMAX, of course!) are also stuck. Hopefully we will have escaped its clutches   by the time we reach the afternoon watch.

Sailing is weird like that. Too much wind = terrifying, too little wind = frustrating. Rarely feels like between to me.

Chris has been composing me a boat based romantic fiction. So far it features Deio’s naked gllistening torso, Brian with “almost nothing” underneath the drysuit and “he unclipped my safety harness. But I didn’t feel unsafe in his strong arms.”

Didn’t blog yesterday because I was faffing around with Dan’s fishing gear. Made by Shimano (like bike gears).

We are also trying to eat all the food before Australia otherwise we have to chuck it in the sea. They bring a poor sniffer dog on board when we arrive to sniff out any contraband like on “Border Patrol”.

Sunday 22nd Nov – So near yet so far

Almost there. So close yet so far. Finish looks interesting. We come zooming in heading straight at a beach.

Beating upwind atm. V. uncomfortable so not writing much.

Monday 23rd Nov. 

All going well, we should arrive later today, fingers crossed ahead of Qingdao. LMAX have already finished (jammy gits). Weather has not been like in Neighbours/Crocodile Dundee. Had my drysuit on this morning. No more drysuit now though, got to look nice for photos.

Last watch was tiring (lots of reef shaking and a headsail change) – that is after no sleep yesterday because my bunk doesn’t crank up quite high enough.



One thought on “The Raciness of Your Life – No experience Required!

  1. Yet another brilliant blog Ellie! I really feel the pain – and I am sitting on my sofa with the central heating on at full throttle….Snow and ice here today in North East Scotland and not a dry suit in sight….I hope leg 4 has more of the long promised sleigh ride and you get some decent downwind surfing – and some warm sun! Jen ( a warm legged) xx


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