Clipper Round the World 09-10: A busy first night

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Following a successful stopover, a spectacular send-off from Qingdao and an exciting race start, it’s been a stop-start night for the teams as they head towards the waypoint off the southern tip of Japan at the start of Race 7 to San Francisco.

 

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“After a great start yesterday which saw the fleet rounding the windward mark very close together, we all headed out into the Yellow Sea under spinnaker and headed towards our first waypoint,” says Jan Ridd, skipper of Cape Breton Island. “Amusingly, all the boats ran into an area of no wind and we all piled up and parked next to each other. We enjoyed some light hearted commentary over the VHF radio as each boat in turn found some wind and sprinted forward less than a mile, only to stall out next to each other again. This happened again and again and then the wind died out completely for nearly six hours. Having filled in this morning, we are now powered up and sailing on course at a speed of 10 knots.”

Not only has the variable weather clearly kept the crews busy for their first night at sea, the serious amount of shipping that is commonplace in Chinese waters has also kept them on their toes.

“Daybreak saw us sailing towards a Chinese fishing boat fleet,” says Spirit of Australia’s skipper, Brendan Hall. “Some manoeuvring was needed, costing us a few miles, but better than getting our keel snagged on a fishing net.

“The first night has also brought out the usual issues – seasickness for many of the new leggers and for the rest, the readjustment to sleeping in a noisy, rolling environment and figuring out how many layers of clothing to wear on deck.”

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In a similar report to the race office today, skipper of Uniquely Singapore, Jim Dobie, says, “Traffic was the biggest event last night with a lot of shipping and this morning we passed through two fleets of fishing boats. The crew are now settling in and the unforgiving sea sickness has struck with some of the crew going down and bunk ridden.”

Likewise, California’s skipper Pete Rollason has also lost some of his crew below deck as the sailing ailment, a common occurrence after a period of time on land, takes hold.

“As always it takes a day or two to get everyone back into the routine on board and inevitably the annoyance of seasickness rears its head for some,” says Pete. “Although it never seems to reduce enthusiasm for the job of driving the boat hard!”

This is clearly apparent as the American team has taken an early lead on the rest of the fleet, a position they will no doubt be keen to hold on to if they are to break the home port curse and secure a win into San Francisco.

“All the crew have been working incredibly hard on board during the first 24 hours of Race 7 in order to establish ourselves at the head of the fleet,” says Pete. “It has all been about trimming and good helming. It has been tough on them, adapting to the harsh freezing temperatures after the luxuries of warm hotel rooms in Qingdao, especially when working on the foredeck and being hit by ice cold sea water every few minutes.”

Although back in their element, it was with great sadness that the teams left the warmth of the hospitality shown by the people of Qingdao. Many have set off with memories that will last forever and for Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Matt Pike, it was a new name that he takes with him on the next leg.

“After all the kindness shown and the presents given to me in China I am constantly reminded of one, in the form of a name, given to me at the departure ceremony,” explains Matt. “One of the photographers, trying to get my attention, called out ‘little tiger’ which almost immediately become tiger cub. So thank you Qingdao for all your hospitality and also for my new name!”

Jamaica Lightning Bolt’s skipper, Pete Stirling, says, “Though the weather was bitterly cold in Qingdao, the incredible warmth and hospitality of the people more than made up for it. Without a doubt the people of Qingdao certainly know how to put on a party and they should be very proud of what they achieved. For most of the crew it was their first ever visit to China and I’m sure most of them, including me, have vowed to return one day.”

The teams are approximately two days from the southern tip of Japan and their next waypoint and currently enjoying some nice fast reaching sailing conditions. It is not set to last, however, for in 12 hours from now a vicious low pressure is expected to engulf the fleet delivering with it some strong headwinds. However, it appears that some are finding it tough going already.

“After a bitterly cold night at first light I decided that we were over-canvassed and some of the new crew experienced how hard a watch can be,” says Jan. “We set about changing our headsail, immediately followed by putting two reefs in the mainsail and packing away the largest headsail. This was all done with the boat heeled over and icy spray caused by the boat crashing through the cold grey sea – a rude wake-up call for many.”

Before departing Qingdao, Hull & Humber’s skipper, Piers Dudin, correctly predicted that the Pacific leg to California would deliver some extremely varied conditions.

“We’ve already nearly worked through our entire sail wardrobe,” says Piers. “Yesterday’s stop-start exit from Qingdao was good fun with plenty of banter between the boats. Now we’re setting up for our second night at sea and facing a fairly lively forecast. It’ll be the first time we’ve come up against such a compact fast moving low pressure system but typical of what we have to expect over the coming month.”

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