It’s the wee hours of Friday night and I am again sleepless. Sunday is departure day for Leg 3 race to Fremantle in Western Australia. The sail is expected to be 3 weeks and some days. I am not alone in my fears of the weather and conditions that we may expect.
We thought we had experienced the full range of conditions in our two leg 1 races from London to Portimao Portugal and then the much longer Atlantic Crossing to Punte Del Este Uruguay. However on Leg 2, the second of the race’s three Atlantic crossings, we experienced days on end of close reaching or close hauled upwind sailing in winds mostly north of 20 knots often in the high 20’s to low 30’s. Many crew had serious falls or other injuries to contend with. This includes me when I was moving around the nav station area and lost my hand grip and took a backwards fall into the low side and banged some l
I right hand side ribs on that nav station. Banged up ribs just take long time to get better as I still have some pain.
As skipper Nick Leggatt on boat Zhuhai tells it: “This was my 44th crossing of the Atlantic. I remember the first one in 1985, where I crossed Punta del Este to Cape Town. We had storm force conditions and I thought I’d never forget that trip. But since then, the only one that has come anywhere close has been this one and it topped it. It was pretty bad out there.”
People we have met here in Cape Town have told us tidbits of the local conditions here such as these. 1: The winds are usually blowing like crazy or not at all. 2: The beach water temperatures are warmer in winter than summer. This is because the summer winds come down off Table Mountain and drive the surface water out to sea allowing the colder deeper warmer to rise and take its place.
I participated today in two sailings. In the morning we did our “Corporate Sail” commitment taking about 10 local college age kids out to experience out boat. We also did a second sail for a “Kite Shoot” in which we launch a special spinnaker from our Sanya China sponsors and photos are made from a photo boat that goes out with us. Here the theme was to get some good shots of us with spinnaker up and the city and Table Mountain in the background.
The day was supposed to start with “Kite Shoot” in the morning and “Corporate Sail” in the afternoon but as of Thursday evening the kite sail was still stuck in customs processing having been shipped from Punte Del Este where we also had a photo shoot. So the order of events was swapped putting in the hopes that we would have the kite by afternoon.
We wrapped up a successful “Corporate Sail” around noon and Skipper Seumas gave us literally thirty minutes to grab lunch and be back ready to go back out. So for me it was a quick trip to the bathrooms in the mall (close walk from the boats) and a chicken and egg filled pastry which I had just enough South African currency remaining in my coin purse to get.
Kite shoot was tough because we had feared that afternoon winds would be too strong to pull it off. What we found was a strange dual competing wind. To one side of the bay we had strong wind that we could use if we did not sail too far into it but riding that down wind with the kite the winds abruptly shut off changed to light winds coming from the opposite direction. This also was
clearly marked by white caps on the water o the one side and smooth water on the other. It was like nothing I have ever seen in all my previous sailing experience. We did manage to make two very quick downwind runs by motor sailing up to the windy side and turning downwind with quick sheet out on the mainsail and spinnaker launch which lasted five to ten minutes at most before reaching the wind change where we had to quickly drop the kite on deck. On the second run at the spinnaker drop the heel of the spinnaker parted from the halyard shackle just as I was beginning to lower the halyard for the sail drop. So we had a quick fire drill on the foredeck getting the sail in as it fell quickly and partially on deck and the other spilling out over the water. We certainly don’t want to run over the sail with engine still running which was certainly possible it quick actions were not taken. So after that we called of any remaking attempts and hope the photographers got what they wanted.
During the day I did get some photos looking from the water towards table mountain.
It is now Sunday morning and I finally have time, energy and internet access to make this post. In 45 minutes I will be going with my boat mates to pass through customs. We have to take a bus ride from the marina to there and back. Then we may hack possibly another hour of shore time before reporting to the boat to do final bits and leave for race start. Briefing meeting yesterday gave us some small idea of the conditions we can expect over the next three weeks in our race to Fremantle. We should get more down wind sailing this race whis is what we all want.
Here are a handful of photos I made yesterday.