Leaving Airlie Beach and Headed for Sanya

Tomorrow we expect to sail away from Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays area of Queensland Australia for start of Leg 5 of this Clipper Round The World race and the circumnavigation that I am completing. This is the first of three races in leg 5 and takes the Clipper fleet from here to Sanya China. We will be crossing the equator on our approximately three and a half week sail. This marks my first time in China having only previously been on a very quick business trip to Hong Kong way back in the 1990’s.

This start will now be after a two day delay. Problem was our boat and a couple others had suffered damaged/non-functional watermakers during Leg 3 and the parts needed to fix them did not arrive here in time for repairs to be completed by planned race start day. Initially Sanya and the other affected boats had made plans to cary on board enough water for the entire trip and on Friday eve prior to race start day we were loading the additional water, some 50 large water cooler bottles, onto our boat and finding places down below to store the huge load.

Then on Saturday morning of the original race start day at time of the pre-race skippers briefing our new watermaker had made it to Brisbane and was on the way to arriving soonish. Clipper races officials then made the wise decision to delay race start for entire fleet by two days to allow all boats get their watermaker repairs completed by new planned start which would now be Monday. So we no longer face the prospect of rationing two liters drinking water per person pre day for three plus week sail across the equator and on into Sanya.

I was not actually part of that work of loading additional water on Friday evening as I spent my entire workday preparing and installing yet another new main halyard for the voyage. Something inside the mast where the main halyard runs down from the top exit point to its exit point about three meters above the deck level was chafing our main halyard over time and the best we have been able to do is add chafe protection in three key locations on the halyard. I do this work by sewing in three additional cover sections over those chafe points on the brand new halyard before installing it. I got great new guidance from Clipper maintenance person Harry on now to make my sewing of the chafe protection more durable as some of my previous work did not hold up well in the Southern Ocean. It is one of the great and commendable things about the Clipper race as crew do really pitch in and learn to and do all the minor maintenance and upkeep on these boats.

That said we are leaving the repair of the water maker to the professionals.

We had however routed our galley fresh water foot pump pickup line to be placed into the newly acquired water jugs. That work has been undone putting the pickup line back to the permanent on board water tanks in anticipation of a working watermaker.

As planned we need to complete about twelve hours of motoring by entire fleet to get out past the barrier islands and reefs to where we would be able to do a safe start of this race. The additional problem is that there is very little wind now and in near term forecast for the actual starting area. So the fleet may be motoring significantly further north before the start of racing. This additional motoring is expected to allow the fleet to maintain the original planned arrival window into Sanya China.

Our route will take us north through the Solomon Sea and east of Papua New Guinea. In the area of the Solomon Sea we pass through the Intertropical Convergence Zone. This is the so-called and dreaded doldrums where we may again experience poor winds for sailing. North of that area we cross the equator and then sail up and around the east side of the Philippine Islands before making the turn towards Sanya China. It is looking like three plus weeks of hot challenging sailing but nothing like the high winds, huge waves and cold experienced in the Soutrhern Ocean.

Here are our yachts parked at Airlie Beach looking mostly ready to go.

Sanya is in the forefront.

Southern Ocean Racing Legs 3 and 4

Southern Ocean

Note: if you followed the above link – we were prohibited by Clipper on going south of 45 degrees latitude.

It has been a while since my last posting which I can only apologize for with excuses. In Fremantle I had very little free time after the required deep clean and boat maintenance and I was exhausted from the first of the two Southern Ocean legs.

Here in Airlie Beach our shore time was also short and It is only now that we have an extra unplanned extra free day that affords me the time and good internet bandwidth to make this post.

So we have now completed the crossing of the Southern Ocean in legs 3 and 4 races first from Cape Town in South Africa to Fremantle in Western Australia and secondly from Fremantle south around Australia and up the eastern side of the continent to the Whitsundays in Queensland on the north east Australian coast.

It was just Team Sanya and Team Punte Del Este sailing out of Cape Town after our collision repairs were finally completed there. Both yachts put in a super effort to race quickly across the Southern Ocean to rejoin the fleet in Fremantle, Western Australia. But we only managed to arrive somewhat close to the planned leg 4 departure date from Fremantle. Team Unicef was also a very late arrival to Fremantle due their leg 3 reroute to Durbin South Africa to med-evac an ailing crew member who was suffering Appendicitis.

Punte Del Este and Sanya left Cape Town together motoring south through the first night south and actually started our “Ceremonial” match the following morning with a Lemans start. Sanya had already accepted that we would get no points for this race due to our fault in the collision prior. Punte had already collected “duress” points for this race.

We quickly got into the Southern Ocean and had high winds, monster waves and cold for days on end. The Southern Ocean has been prescribed as relentless and I can now attest to that as an accurate adjective.

In the end we did get a break from the conditions to some days out of Fremantle and we actually opted to motor in the remaining light winds to make up time.

Completing deep clean, boat maintenance and re-provisioning quickly in Fremantle would have given the three late boats very little free time before starting another Southern Ocean crossing for Leg 4. The new plan from Clipper was for 8 boats to start on time as planned and the three laggers would start exactly two days later with all scoring done on total elapsed time for each boat. So we started Leg 4 on Christmas Eve. We found ourselves again deep in the Southern Ocean and the comment from Seumas using one of the New Years end evolutions was to the nature of happily reefing in the new year!”

In leg 4 we initially did very well and were able to capture 2 points for the scoring gate and later collected additional 3 points for the ocean sprint having completed that about 8 hours faster than any other boat. In the late stages of the race into the Whitsundays we made a tactical decision to sail near the coast to avoid contrary currents. This decision turned out to be flawed and we were stuck for days in light airs with current not so favorable and at times the best we could do was go sideways to the necessary track into Airlie Beach. We ultimately were forced to accept last place and motor to the finish. Just days prior to turning on the engine we were sweet enough as to be expecting a podium finish. So goes yacht racing!

Half of the eight legs but somewhat less than half of the ocean miles are complete. Wow! One highlight for me particularly on these last two legs was helming the fastest times on team Sanya. – leg 3: 27.5 knots surfing and on leg 4: 20.2 knots surfing. What a rush!

Sunset after leaning Cape Town deceiving us of the tough times ahead.

Sue poking head out to get a weather report. Don’t let the sunny skies fool you as it is cold and a rogue wave could crash over any moment turning the cockpit into a wading pool!

Takes One person to helm and two others standing close by for logistical and morale support.

Rick checking the time – when can we finally end our watch and get below to warm up?

Bruce has spotted something?

Barry looking resolute as ever,

Ashfin and Lisa in the galley and the food always served up in dog bowls.

That’s me taking a rare selfie.

Fred looking happy. Being from Sweden the cold does not phase him?

Helms person plus afterguard.

Spoksey and Barry looking up at the sail trim.

Get tough guys!

Victoria Falls – November 25ik

After night back in Johannesburg Chris and I caught an early morning flight to Victoria Falls.

Excerpt from the WIKI page

While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft)[5] and height of 108 metres (354 ft),[6] resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls.

For a considerable distance upstream from the falls, the Zambezi flows over a level sheet of basalt, in a shallow valley, bounded by low and distant sandstone hills. The river’s course is dotted with numerous tree-covered islands, which increase in number as the river approaches the falls. There are no mountains, escarpments, or deep valleys; only a flat plateau extending hundreds of kilometres in all directions.

The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres (260 ft) at its western end to 108 metres (354 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110-metre (360 ft) wide gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end. The whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges from this narrow cleft.

Arrival and Decisions

We arrived at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone Zambia and made our way from there to the A’Zambezi River Lodge. One side if the Zambezi river is Zambia and the other is Zimbabwe and we now had to get from Zambia to Zimbabwe. We had stops along the way to clear customs, border control another entrance issues before finally getting dropped off at our accommodations at the A’Zambezi Lodge. Actually I am not quite sure what all bureaucracy we passed through but our tour operator, Wild Horizons, shepherded us thru OK.

We had a little downtime to check Into our room and also research activity options for the next day before we needed to board the sunset cruise boat. What to do tomorrow on our full day here: fishing excursion, river rafting in the gorge below the falls, zip line and other thrills over the gorge, helicopter flight options and of course just seeing the falls in person? Research was done, but actual decisions would come later as we needed to get on to the sunset cruise.

Sunset Cruise

We did not know what to expect from the sunset cruise as it was just an add-on that the Cape Town travel agent had thrown into the complete travel package that she arranged for us. Suffice it to say, the cruise was great.

Chill out! Ditto. Lots of hippos in the water. A momma elephant and babies swimming across the river. Climbing up the river bank.

Dinner and next day planning.

Back at the lodge we regrouped for a late dinner. The buffet looked enticing but we were tired from the day and chose instead it have a light meal from the a la carte menu and planned to end next day with the buffet. Over dinner we ruled out fishing and river rafting and had a plan to figure out the rest first thing in the morning.

Over breakfast the next day Chris’s was sure he wanted the zip line over the gorge and would want to do the helicopter flight over the falls if I would. There was a choice between short 15 minute flight just over the falls and a llonger 25 minute flight that also went over the below falls river gorge andthen upriver from the falls going over the game reserve looking for animals. I was privately agonizing over the decision and the cost of the flight but finally breakfast was over and I made the decision to go for the long helicopter flight. So we signed up with chosen activities with the Wild Horizons agent. Chris would be taking on the full daredevil package over the river gorge doing superman flight, zip line and drop swing which was some almost bunge like drop but culminating in swinging what out over the gorge. I was happy to just sit back and film his exploits. Memories of the massive bouts with vertigo that I suffered many years ago when Ménière’s Disease wrecked my left ear prevents me from such stunts.

The Gorge below the falls and watching daring Chris.

So first stop after breakfast was jeep ride to the gorge for Chris to achieve his now sought after Darwin Award on the cables crossing the gorge.

The Gorge.

Getting ready.

where are you goi;g Chris?

How does it work?

Down there?

Retrieving Chris.

Looks like we will get him back.

He is back.

Next up was the swing line. Imagine a very long swinging rope attached at its top end to the midpoint of a cable strung across the gorge. Attach yourself to the other end of the swinging line. Then jump into the abyss. Surely one gets a Darwin Award nomination for this – so steep into the canyon I could not film it. Chris was offered a second time down the swing but thought the better of it and immediately declined.

Viewing the falls from Zimbabwe Side

Next stop to view the falls which we still had not seen. Yet another park entrance fee was to be handed over to get into the viewing trail.

It was low water time at the falls as the area drained by the Zambezi River has been in a three years long drought and had just started getting rains in the last two weeks. Water was spilling over about s third over the full length of the chasm into the gorge below. In these conditions it earns the nickname “Vctoria Walls” and rightly so as you could see large sections of the sheer vertical drop off. We covered the full length o the viewing walk path which is at the edge of the gorge on the opposite side of the falls. It was not to crowded with visitors so that was nice. The section opposite the most falling water was quite misty and i theorized that it was that way year-round that section because it was like a micro climate tropical rainforest. Apparently if visiting at high water time there would be dense mist the full length of the trail and then you had best come dressed in poncho leave the cameras behind as they would get thoroughly soaked. I don’t doubt it as when we returned through the small rainforest section it was very much like we were getting rained on.

The falls begin here.

.

Back towards the start.

Closer inspection.

Walking up to the edge.

Stunning!

Victoria falls and Victoria Walls.

Can you spot the swimming fools?

Not “Sheila Safe” but I found a good rest spot.

Nice place to kick back towards the falls and ponder the meaning on life.

On to the Helicopter Flight

Next we had a breif relax and smoothie at the rainforest cafe before catching the shuttle back to the lodge to regroup for to the helicopter flight at 4:30 pm flight.

Massive crevasse disappears the river.

Our ride waiting for us.

The crevasse.

The unsuspecting traveler going down river will come this ending.

The helicopter pilot has it in complete control.

Back to the lodge for dinner

Back at the lodge we ook a rest/nap before heading out to the buffet which we sadly found was not happening as it was Sunday nite and not enough guests still at the lodge to support it. A la carte menu again and the fish option we both took was great. We had front row seats to the local wildlife that regularly comes onto the lodge lawns in the evening and early night hours. Lucky for us warthogs and buffalo are grass eaters so we could feel at least mildly safe in our chairs at the edge of the lawn.

Next day we were was off way too early in the morning to Victoria Falls airport on the Zimbabwe side of the falls for our flight back to Cape Town.

In all a great excursion to Victoria Falls.

Remember when airline food was good and what’s next – November 23

The flight.

Today Chris Ey and I caught a late morning flight from Johannesburg South Africa Livingstone Zambia for a short visit to Victoria Falls.

I have to give Kudos to British Airlines as I remember back in the day when airlines served reasonably good food and not at some premium charge to the ticket price. Today my surprise was this.

Food delivered.

Let’s eat! The vegetarian sandwich which I chose was delicious.

On the tarmac.

Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport

What’s next?

So I have to confess that when the option to visit Victoria Falls I just jumped on it with no research of my own as the travel agent in Cape Town handled the details. On the flight I had a window seat and the terrain all the way to Livingstone Zambia was quite flat and arid with no mountains in sight. My logical brain was beginning to wonder how on earth would we see a world renowned waterfall in this location? We will just have to see in my next post.

Kruger National Park – November 23i

Crew mate Chris Ey and I returned to Johannesburg yesterday afternoon from our short excursion to Kruger National Park.

Viva Safaries picked us up from Johannesburg airport Wednesday morning taking us and other guests in their minivan to Tremisana Safari Lodge just outside Kruger.

We had an evening guided Jeep tour through their game reserve seeing many animals and had a bush dinner after dark before returning to the lodge for the night.

Thursday they had us up at the crack of dawn for full day in Kruger searching for animals before the late evening drive back to Tremisana Safari Lodge culminating in a very good late night dinner.

Friday we were up again very early for another guided tour of the private game reserve before breakfast and the the return trip to Johannesburg which included a photo stop at the Three Rondawels view point.

Kruger is huge, larger than the country of Israel, and the game reserve at Tremisana is bordering the park. The animals are not fenced in and roam freely between and you just go looking for them in their natural habitat. And boy did we see loads of animals. So a fantastic experience was had.

Tremisana tour.

Ready to go lookin for animals at Tremisana.

Chris at bush dinner

Carl at bush dinner.
Wild dogs.
Hyenas.
Buffalo.
We saw more antelopes than we could possibly count. This mamma with two day old bambino and tick eating birds was great to see.
Wildebeest..
Hungry giraffes.

Kruger Jeep safari.

So pretty.
One of many sightings of animals roaming together.

This one is for my mom who said to me that she would never forget the giraffe she saw many years ago in Kenya.

Another for mom.

Three Rondawels view point.

Valley below the Rondawels

Next stop will be Victoria Falls after overnighting in Johannesburg.

Unexpected Return to Cape Town

Sadly, two yachts, ours and Punte Del Este, suffered a collision during the tactical “around the bouys” sailing that was part of initial course sailing immediately following race start from Cape Town, South Africa.

Both boats suffered damages and had to return to port. The good news is that there were no crew injuries on our boat and only minor injuries on Punte Del Este.

Clipper race officials and Robin Knox-Johnston along with Skippers, AQP’s and crew have had a day to assess the situation and plan next steps. The good news is that both boats will be fully repaired in as quick turnaround as possible and the the two will rejoin the race in a sort of match race to Fremantle with the expectation that we will be able to arrive there in time to regroup and properly join the Leg 4 race.

To shed a little more light on exactly what happened I offer this brief description. As the two yachts were approaching each other, Sanya was on port tack and Punte Del Este on starboard tack. In such crossing situations racing rules and regulations give the starboard tack boat the right of way and put the onus on the port tack boat keep clear.

Three options are available to the port tack boat.

1: Port boat to continue on port tack crossing in front of the starboard tack boat such that the starboard boat does not need any changes in their course to the avoid collision.

2: Port boat to tack early on to starboard sufficiently such thatboth will be on the starboard tack and the starboard boat does not need any changes in their course to the avoid collision.

3: Port boat to bear away turning to cross clear behind the starboard boat such that the starboard boat does not need any changes in their course to the avoid collision.

Option 3 clearly depicted in this illustration was taken by Sanya.

Port tack bear away to cross astern.

However in the conditions underway Sanya did not successfully coordinate and complete their bear away turn in time to stay clear and rammed the aft port side of Punte near the helm station. The two boats were locked together for a few minutes while we dropped sails and worked to extract our now bent bowsprit from the wreckage created on the other boat. Both boats and clipper race officials on the support rib were then able to make quick assessments of damages and the yachts returned to the Cape Town docks under their own power.

Back safely at the docks we can further assess issues.

Damages to Punte Del Este.
Sanya after removal of bent bowsprit.

Any experienced racer understands the rules and will do everything to avoid collisions. We on Sanya have acknowledged and owned up to our mistake in this incident.

It is time now to move constructively forward. We can’t deny that any endeavor such as this has risks and we must carefully and thoughtfully reevaluate and continue to hone our skills as we redouble our efforts to sail safely and fairly. I would also expect Clipper race organizers make every effort to design these race start courses to be as safe as possible. Perhaps, in hindsight, a “Le Mans” style race start would have been a good option.

Now I have some days off with my and Punte’s teammates to rest up and prepare for this Southern Ocean crossing to Fremantle Western Australia.

About to leave Cape Town

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.

CapeTown and Table Mountain
A closer view
Turning around 180 degrees we see Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Sadly I never had time to go there.

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.

Coming in to dock our boat.
Boats on the docks.
Sanya yacht , almost ready to go.
Clouds covering Table Mountain
Random other racing yacht
Ever wonder how to haul out a large ship for repair work?
Interesting building in the back of this section of the marina.