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7,361

That’s a big number! It is the total number of nautical miles the Qingdao team sailed in two races from Portsmouth, England to Punte del Este, Uruguay. With a short stop over in Porto Sherry, Spain, we completed the 2 races for Leg 1 of the Clipper Round the World Race. I am super proud of our team for our performance, perseverance, team work, and growth. I know many of you have been waiting for my next blog post…I landed in Punte last Saturday, October 14th, about late afternoon…and it has been busy. Before I continue, let me also share some thanks and other good news.


First, let me thank all of you for the support, love, and encouragement. We started racing September 3rd and it has been non-stop since. Much thanks to Jean and Katie Faris for keeping the home fires rolling, my brothers, Kevin and Jay Faris, for helping with all the support we have been trying to give to the folks on Maui, impacted by the Lahaina fires, to Patty Herrera, friend and marathoner for the much needed electroylytes, and to all of you who have thought of me and my team as we raced “down” the Atlantic from north to south. A special shout out to Greg Thompson who has been on his own medical journey and when I arrived in Punte, I learned of some good news from him! Thinking of you and heal fast!


Also, a very special thank you to all who have donated to UNICF and to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s. Here is what you have helped raise ‘to date’: $6,054 for the Fox Foundation and $525 for UNICEF. Both these organizations are blessed to have you as a financial supporter! As we enter into the final months of the year and you are thinking about your end-of-year giving plans, might I ask that you consider donating on my philanthropy page here.


OK, so let’s crawl into 7,361! That is over 35 days at sea, heat, cold, downpours, blown up spinnakers, torn up crew and skipper, amazing sunrises/sunsets, too many meals with beans in them, amazing fellowship and also loving (and being irritated!) by 20 people living in what amounts to a floating RV…and I wouldn’t have it any other way! It has been amazing! You have probably read other of my mates’ blogs and Clipper’s posts…all good…I’ve been grappling this week with how to put it all into words and emotions for you. Given my maturing blog skills, maybe I‘ll capture it with a “Top 10” list for this race, one for the “good” and the “bad”. How about that…I’ll even simplify it that the items are not in rank order, but just 10 items that will hopefully convey the meaning of this leg and race for me. Might even generate some questions from you, which I love! I will use one picture or video out hundreds that I hope capture the moment.


Top 10 - Good/Amazing/Spectacular


1. My Watch Team

As one of the three ‘watch leaders’ on board, I was blessed to have an amazing team of sailors/people/friends. Zach (China), Timo and Liv (Germany) , Demi (Romania), Paul (UK), and Elaine (UK) were amazing to sail with, to lead, to learn from and to get to know. You don’t sail over seven thousand miles, through thick and thin, without getting to know people well…their moods, goals, fears, frustrations and overall lives. It was a pleasure and honor to race with them and they all made my job as watch leader easier and super fun! Thank you! Only Zach will continue on in this race, as the others were committed to leg 1 only. I will also give credit that some/many of the pics shown in this post aren’t mine! Timo is an amazing photographer and he was gracious enough to share with the crew his pics for our use…’thank you’ Timo! The pictures I’ll select below are me and Zach clowning around after Timo and Liv did a photo shoot and we were razing them about it...and he then turned the camera on us!


2. Nature’s Beauty

No single photo or emotion can cover nature’s beauty at sea. Whether it is the clear sky and galaxies surrounding you at night with the phosphorous glowing as the dolphins streak beside you, or the pending fury of a squall where you know you are going to get pounded and soaked! Nature is alive, the ocean is alive and it is immensely beautiful. I am humbled even now as I right this. Credit goes to Timo for this photo as it shows some of that beauty as we were sailing near one of our competitors. Even after thousands of miles, our competitors were close and often showed up!


3. Hot Tea at 3 AM

If you know me well, you know that I love a good cup of tea. And there is nothing better thank a strong cup of black tea at 3 AM, while on watch. Yes this is a daylight picture…we are near the Canary Islands here, about 150 miles or so west of Africa. Hanne Pommerantz, a friend from work, gifted me and our crew some Kenyan Ajiri tea…and here we are ”just“ off the coast near the Canary Islands. Great tea and a great day to be alive on the ocean!

4. Night Sailing

I am both in awe and massively on edge night sailing. Nature’s beauty can be at its fullest when the moon and stars are out, and we had plenty of nights where the sailing was magical! Then there are the nights, when the sea is angry and it is as black as coal…only thing you can see is the compass, the instruments, and the companionway red light…everything else is pitch black. Feeling the sea, the boat, being absolutely focused and ‘in the moment’ is how you helm at night. The boat rising and falling, the waves coming from various directions and often it being ‘black as sin’, it is easy to become disoriented. It is also comforting to have your mates on deck, we always have two at the helm in case the person helming loses perspective…and we are always, always clipped on. This picture is from a video I took…it is ‘night’, but still enough ambient light to give some idea of how dark it can get. Beautiful, scary, alive, focused…all of it comes at you with night sailing!


5. Race Start

Race starts are fun! For Clipper, they begin with a parade of sail for the spectators and in this picture just outside Porto Sherry, we are doing our parade. Then we go into a 10 minute start sequence, slightly different from the traditional 5 or 3 minute starts my racing readers may be familiar with. Love it! We are focused, in alignment with our competitors and the energy for what lies ahead builds.


6. Helming

I love to helm! Being in control of 70’ race boat in boat in all types of weather is a great thrill, with surfing off waves very exhilerating! But I also know my limits and where I need to improve on this next race, and that is high-wind, night spinnaker sailing…a bit unnerving and it needs top notch reaction time particularly when the big waves are coming from a variety of directions…ALL your senses are engaged to keep the boat going in the right direction!


My top speed is 19+ knots (or boat record on this race was 22+ knots by Zach…he’s a great helmsman.) I also enjoy coaching others in helming and this picture is of Elaine working on her technique, at sunrise, a few days outside of Punte del Este


7. Crossing the Equator

After officially crossing the equator at approximate 5 AM boat time on Saturday, September 30th! We celebrate and I go back off watch and sleep…official “pollywog“ to “shellback“ ceremony will be later. The picture below is Queen Neptune applying the secret sauce of coconut milk and breakfast leftovers to the foreheads of all the pollywogs as we pledged something to the queen: mine was to do the dishes for her for 3 watches so she could sleep. It is official, I have crossed the equator by boat!


8. Oranges

Oranges were a favorite of mine on the boat…sweet, juicy, particularly the ones we picked up in Spain. It is amazing how the simple things become joyous pleasures when you are in environment of limited resources. We enjoy more simply and fully the little things like a juicy orange on a very hot afternoon in the doldrums.


9. Technology

A Clipper 70 is an amazing boat and the navigation center is the ‘hub’ or brains of the boat. It is here that we come to log our progress every hour, look at our position, check the forecast or validate our progress to a particular waypoint on our route. But the nav station is more than just technology…it is a quiet and cool respite from the hubbub of the boat, a place to have a quiet moment or conversation…so for me it is more than just a technology space. Here Rob Kerr, from New Zealand is checking our position on the Time Zero navigation computer.


10. Moments

I’ll title this section ‘moments’ as a catch all for all the specials moments that are too numerous to capture or would take me forever to explain. They range from hanging on for dear life in your bunk, hoping not to spill out to quiet reflective time early in the morning, watching the sea roll by. We’ll chat about these moments when I return, I am sure, hopefully over a good meal and wine. But the one moment I will share as I wrap up this section is our mid-ocean rendezvous with UNICEF, one of our competitor boats to execute a boat-to-boat transfer of some much needed drugs (anti-biotics) for one of her crew. The collective team, even with our own boat disabled and looking a shambles due to a massive spinnaker wrap, rallied to meet UNICEF mid-ocean, off of Brazil. It is a great feeling and testament to our sport’s focus on seamanship, looking out for your mates, that we were able to do this…loved every minute of it and afterwards, we went back to racing and fixing our own boat. In the end, UNICEF beat us on this race, but we received a lovely thank you note and baked treats upon our arrival into Punte del Este thanking us for our support. You can’t ask for anything better knowing you helped someone while racing, far out at sea.


At the beginning of this post I said I’d put a list of the top 10 ‘bad‘ things…well it is Sunday, October 22nd (my birthday actually!) and we’ll be off racing to Cape Town in A few hours. So I‘m not going to dwell on the challenges too much here and I’ll keep it brief. Probably of note, our skipper, Greg Hunt, went down about a week into our 4 week race with severe back issues…we are proud and happy to have “brought the ship in” with minimal top leadership, and everyone stepped up. But we are also truly saddened that he won’t be able to continue with us onto Cape Town. Dale Smyth, Deputy Race Director will lead us across to South Africa. Dale is a veteran race skipper, South African himself and knows these waters well…we are in good hands. We also had some other injuries, most notable a fall by one of our watch leaders…hurting his back. He is able to continue, but this is a full contact sport when it usroigh seas and e are always trying to be extremely careful, but things do happen. I’m nursing a swollen knee, but I had it checked out here in Punta but I feel like I’m good to go!


I’ll leave you with these two fun thoughts…I lost 17 pounds on this leg, a bit more than I anticipated losing. Like any good sailor, when you hit land you look for a good bed, good shower, good beer, and good food. Not ashamed to say, I ate all of it…


Well, I’ll close for now. I need to finish some packing, take my last shower for a couple of weeks and get to the boat for final prep. Thanks for all the love and support and thanks for reading!


We’ll chat again when I get to Cape Town.


Chris




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Guest
Oct 22, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Happy birthday Chris! so fun to read about your first leg of the journey!


Ramona

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Guest
Oct 22, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Happy Birthday, Chris. This is so amazing to read and imagine. The ups and downs are truly creating the best stories that I’m sure you will treasure forever. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

-Jen Keeney

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Jane vdZT
Jane vdZT
Oct 22, 2023

Happy birthday sailor!! Wishing you a great birthday and a safe journey to Capetown! Eat two slices of birthday cake to help negate the 17 lost. Great pictures! You’ll have to rent a theater and share your experience via photos and videos. Good luck to as you set sail ⛵️🥳🎂

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Guest
Oct 22, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for the update, Chris and happy birthday!! Sounds like the crossing of the Atlantic (part 1!) was amazing (in addition to being a challenge). 17 pounds?? You may be into the next miracle diet here ;)

Stay safe!

Eduardo

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