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“Port”, “Starboard”

I’m titling this post with the comforting and quiet words that Greg Hunt, our skipper spoke into my ear as I took the helm after race start. Under our Code 2 spinnaker and entering the English Channel, his quiet South African accent gives you confidence as we raced along at more than 15 knots, making small adjustments to optimize our performance. Whenever we are at the helm, someone from the team is next to you, helping with focus, wheel adjustments, and in the pitch dark of night, company. But I am getting ahead of myself.


I can’t believe it has been since August 26th since I last blogged! I appreciate your support and patience as I navigated these amazing almost 3 weeks that has passed, filled with all the emotions: joy, fear, sadness, much tiredness, some anger/grumpiness…many highs and lows, but thankfully, no regret. Let me see if I can quickly recap this time for you as I sit here on my bed at 0530, Friday morning in Puerto Sherry/Cadiz Spain. In less than 12 hours we start Race2, 5,300 nautical miles across the Atlantic to Punta del Este Uruguay.


After I left Chicago, I arrived in Portsmouth/Gosport…the 2 weeks before our September 3rd race start. This time was spent getting the boat ready, loading provisions, final tune up of boat systems, and then the excitement and party like atmosphere of Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays departure point. On the boat, you quickly make friends, learn to navigate each other’s quirks and patterns…20 folks living in basically the space of an RV.


Jean and Katie arrived in Portsmouth on August 30th and September 1st, respectively. We had a great time looking at the boats, helping get ready, and enjoying the festive atmosphere. We ate out, shopped, went to the Race Start Party at the historic naval port, and attended a variety of crew briefings and boat naming ceremony. The weather in Portsmouth was amazing with only one rain day just before race start. But against all of this festive atmosphere, lies a feeling of “can we just start and get on with it!” For many of the crew, the journey to this point has been years in the making. We are ready, let’s race!


The day of the race start, Sunday, September 3rd, was sunny, hot, and emotions were high. Many tears, high-fives, hugs, smiles and well wishes, from friends, family, and strangers alike. Clipper puts on quite a show and you feel a bit like a rock star (even though we haven’t done anything yet, if you exclude the massive amount of boat and personal prep work and training). Each team is introduced on stage to much fanfare and their selected song (ours is a song from the rock band AC/DC, but with a chant of ”Qingdao” at appropriate points) during the parade of crews…very exciting as each team comes on stage to the cheers from friends, family and strangers who have come to watch the start.


Race 1 - Portsmouth to Puerto Sherry Spain

This race is approximately 1,200 miles and began under very light winds. We had the Parade of Sails out of Portsmouth harbor where we will return in 11 months. The Parade of Sails is all 11 boats in a line going past the cheering crowds of friends and family. Quite a feeling! The race is on!


But, no wind! You can’t have a race without wind and the winds were light in the Solent and the tides strong. We had a great race start under white sails (I.e. no spinnaker), crossing the line amongst the top boats. The fleet of 11 quickly split into two packs, we were leading the second pack with the early part of the course inside the Solent. Our course was designed to give the spectators a close-up view of the racing fleet and showcase our seamanship as we changed sails multiple times, as well as did a number of tacks and gybes. Our evolutions of sail changes and maneuvers went well, and Greg was pleased. We had a small dip of the spinnaker into the ocean as it got a way from us a bit, but a minor thing…plus the spinnaker on these boats is massive! And then, the Solent, friends and family were behind us as we rounded the Isle of Wight and entered Channel. Peace, spinnaker, ourselves. No more rockstar treatment, just our boat, the 20 crew and the wind in our sails. Race on.


The race to Puerto Sherry can be broken up into the some really distinct parts: Race start in the Solent (the water way between mainland England and the Isle of Wight), the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay and the coasts of Spain/Portugal down into the Bay of Cadiz. At our crew briefing, the weather report indicated light and variable wind in the Solent, fast downwind/spinnaker sailing in the English Channel, beating into rough seas across the Bay of Biscay, and potentially light winds down the coasts of Spain/Portugal. And so it was to be!


After escaping the light winds and adverse tidal currents of the Solent, we put up the spinnaker and had an amazing sail out and down into the English Channel Sunday night, Monday, and into early Tuesday. Our speeds were high as we surfed down a growing swell in 25+ knots of wind, blasting along with dolphins by our side. We had some issues with our spinnaker tack and sheets suddenly ‘popping off’ which created a scramble to retrieve the spinnaker and we got some good practice ‘wooling’ the spinnaker down below. We settled into our 3 watch rotaion, and I lead the “Bueller Watch” (yes, I know, I didn’t come up with the name!).


Mother nature “giveth and taketh”, and by Tuesday, the winds had shifted onto the “nose” or front of our boat and we now had to beat to windward against very strong winds. At times we had 30+ knots of apparent wind as we slammed to weather. Seasickness amongst the crew was high, but I was fortunately spared. I have well proven approach I take to sea sickness prevention and “knock on wood” it works for me! Living at a 30 angle of heel is very tiring…think “mountain climbing” where every move and placement of one’s hands an d feet is well thought out. Getting into and staying in your bunk is a feat of gymnastics and climbing up a wall and a quick “heave ho” into the bunk. We sleep in 3, 4, and 7 hour cycles, 24 x 7.


As a side note, I’m going to need to speed up this post…it is nearing time for me to leave to head to our crew meeting at 8. I’ll try and recap quickly and I apologize for no pictures…I’ll come back while in Punte del Este.


We beat to weather from Tuesday until Saturday morning, when the winds lightened, then died. Unfortunately, the Race Committee had to shorten the race so we could stay on schedule and get into Puerto Sherry in a timely manner. Overall, we clawed our way into 2nd place on the Race, but we received a time penalty of 6 hours for getting too close to land near the Channel Islands, being swept close with the tide. From Saturday morning, until Monday afternoon, we motor sailed under beautiful star filled nights and warm days into Puerto Sherry. That’s racing for you!


From a crew perspective we’ve really jelled. We did have a scary moment when one of our much loved crew took a fall…both Steve and Andy fell as the boat pounded. They are fine, but a harsh reminder that this is a challenging sport with the boats pounding into the waves and the angle of heel high. We must be careful and these events are sobering. Other boats had tethered MoB (man overboard) as the winds and the waves sweep the deck. Everyone is fine and it reinforces the need to be clipped in.


From Tuesday until now, I’ve been busy working on the boat, resting and eating. The weather here is warm and sunny…very Florida like (in the winter). We have had some repairs to make to our watermaker, life raft holders, 3rd reef line etc. The pounding into the sea took a toll and was a great shake down race for us.


I’ll sign off here, and apologies for no pictures (they take a while to upload). Overall, I am doing great. I’m mentally and physically preparing for 5,300 miles of ocean racing and should be back on land around October 12-15. We’ve got the boat back in great shape and while we officially placed 6th in Race 1, we all know we were 2nd without our time penalty and hopefully, a force to be reckoned with…wish us luck!


Thanks for reading and all the love and support. I promise more pictures and insights at the close of Leg 1…think of this Race 1 as just the appetizer to the main course!


Chris





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Convidado:
20 de out. de 2023

Can't wait to hear more of the adventure as you go...good luck..stay safe

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Michelle O'Dea
Michelle O'Dea
04 de out. de 2023
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

We are all so excited that your adventure has started. Stay safe, keeping everyone informed at the office.

Your Dental Team!😀

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Brittany Lloyd
Brittany Lloyd
03 de out. de 2023
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Keep the updates coming Chris! Great to hear about the adventure and wishing you all the best!

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Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Great to hear from you. Thanks for sharing. I’ll keep reading if you keep writing. Stay safe!


Brian

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Mary Markarian
Mary Markarian
15 de set. de 2023
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Hopefully no hurricanes as you cross the Atlantic. The good news no hurricanes go south of the equator. Stay dry😀 and safe!

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