I wrote this post on-board CV22 for the official Clipper blog, but our satcomms failed and it wasn’t published, so I thought I’d share it with you instead…
Leg 8, Race 12, Day 10. 049 ,05’3″ N. 030, 11′ 8″ W
A Postcard From The North Atlantic Ocean.
Dear Garmin Supporters, Friends, Family and My 3 Superstars,
I can’t believe how fast the days have flown by, we’re rapidly heading towards the ocean sprint and will then be closing in on Derry. Yesterday we got locked in a game of cat and mouse with UNICEF and Seattle, as we passed through the scoring gate. We came off with 1 bonus point, not quite what we were hoping for, but a good start nonetheless. And given the couple of spinnaker issues we had, we’re still happy. We’re now continuing the battle, but are currently rather frustratingly in a pocket of light winds.
The Atlantic Ocean has been everything I imagined. Providing the most exhilarating mental and physical challenges I have ever been lucky enough to experience. Mentally you have to be ‘on the ball’ 100% of the time, it would be unsafe to be any other way. You have to pre-empt and scenario plan for everything. Concentration on the job-in-hand is also critical… for example when owning the spinakker trim, you have to focus 100% of the time – I did this for 3 hours staright yesterday, in fairly big Atlantic swell. Physically, well it pushes you to your limits. From the constant battle with ‘the heel’, to the constant trimming, grinding and climbing that you have to undertake whilst battling with the forces of nature.
A classic came a couple of days ago, when at the end of the 12 – 4am watch, we needed to hoist a kite. Everyone was in position, sweating, grinding, tailing, pushing themselves to the limit to get it up as fast as possible, but unfortunately there was an issue. So a series of events very quickly unfolded… we had to hoist the yankee, drop the kite, re-pack the kite, hoist it again, and drop the yankee. All of these evolutions are pysically draining, but coming at 3.55am and thus making us an hour late off watch, it was even more so. But in the moment, you can’t stop, you must carry on. You have to dig as deep as you can, and then some. Pushing through your physical limits like never before. Coming off that particular watch, every muscle in my being was screaming, and for all of us, our clothes were soaked through, not with the ocean spray, but with our own sweat! But, we came here for the challenge.
In contrast, there are times of pure tranquility. To sit at the stern at night, with a 360 degree pano of nothing but ocean, and with a star filled sky is heavenly. Shooting stars whiz past, and when you glance down, you are rewarded with the twinking lights of the phosphoresence – it is truly magical. I am trying my hardest to engrain it in my memory. I never want to forget the eauty that i have been so privilieged to witness.
By day, nature has been incredibly rewarding to us. From Minkie whales, sperm whales and sharks, to an abundance of playful dolphins. We really have been absolutely spoilt. There’s been a few times that i’v ebeen alone on the bow (callign trim on sails, so that they perform to within an inch of their life!) and i have been joined by a pod of acrobatic dolphins, putting on a show just for me. With the back flips, and dives, they really are mesmerising. You can be freezing cold, soaked through, and they come along at the right time to lift spirits, they never fail to raise a smile from ear to ear.
One thing though that i need to mention, is that among all this beauty, nature at its best, hundreds of miles from land, we are still reminded ocassionally of the grim stain that humanity leaves on our wonderful planet. Helium balloons. I am horrified by the extent and the sheer volume of balloons that we have passed – floating for eternity, choking nature of life as they do. Seeing this pollution first hand is disturbing. My plea to all reading this, is please please do not buy helium balloons, they are an unnecessary waste of money, that kill our sealife and pollute our oceans.
Putting helium balloons aside, I am absolute loving life on the ocean wave. The experience has been liberating. Cleansing the soul, and opening the mind. I do feel truly privileged to be out here. I feel grounded, like never before.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. I must go, we are on the hunt, and there is work to be done.