I’ve already blogged about the first two races which formed leg 8 of my Clipper Race adventure. The Atlantic race part one and two, and the race from N Ireland to the English coast. In this blog, I’m going to tell you about the last race, which saw us sprint up the Mersey to the official Clipper Race 17/18 finish at Albert Docks.
Welcome to one of the most exhilarating days of my life. 28th July 2018 – Clipper Race finish…After a hard few days racing, we spent the night off the English coast, get stuck in to a number of jobs to get us ready for this morning’s race. I barely slept, as I was helping GT and our mate, Wayne fix an issue that we had with our throttle (needed for docking at race finish). I grabbed 2 hours sleep in the galley, as all the bunks were taken, and that was enough to revive me for our final sprint.
At 4am it was all hands on deck. A cold early morning start. The tension and excitement in the air building. Roles and responsibilities were decided and the plan briefed. At first light, a rainbow appeared – a lucky omen?
I was allocated the position of ‘port yankee sheet’, this is quite a responsible job and needs a fair amount of strength. The aim is to trim in/grind in or ease the yankee sheet (the rope which controls one of our foresails), this needs to be done as quickly as possible, losing minimal time during tacks, and is a physical job. The ‘sheets’ flog wildly during a tack, so getting them under control is critical.
For race start, our final Le Mans was awaiting, just off the coast – allowing for a good 20nm sprint in to the heart of Liverpool. We were given the position on the line, of ‘2nd boat to windward’ which effectively meant that we would be 2nd in the line up, with Qingdao being 1st and in the most favourable position, avoiding all the dirty wind of other boats.
The countdown timer started over the VHF, and the butterflies began to build. The wind was picking up, and was on our nose, with a fair amount of swell. We joined the other boats in forming an orderly line. But Qingdao seemed to be suffering some issues and didn’t quite make the lineup, which left us as the primary boat on the line – for us, this couldn’t be better. The claxon sounded, and we were away.
Everyone sprinting in to their positions, hoisting the foresails as quickly as possible. And we were away. First off the line, first with the hoist. We gained a boat length, then 2, and more… we were away in first place. Heeled over, waves and spray crashing over the deck.
Our close rival, with all to play for, PSP were hot on our heels. They were giving it everything, battling through sail changes, with what appeared to be a clearly thought out plan. We kept an eager eye on our rivals, but all the time conscious and in disbelief that we were breaking away so well. We were flying along.
A helicopter appeared overhead, and some speed boats alongside. We entered the Mersey, and started to see spectators along the banks – braving the high wind and drizzle. Spray and water still crashing along the deck, with me on the low-side taking a continual soaking – drowned rat wasn’t quite the look I had envisaged at prize giving!
The finish line was in site, and we were heeled over on starboard tack, pushing and pushing. GT on the helm, us constantly trimming, getting everything we could out of our beloved Black Pearl. When we spotted a cruise ship in the river. We raced past, doing our best to stay clear, waving at the passengers who had come out to spectate. By this time the cheering from the crowds, the helicopters and the other boats was immense. We were winning. Unstoppable.
Moments later we crossed the line. Wow. We’ve done it. We’ve taken the line honours. What an incredible moment. We pushed so hard, the whole team giving their all. And it paid off.
You can watch the race finish for yourself here – it gets good at about 22 mins in…
After a parade of sail and some milling about on the Mersey, our corporate flags were flying and it was time to lock in at Albert docks. We paraded in to the lock, through a sea of cheering crowds all waving flags, with our team song blaring over the tannoy. I spotted my children, friends and family among the crowd, it was so great to see them – all looking so proud and relived I was home. I am so thankful for their unfaltering support, and I am so unbelievably lucky to have the friends and family that I do. I think experiences like this only serve to bring you closer, cementing that bond, trust, and through the sharing of such personal moments and in making lifelong memories together. I feel blessed.
Once docked, I reluctantly stepped off of CV22, knowing that I may never get to race such a fantastic boat again. We stood on the pontoon, cheering and hugging friends from other teams as they paraded past – in a count down order from 11th place, when 4th place was announced I took our team flag and led us through the huge crowds among the cheers and screams, to our place on the ramps ready for prize giving. I felt so incredibly proud, proud of the team, of myself, and just so happy for what we’d achieved. Topped off by our incredible sprint finish. Prize giving and several drinks receptions followed. Moments and memories that I will never forget.
Clipper Race, you were an experience. Everything I dreamed of and more. People say that “team work makes the dream work”. I’ve learnt to disagree with this saying, it is “teamwork, blood, sweat, tears and perseverance that make the dream work.”