Australian Sailing Lisa 30 15_4_12
As the crew on board Gold Coast Australia enter into our fourth week at sea, racing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race racing from Qingdao, China to Oakland, California USA we were blessed with the company of whales. These large giants of the ocean with their smooth Gray skin would display their fluke in all its perfection as we sailed past under full main and Yankee 1(our largest head-sail) only to slip beneath the surface of the cold Gray ocean, colder still because we are sailing at 40 degrees North.
On the 19th day at sea we had repaired our damaged main sail and entered into stealth mode while the rest of the fleet assumed that we were still crippled and sailing under reduced sail. 24 hours later we came out of stealth mode and had gained a wonderful 24 nautical miles on the nearest boat Singapore giving us a lead of 74 nautical miles and giving us something to smile about even though the sun had not shone in 20 days and the air temperature on deck was a icy 5 degrees.
On the 21st day at sea our team grew closer still and showed off our effective work ethic when a sail change is called just after watch change at 0800 on the dawning of yet another cold Gray morning at sea. The ‘on’ watch only required two or three crew from the ‘off’ watch to assist with the sail change however playing the word ‘team’ to the fullest the whole ‘off’ watch got on deck and worked together to make the sail change quick and efficient. It is great to see this when everyone is exhausted and their muscles are burning with the effort of simply getting on deck and as a watch leader it makes me proud to see my team working so hard.
The winds increased on the morning of the 24th day at sea meaning lots of sail changes. After 5 hours in the morning of dragging, dropping, hanking, hoisting and flaking sails we were all very very tired taking the much needed rest of 3 hrs until it was time for us to be back in the cold and wet for yet another watch. Sailing with 1 reef in the Main Sail and the Yankee 3 (our smallest head sail) poled out in 40 knots of wind with a following swell of 6-8 meters giving those of us who helm in these conditions a fantastic ride as we surf waves at regular 18 knots with the wind whipping the icy spray into our eyes.
Through the nights helming was a great challenge as you simply could not see anything, either because it was starless, cloudless pitch black night or because the rain and spray was so thick that you could not look forward. This left us helming by the feel of the boat under your feet and the feel of the wind on your cheek with our only guide being from the true wind angle displayed on the instruments.
Our lead continued to increase on the rest of the fleet and the weather remained cold, wet and windy as we neared the coastline of California. Day 28 dawned with us a mere 100 nautical miles off the land, so close we could almost taste the beer and smell the pizza. The weather gods were still giving us a healthy 20 knots as we sailed with a full main and the Yankee 2. As the distance to the finish grew smaller the fog grew thicker until we could barely make out 50 meters ahead of us. This fog remained for most of the afternoon as our remaining nautical miles continued to diminish until finally at 5pm in the afternoon we broke through the fog bank to revel our first sight of land. The high rises of San Francisco and could be seen as well as our finish line the Golden Gate Bridge.
With two nautical miles left we sailed into the lee of San Francisco cutting our steady wind down to 5 knots and all but stopping us completely. But with this light breeze we decided to hoist the Medium Weight Spinnaker. So under the watchful eye of the media boat and the supporters who had kindly sailed out to welcome us in we got the pole ready and the spinnaker on deck, ran the sheets and guys as these had all been packed away in anticipation on reaching land and within 5 minuets we had succeeded. Spinnaker set we slowly crept forward to the finish line that was the two centre pylons of the Gate Way Bridge. At 6.30pm with our mast almost touching the bridge we eased under with famous piece of engineering and completed the toughest and most challenging race in the series yet.
A wonderful and much needed rest followed on shore in Oakland City. A lovely place that welcomed us with open arms and showed us generosity and what the word community is all about. After two weeks of this is was once again time to set sail for the 10 race in the series sailing from Oakland City to Panama where we will get the great opportunity to transit the Panama Canal.
We slipped line to a huge crowed of well wishes at 1100 in the morning and motored out in front of the Golden Gate Yacht Club for the start line. One end of the line was marked by the flag pole from the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the other end was marked by a orange buoy sitting 100 meters off shore. Lining up for the start with 15 second until the start gun sounds we had Singapore to our port with Geraldton to the port of them and just up ahead was Edinburgh Inspiring Capital with New York inside of them. It was a tight jumble with very little room between the boats at one stage I could have almost high fived the skipper of the Singapore boat it was that close and everyone was trying to get the perfect position for the start line. As we neared the line it became obvious to me on the bow that we were going to cross early, I started shouting back the distance to the start line to the helm but there was nothing that we could do so with 9 seconds still to go we were pushed over the line early giving us a false start. There was simply no room and the other boats were giving us no lee way to come down away from the line. Also doing a false start was Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Singapore as they too were pushed over. The three of us tacked around and crossed the line again leaving us in 8 position.
Not the best race start but by 5 pm we were once again in the lead however by the morning we had fallen to fifth position. The winds are being kind with an average of 13-15 knots of breeze from behind so we are sailing under the stars at night and by the oh so lovely sunshine during the day with our spinnaker flying as we work to catch the fleet.