London to Portimao
Build up to Race start
It’s been a funny few weeks with the all the last minute preparations taking up most of my time. I sleep eat breath this race at the moment. It is a real dichotomy as I want to spend every last minute with Darren and my girls Alex and Megan but I have been so concentrated on making the best possible preparation that I can for my self and my team. I seem to have become the go to person for general enquiries with the whole team emailing, phoning and messaging daily for updates and info. I love it don’t get me wrong but it certainly takes up most of my time leaving little time for my loved ones at home. I also took part in the preparation and delivery of the boat to London which took up most of August TBH. It was really great that my Dad, Bob came down to London in the few days before race start. I was able to show him around the boat and he met Wavy, Fabian and loads of my crew mates. It was fantastic that Dad was able to spend loads of time with me so he can get a good handle on the place and the people that will be my home for the next 11 months. Next time I see Dad and Alan, my brother, will be in Freemantle just before Christmas.
Race Start Day ONE
Over the last few days I have been trying to make time to blog. The build up to race start has been one of the most intense and busy times so far during the last year. Getting married, packing up the belongings that I will need for the next 11 months at sea. Checking that all is in place with my life laundry, writing a new will, writing birthday and Christmas cards for loved ones left behind, acting as the Team Coordinator for my wonderful Team GoToBermuda. All these things have left me time poor but living my life to the absolute maximum. There is no point stressing myself out over missed blogs but I need to focus on today. Today THE actual day, actual RACE START. The day I waved my arm off, literally I waved for over 6 hours nonstop to my family and friends who had travelled down to London to see me off. What a day it was, the culmination of the preparations. There were tens of thousands of spectators in St Katharine Dock, London and the atmosphere was absolutely electrifying. After feeling so calm for so many weeks the emotion finally got to me with tears flowing freely many times during the day. Seeing both of my beautiful daughters Alex and Megan made me the proudest Mama in the land, so beautiful and so strong. Such independent young women. My wonderful husband Darren and his two boys, Jake and Isaac, were there too. My brother Alan, my Mum, Stepdad and Half-sister Kerry, plus ALL my friends, you know who you are 😊
The boats all starting to slip lines at 3pm and at 3 minute intervals moved out into the Thames to start motoring around ready to make our grand departure under tower bridge at 4.30pm.
IT WAS INCREDIBLE, so emotional, such a spectacle and the tears kept flowing, happy tears but tears none the less. Now we are motoring out towards Southend where the race will actually start at 10am in the morning. I am exhausted, good exhausted but kinda spent. It’s been one hell of a day.
For all who follow my blog I apologise now for future typing errors and the like. I am going to write it as it is if I am tired or sad, angry or ecstatic I am just going to tell you the story of my adventure. I can proof read when I get home next year after travelling over 40,000 miles around the world, in the RACE OF MY LIFE.
Love to you all Heather xxxx
Actual Race Start Day 2
I totally lucked out on the anchor watch last night as Wavy missed my name off the list. I didn’t shirk so I cleaned the heads and emptied the rubbish bins and made sure that I did my bit. I am sure you win some you lose some with these things. Next time no doubt I will be the 3am slot to be sure. So after a good night’s sleep my body clock woke me at 5am, we had an early start so there was no point trying to get back to sleep. It was really peaceful; Susan and Tracey were last on watch and ready to start cooking the bacon and egg rolls. By 6am everyone was awake and tucking in. It’s been a big day but everyone was calm and a general feeling of underlying excitement. We were prepped and ready to lift the anchor by 7am and first sails were up and ready for our pre-race Man over board drills. Every leg we are required to practice the drills so that everyone knows what to do in the case of a real incident. Race start was off Southend pier at 10am and by 9.30 all the boats were milling about with their sails up and spinnakers ready to hoist as soon after start as possible. Qingdao was off the mark first with their bag (spinnaker) up as they crossed the line. We were soon after and the pack all moved off down the channel toward the Atlantic and our first left turn towards Portugal. As we crossed the line a few tears trickled from behind my glasses. I wasn’t the only one. Andy H had his glasses on too. We are both heading around the world together and it’s a bloody long way. So now we are off and we have had a bit of a disaster already, our spinnaker got in a twist so we had to drop it quick and get the code 2 up asap. Nightmare as we dropped right back down the fleet. It was a rapid repack and we are sailing again. Lesson learnt today …….KEEP GRINDING… DO NOT STOP…. UNTIL THE SAIL IS TOTALLY INFLATED AND PULLING THE BOAT. It is now 13.44 Local time and I am supposed to be in the middle of an 8 hour sleep but fat chance of that. Loving it, everyone is working hard and trying their best, it is so obvious. Mistakes happen but we must learn from them and move on.
Hang on a big yawn, maybe I can sleep after all. NOT 😊
A few days of pure madness. I am not sure I can even differentiate between these days of purgatory. The words that sum it up are
Sick, Big Waves, fast sailing, disasters ,injuries, despondency, tiredness, exhaustion and aching muscles.
After the emotion overload of race build up and start day it was initially great to get underway. The procession down the Thames and actual race start were draining but just through pure emotion not because we had worked particularly hard. The next few days were going to take their toll on us all draining everyone on board not just mentally but physically too.
So we were on our way to Portugal, beating hard into the wind, straight into the watch system.
I left a space here to backfill but I was feeling so shitty for a couple of days looking back it is hard to work out which day was which and what disaster of huge highlight happened on each day. What I do remember is that we survived 😊
After a tense night trying to get the code two on deck in the dark, a fumbled attempt to raise it with some concerns over the state of the safety rail which had become damaged and a suspected twist in the halyard. It was decided that we would wait until first light raise the code 2. We didn’t want to risk the chance of a major balls up and at first light we could check the prep for the hoist more carefully. I was meant to be off watch but due to the amount of injured/ down crew there was no bunk so I decided to stay up with the support watch and bake the bread. At watch change when I was then meant to be on support I managed to catch an hour and then I woke to a bright sunny day with the wind behind us. A gorgeous rolling sea with about 2-3m waves tipped with white caps. Oh! and some great bread😊 The hoist had gone perfectly and we were flying the kite. After a couple of hunks of bread slathered in butter enough to make my arteries cry, I threw on my life jacket and wearing shorts for the first time since departure day climbed the companion way to breath in the fresh sea air. We had lost some places over night and with a wind hole looming we spent the day jibbing down the Atlantic coast off Portugal. Spirits were high after the last few days and everyone was really starting to find their place in the crew. Some incredibly strong at every role, some excelled at helm, others still struggling with the basics but all good. We are Team GoToBermuda and the strong look after the weaker sailors, but every single person brings something to the party. So, with a tactical well placed jib we were back in second place with everything to play for. The dreaded wind hole showed up as a dark blue on the Navigation Computer showed the area with no wind and it was touch and go who was going to get there first, and more to the point IF they get there first would it matter. One of the slower boats could catch up and even though they had been hundreds of miles behind sneak into a podium place right at the last minute. After my lack of the sleep the previous night I thought I would be tired at 2pm when my 8 hour sleep was scheduled to begin. But not a chance of sleep, I was wide awake. So it was time for my first proper wash of the race, 6 days in and it was time for a hair wash. I put about 3 inches of fresh water in a bucket and poured some of the precious cold water on the back of my head, thank goodness I had all that hair cut off before I left. Two cups was enough to dampen and a quick slick of Lush solid shampoo was enough for a lather. Same water to rinse off most of the bubbles and it was done. Fresh again, a wipe down with a cloth, clean teeth, moisturiser and I was ready for bed. ‘JIBE’ called the skipper so back on deck to help and BUGGER there was a small rip. Nightmare and after only a few days at sea. We carried on sailing with the ripped sail the winds were light and if we want a chance then we needed to push onwards. There would be time for repairs in Portugal. Finally to my bunk/ oven, the ghetto was an oven. So here I am nearly 3 hours into my precious sleep writing my daily blog. I will switch off now in the hope I can get a few winks and wake up at 8.30 pm to find us in the lead. Fingers crossed.
‘Whales, Whales Whales’
That was the call from on deck last night as we bobbed about chasing the wind. It has been a crazy game of cat and mouse for the last few days, and last night we were lying in fourth and making good headway on the leaders. The wind was light and it was trim trim trim the code 1. As the afternoon passed we were joined by another sperm whale who swam with us for about 20 minutes. Typically I was in my bunk at that time and the call of whales for the second time wasn’t enough to haul me from my half slumber. I had missed out on sleep the day before and finally when I slept I didn’t want to move for anything, even a friendly sperm whale. We made good progress through the night with Callum and David taking 2 hour shifts on the helm, as they are the strongest currently. Lee and I are the strongest trimmers on our watch so we took half hours each on the code 1. Sat on the bean bag looking up at the stars holding on to the sheet for dear life, gently easing and grinding according to the wind. It sounds relaxing, sat on a beanbag, but it’s not, your hands starting to cramp after just a few minutes. The implications of letting go are disaster, not just for your boat speed but if the sheets are uncontrolled the huge power of the sail can whip the sheets with devastating potential. Hitting a crew mate, tangling in the rigging, ripping our precious code.
I seemed to manage quite nicely yesterday on minimal sleep and after this morning up baking the bread at 3am, I really was supposed to go to bed at 10am after my on deck watch finished. But it is the last day of the first race and there not a chance I am going to sleep.. After my watch was over I stayed on deck and helped and watched. Favorite moment was after about 1 hour of poor Caroline, Candela and Tracey trying to sort out the anti wrap net, which resembled the bottom of my knitting bat after not knitting for five years, Wavy had given them his guidance on how to untangle it but that had only made it worse. Callum was asked for help and in the way only Callum can, he gave us his words of wisdom for today..
Ay, fuck it, man, stuff it in the bag. What you can’t fuckin see canna hurt yee 😊
Whooooo Hooooo We can see the coast of Portugal and are currently in third place with a chance for a podium place there is a buzzy feeling in the crew. All the evolutions this morning have been completed to perfection and we have been making good progress. The draw of that ice cold beer is pulling us in to Portimao.
Gerry has just made a delicious spaghetti lunch and the world is looking good.
What a total bum hole! I woke after 3 hours sleep to start my midnight to 3am standby shift to find that we had dropped right back in the pack to practically last. The windhole had hit us hard. After looking good for 3rd place the slower boats had caught us up and by sticking to the rhumb line they snuck past us on the inside. It wasn’t a huge surprise and the possibility of this happening had been discussed but Wavy was so determined not to been beaten had pushed hard to tr and sail around the windhole and that left us further out than the rest of the chasing pack. The toffee cake that I had cooked before I went to bed had been a triumph. That was the only saving grace of the day ☹As a team we are now tight, a great group of diverse characters who are really starting to gel. The watch system is working well now everyone is over their injuries and sickness ( except Phil who still needs his legs looking at as soon as we get to Portimao) It certainly isn’t through lack of trying that we are coming in so far down the pack…… perhaps overtrying if that is possible. Heading on to my watch now so will write more later.
Looking back through this blog before I post it I realised I missed so much out, THE BROACH, the fastest boat speed we recorded the race positions and all that stuff but this is enough for today. Heather xx