Sebago go on the Round The World Clipper Race

We were very pleased to have the opportunity to offer assistance to Karen as she sailed around the world for her chosen charity (please see the end of this blog article for details).  What follows is her report of the race.

Sail from Clipper Race

Dear Family and Friends

Some time ago I wrote to let you know that I had decided to take part in the Round the World

Clipper Race. I had undertaken 3 levels of training in Gosport the previous Spring in readiness for

my 'maritime adventure'. I have now returned and thought you may be interested in how it went.

I flew out to San Francisco in April and was there to welcome my yacht, PSP Logistics, when it

arrived on 14th April. They were the last boat to arrive but with redress (they had been unable to

leave Qinqdao on time due to engine problems) they were actually placed 10th out of 12 yachts.

Once the yacht arrived there was work to be undertaken. I started by helping with the deep clean

and the following days learned how to repair sails. (Each yacht carries 10 sails.)

Clipper Race

On Sat 19th April we did a sail-by to thank our hosts, the San Francisco Yacht club, for their

hospitality. The sail-by was led by us as this race was sponsored by PSP Logistics.

Once under the Golden Gate Bridge we manoeuvred in readiness for the start. The gun went off but

unfortunately we were the last to cross the start line. We quickly recovered and overtook the other

yachts and were soon in first position. However with 21 days of sailing and almost three and half

thousand nautical miles ahead of us anything could happen.

Racing has a lot to do with the choices the navigator makes. Our skipper/navigator decided that we

would take a more coastal route south in the hope of maximising the benefit from the currents and

winds. However this proved to be the wrong decision as the wind died on us and we finished the

race in 10th position. (However all was not lost, from my point of view, as the coastal route afforded

us the opportunity to see more wild life than those on yachts that had been further from the land.)

The first few days were a little cold and wet and we wore our foulies (waterproof Salopettes and

smock) but then the weather became pleasantly warm and sunny before turning hot and humid.

Below decks it was oppressively hot as there was no air circulating. (Racing yachts are stripped of

all non-essentials so heating and air conditioning do not exist on-board.)

The boat operates on a watch system. There were two watch teams. Throughout the evening, night

and early morning each watch alternates between 4 hours on deck and four hours off-watch. During

the day there were two 6 hour watches. After two and a half weeks I wrote a crew diary (the

Clipper organisation print one a day from each yacht) and I wrote about my favourite watch – the

3am to 7am. I described how when you first go on deck it is very dark and peaceful (it was for us

as there was not a lot of wind). The night sky was amazing as it was so clear and so vast. We could

see so many stars and the Milky Way and I wished I knew more about the various constellations.

We would look for shooting stars which we often spotted. The only light apart from the stars and

moon was the spinnaker (sail) which reflected the mast light. It appeared as a great white billowing

sheet cut across by the black shadows of the rigging. We were joined by squid and flying fish who

launched themselves at us often to be found dead some time later on the deck. We think they were

attracted by the light on the white sail. Some nights we became aware of a 'poofing' noise and it

was dolphins who were swimming alongside out yacht.

An amazing phenomenon that I had not been aware of is marine phosphorescence. It looks like

dancing disco lights that bounce across the bow waves and in the wake left by the boat. It is caused

by phytoplankton and other microscopic organisms as well as jelly fish which emit light in the same

way as glow worms do. It is beautiful and fascinating but unfortunately none of us had cameras that

were able to capture it. As the time passed someone would spot the sun and, on this watch, we

witnessed stunning sunrises.

During our journey south we also saw large numbers of turtles who were migrating north.

Apparently they swim thousands of miles to return to the very beach upon which they had hatched.

After two weeks of 'champagne sailing' the wind became stronger and changed direction. We went

onto 'squall watch' as the wind around a squall can be unpredictable and sails may need to be

changed rapidly.

The photograph shows the cloud formation of a squall with its associated rain.

The spinnakers were replaced with the white sails and I had to learn to adjust to life at 45 degrees.

This was difficult on deck as trying to get your balance at this acute angle while undertaking sail

changes, using the large coffee grinder winches or operating the other winches was hard. However

the difficulties of coping below deck were even more apparent. Moving around the boat while it

lists at 45 degrees is extremely difficult. Going to the 'heads' (toilets) when you have to brace

yourself with one leg against the wall and then trying to wedge yourself between the toilet and the

wall so you can pump (flush) the loo is so hard. After a few days of such sailing my shoulders were

severely bruised from bouncing off walls or slamming into protruding objects.

On Saturday 10th May we arrived in Panama. We arrived at night during a storm with thunder,

lightening and heavy rain. We were like drowned rats. Close by was a cruise ship and I thought of

the passengers eating, drinking and watching us – and to think we had paid more for our passage!

We worked on the deck fish-tailing the main sail and putting on the PSP cover. We then

disembarked after 21 days at sea.

We had 2 days rest in Panama, a much appreciated break, before commencing our journey through

the Panama canal. It is the centenary of the Panama canal. They are currently building a second

canal which is due to be operational in 2015.

We had to slip lines early in the morning and were joined some time later by our pilot. The clipper

yachts were to go through three at a time and were tied together to stop them drifting.

We shared out passage with an Argentinian Tall Ship.

We left the Pacific ocean and the first lock raised us to a much higher level – the level of the river

that had been flooded to provide the 51 mile water-crossing to the Atlantic ocean with a holding

lake. As we motored through the waterway with the tall ship following a rainbow appeared.

Sometimes boats are 'held' in this area for hours or days and we were advised if that happened to us

not to be tempted to sail as the waters are inhabited by crocodiles!

After motoring across the Panama waterway we entered a second lock, the water level was lowered

and we emerged into the Atlantic. We spent one night in Colon and then motored 25 miles north for

the start of our next race on 14th May.

This second race, which would end in Jamaica , was just under 600 miles. This time we had a Le

Mans start. All yachts start with their main sail up and the crew standing in the rear. Once the

starting gun fires everyone rushes to their place to get the other sails up as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile the helmsman watches the other boats and tries to manoeuvre into a superior position.

Photo of Chris our skipper taking the helm at the start of the second race on leg 7.

Three days later we arrived in Port Antonio in Jamaica. We came 6th in this race so there was much

jubilation on board.

We were made most welcome by the Jamaican Tourist Board. The Round the World Clipper Race

has docked here before and the crew from the 12 yachts bring much needed US dollars to the town.

We were given complimentary rum punches on the afternoon of our second day and the Tourist

Board hosted our crew party.

We had a well-earned week's rest in Jamaica. For those who had started their round the world

journey on September 1st 2013 in London it was only their second long break, their previous one

being in Australia over Xmas.

On Saturday 24th May we left Jamaica. Our final race to New York was 1500 nautical miles. The

weather when we departed was overcast but we had unfortunately arrived during the rainy season!

In honour of our hosts, we did a sail-by before moving to the start line for our final race.

We sailed north up the windward passage with Cuba on our port side and Haiti to starboard. The

passage lived up to its name and we were once again using our white sails and sailing at 45 degrees.

We continued up into the Bermuda Triangle but all 12 yachts came out unscathed!

The beautiful sunsets ...

… and sunrises continue to enthral me.

We continued north and had the benefit of the Gulf stream which was also going north.

Unfortunately the wind was coming from the north so we continued beating up wind, bouncing

from one wave to the next. It was exhilarating on deck as long as we were not required to do too

many sail changes!

On my night watch on Sunday 1st June (the date we should have all arrived in New York) we faced

our most severe weather. We sailed through gale force 9 winds with gusts of up to 43 mph. Those

on the bow would have been carried off to sea had they not been fastened on. Knowing my lack of

strength, sailing ability and poor balance in these conditions I remained in the snake pit and even

there found it difficult to stand upright. Later that day, when the weather had calmed down, a large

pod of dolphins swam determinedly towards our yacht and entertained us for quarter of an hour

swimming under the keel and re-emerging on the other side of the boat.

We crossed the finishing line on 2nd June and came in 7th. We were pleased with the result.

Monday 2nd June – our first view of New York...

...and further up the Hudson River

Clipper Race

We arrived to what felt like a heroes welcome. There were a number of relatives and friends who

had come out to New York to meet us. My friend Maggie was among them. We drank champagne

(thanks to Helen's family) and we leggers, who were leaving the yacht forever, congratulated

ourselves on completing our leg!

After three days in New York I returned home. Anna, my daughter, had invited me round for a

meal. When I arrived there was a surprise family party which she and Bob had arranged. My

family had come 300 miles from Newcastle to High Wycombe to welcome me back. My two sons

were also there and my three grandchildren. It was totally unexpected. Anna had bought a dozen

champagne glassed and had them engraved with the following message ' Congratulations Karen.

Clipper Race 13-14. PSP Logistics' and her friend Emma had made a cake in honour of the yacht

upon which I had sailed.

So that was the end of my maritime adventure. Would I do it again? No but I'm glad I did it once.

Finally I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the 'Chottu fund'.

When I worked in Kochi, southern India as a volunteer English teacher I met Spiwitha, a teacher,

who was pregnant. Her son, Chottu was born in September 2012 and is severely disabled. Together

your contributions, those of the sponsors below and with money donated by Nicky, Gemma and

Andrew (fellow crew members from PSP) you have raised £2,000 which is 200,000 rupees.

If anyone was considering making a donation but were wise enough to see if I really did go on the

'challenge of a lifetime' (to quote Sir Robin Knox-Johnson) before making a payment the dedicated

account is still open. The details are available on request.


Thank you for the support from the following sponsors:-

Sweaty Betty – supplied bamboo base layers for all female crew on PSP Logistics – provided me with complimentary Sebago deck shoes + made a contribution to the Chottu fund

MRIB Independent Insurance Brokers - made a contribution to the Chottu fund

Classic and Contemporary Bathrooms Ltd – made a contribution to the Chottu fund

Paul Kingham Residential Lettings (High Wycombe) – made a contribution to the Chottu fund

Archipelago Health Care – made a contribution to the Chottu fund