Pacific Ocean Challenge: Exhilarating conditions on the mighty Pacific
The Pacific Ocean revealed a glimpse of her fearsome power today, 2000 miles into our 6,000 mile Clipper Round the World yacht race from China to the USA.
We’ve headed out east into deeper water and a low pressure weather system has brought us some strong winds and big surf, powering us towards our target, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
This morning’s watch saw blue skies for the first time, winds building to over 40 knots and a foam-whipped swell coming at the boat from behind. As each swell passes under the boat, she lifts in the water and teeters at the summit of a moving water mountain – the skill of a good helm is to ‘catch’ the wave and surf down its face. It delivers a cocktail of exhilaration and fear, a sense of riding the knife edge between certain disaster and a euphoric mastery of boat and ocean. It’s certainly an addictive hit.
A couple of days ago I asked some of my Clipper team-mates whether they had got tired of racing this yacht around the world. They’ve been at it since August 2011, when the fleet departed Southampton; they’ll only reach home in July.
The challenges of life at sea in this vessel are not small – I haven’t yet changed my clothes, my teethbrushing tally is still in single figures; everything on the boat is cold and damp – either from condensation or seawater; and aside from the ‘blip’ of my seasick bunk-confinement, I haven’t slept for more than five hours in one stretch.
Our boat, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is a demanding mistress – as conditions change, we need to bring new sails on deck, attach them to the high-tension metal ropes at the front of the boat, hoist them, trim them, stow other sails, poles, ropes and shackles. It can be dangerous and gruelling, and as condition worsen, demands on exhausted crew escalate in both urgency and intensity.
Today I saw the appeal of this challenge again – on deck, powering through the miles, working as a team to move sails and trim them for speed – what an exceptional way to spend a Monday morning, what a privilege to be here. My renewed positivity was reflected by my psyche, as the recurring anxiety dream I’ve been having about a car with no brakes was replaced by a dream about buying a pet rabbit.
As conditions worsen, I’ll leave the driving to the more experienced helms in our team – mistiming your steering in big sea conditions can have disastrous effects on rigging and crew, something that isn’t worth the risk when you’re this far from help. Helming in lively seas is an honour hard-earned by the Round the World sailors, now with close to 30,000 miles in their log books – they intuit the boat’s movements before they happen, cutting a straight and safe course through the water. It’s a skill I aspire to master before we reach California.
To keep us out of the worst of the extreme weather, the Clipper race organisers have implemented a maximum northerly latitude of 42 degrees – we’re not allowed to go above that into the deep North Pacific. But the most recent weather information we’ve received forecasts confused and difficult weather and a system of converging lows at the latitudes we’re currently at. I’m steeling my resolve, carefully stowing gear and preparing for more re-runs of the runaway car dream.
www.clipperroundtheworld.com are currently recruiting for the 2013-14 Round the World yacht race. You don’t need to have any sailing experience to apply and there is no upper age limit. Crew can sail the whole circumnavigation, or one or more legs of the race.Tagged in: china, clipper round the world, Pacific, sailing
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