by Lisa Blair
Late on Day 1 at sea the crew on board Gold Coast Australia were battling high seas as we set out for the beginning of Race 7 in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race racing from Gold Coast in Australia to Singapore.
Bryan-Galley-small - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Departing on Christmas Eve the crew has by now all said there goodbyes to there families and friends and set off north into the down graded cyclone named Fina. Fina, although down graded to a tropical low she was still able to offer up some sizeable swells as we sailed thought the night bashing into it. For one crew member this was going to alter her trip quite dramatically.
Deb Miller was in front of three crawling towards the bow as the boat bucks on the waves beneath them, heading forward to do a sail change when one of the epic waves came flying over the deck all foam and white water striking Deb in the face and shoving her into the crew behind. In her efforts to stop herself from taking out the other two crew she griped on to what ever she could tearing a large gash into her hand in the process. As the white wash streams past Deb is left with a 2 cm wide and a 1.5 cm deep open and bleeding wound between her thumb and for finger placing her on light duties. We had been lucky that there were no more injuries as the waves through the night were consistently washing crew down the decks throughout the night.
As Christmas Day dawned Deb Miller, a nurse, looked at her hand and decided that stitches were in order to help close the gap, lucky for her we also have another nurse on-board called Deb Grant who was able to perform the suturing. This was to completed in the galley over the kitchen sink with no local on a moving vessel while Deb Miller tried not to pass out. No easy task... After our medical experiences the wind had died down, the swell had reduced and the sun came out to wish us a very merry Christmas. Santa still managed to find us at sea and drop off a nice large bag of goodies so we all sat crowded around as Rich dished out our presents.
By day 3 we had taken first place with a nice lead of 20 nautical miles with De Lang Langdon and Singapore just behind us. Hoisting the spinnaker at dawn we coast north nearing the Great Barrier Reef. As we climb further north we also are starting to get into the very hot weather where we can feel the bight of the un at 0500am in the morning so headaches are becoming more frequent as we try to drink more than we sweat and often find ourselves waking in a massive pool of sweat in our bunks.
Holding the Spinnaker through the night we were greeted with a steady 12 knots of wind and a blanket of stars to cover us. By sunrise the winds had roped to the 5-8 knot range so we drooped the Spinnaker and hoisted our largest head sail the Yankee 1. Dawn showed us to be still holding first place with an increase in our lead to 28 nautical miles and a sun so hot that I was feeling sun burnt at 0600am in the morning...
With all of the light weather we were able to get a lot of maintenance completed and offered Skipper Richard Hewson the chance to repair the broken Stern Gland that decided Race start was the opportune time to die.
With all this sitting around in the heat baby powder and sudocream is the order as we deal with the dreaded nappy rash. Just about every crew member as we sweat and sweat and sweat with only a light breeze to dull
the heat. Coming out of nowhere if feels like someone is jabbing a series of pins into your bottom as it rashes up making it so uncomfortable that you don't want to sit down in case you trigger the pin feeling.
By Day 6 at sea the we were less than 70 nautical miles from the scoring gate and still holding first position however the first 7 boats were all within 6 nautical miles of each other. How the scoring gate works is the
first boat though the gate gets 3 pints added to there overall race tally while the second boat gets 2 points and the third gets 1 point. At 0800am in the morning just as I was going off watch from spending 4 hours on deck Rich call for a 'Super Watch' until we cross the gate to try to hold our diminishing lead.
Super Watch means all crew on deck all of the time to hike the boat or add weight to the rail of the boat. This will help to flatten the boat for increase speeds. So after looking longing at my bunk I slapped on some more sunscreen and climbed back on deck to try and cat nap on the high side of the deck. Super Watch continued throughout the day and into the night with the heat of the day cooking us slowly on deck. It didn't matter how much sunscreen you applied you would feel yourself burning 10 minuets later and need to apply some more. By 1600 at night we were finally given permission to get some sleep, keeping in mind that we had been up since 0400 in the morning with was welcome however the weather had something else in mind.
I just laid my head down on my nice soft pillow in my nice and dry bunk when I heard a squall rampaging our boat. There were shouts all around as people tried to communicate above the wind. Rich was shouting for the
Yankee 1, our largest head sail, to be dropped before it was torn in half and with the amount of noise on deck this was definitely an all hands on deck call. So wearing shorts and a T-shirt I threw on my life jacket and ran on deck shortly followed by the rest of my watch. I exited the companionway onto the deck into the heaviest rain I have ever seen.
Massive drops striking your face with so much force that it stings and so many drops that you could not see into it but instead had to tilt your head on an angle to see anything ahead. The people on the foredeck were struggling to get the sail down so I ran up to help, after a few grunts and the odd splash of salt water form the ocean the sail was down and there were many crew trying to tie it down so the winds and waves would not take it off the deck. Tim Burgess was in front of me on the bow when he called out that there was no one on the main sheet, the main sheet can be eased allowing the main sail to de-power. Seeing that everything was under control on the bow I ran back to standby on the main sheet. Out of the foray I say there looking around me in awe at the sheer amount of rain that was falling in such a short amount of time. Welcome to the monsoon season. The good news was that we succeeded in crossing the scoring gate in first position earning ourselves three points.
After our epic super watch on day 8 at sea we were given a little rest with the winds down around 4-5 knots and our boat speed rarely touching above 1.5 knots we were given the chance to swim. I stood on the bow and launched off the deck arching back into a back flip and entering the cool embrace of the Pacific Ocean. It is so lovely to be able to be in the water some time especially in heat like we were experiencing because we stand all day long looking longingly at the deep blue but traveling too fast to go swimming.
Day 8 at sea was not just any day but in fact it was New Years Eve with a party planned for sunset. The idea was that everyone would create a pirate outfit out of what was around on the boat. Some interesting eye patches were created out of leather and gaffer tape... At midnight we counted down the last few seconds and welcomed the New Year in with a toast of Champaign still holding first position. With the stress of race start and super watch I was feeling absolutely shattered so I crept away from the celebrations into my welcoming bunk for some very lovely kip.