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Clipper Round the World - Dodging fish nets, oil and gas platforms

by Lisa Blair on 23 Jan 2012
Gold Coast Australia - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 Clipper Race/onEdition
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race competitor Lisa Blair is sailing on Gold Coast Australia. Below is her account of race seven:

The crew on board Gold Coast Australia have now entered into the transit section of the race to be completed under motor. The crews are competing in the seventh race in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race sailing from Gold Coast Australia to Singapore. Due to challenging navigation through a series of straits this race is to be completed in two sections.

The first section was racing from Gold Coast to a way point off the Basilin Strait. The time is then recorded and we are to motor to the re-start gate just past the Balabac Strait where we are to start the race again.

After we dropped sails upon crossing the finishing line just outside the Basilin Strait taking first place for the first section of the race we became aware of the first navigational hazard to be encountered.

The Fish Agitation Device or also known as the F.A.D’s that are everywhere.

These nifty devices look like a torpedo or a two meter large pill and are fashioned from Heavy steel and are anchored to the sea floor sometimes over 2000 meters deep creating an artificial reef for the local fisherman to sit off and fish. Some are painted orange so that passing ships or boats will spot them whilst others are just plain black so in the dead of night you would not be able to see a thing. Spread far and wide and not marked on any charts you just have to keep a good lookout and hope that you don’t collide with one. I would put money on coming out second best
in an encounter with one of these.

So as we make our way through all of these passages and straits we enter into a slightly different routine starting the day with an ocean swim then moving on to maintenance for the morning, a stop for lunch and them more
maintenance for the afternoon finishing up at around 4pm with another swim including the odd halyard swing from the boat or back flip off the bow.

After four days of motoring and 24 days at sea we were about to reach the race re-start gate on the other side of the Balabac Strait only this was too soon for us. Not because the break was a lovely change form always racing but because as we looked around us to assess the weather there was clearly no wind and it did not look like there would be any soon. The question was then raised ‘would we reach port in time if we were to start now’ the answer that was clear to everyone was no… As the committee deliberated we were instructed to head to Kota Kintabalu in Indonesia to pick up some more fuel while they came to a decision. At another 120 nautical miles away this pit stop was eating into the distance of our second race so it was becoming clear that a re-start was probably not
possible given the circumstances.

Whilst on route to Kota Kintabalu there was one night that stands out. The sky was lit up from end to end with blue, green and red flashing lights. At first I thought that these might be navigation aid well the green and red ones anyway but that idea was short lived as Derry London-Derry the other boat that we were in transit with radioed to tell us that they have just run over a net strung between two of the flashing light. For hours that night we travelled at a snail’s pace as we tried to navigate our way through the seemingly endless line of fishing nets but eventually we did get through. We did raise the question. ‘What would we have done if we were racing?’ As this was the path that we would have taken.

The next challenge that arose was the oil and gas platforms that offered us a spectacular view at night with great balls of flames and ships lit up like a Christmas tree but with the oil and gas platforms come increased shipping, tugs and lots of tow vessels. After 28 days at sea, 6 of these under motor we received a very promising e-mail at around 4pm local time.

This e-mail stated that the second section of this race was to be cancelled due to the fact that we were getting winds between 3-8 knots and it would take us around 11-12 days to cover the remaining 400 nautical miles and this would make us very late for all of our on-shore commitments.

Now that this has happened it give us the added bonus of making us the winning boat because we were the first boat across the line that marked the end of the first section of the race. Wahoo. We have put it down to the fact that Nina is now back on board and so she must be our lucky charm because the one race that she missed was the only race that we did not come first in however second was not bad either. Celebrations were in order so Derry London Derry pulled up near buy and we swapped a congratulations prize. We gave Derry a bottle of Sparkling wine and they gave us some amazing soda bread and some Vegemite. As the Aussie boat we were devastated that we had run out of Vegemite the other day so it was a great gift to receive. We now have one more day of motoring and maintenance until we arrive in Batam. I am so excited to see this wonderful and exotic Lisa Blair Blog
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