Western Australia is currently leading the Clipper round the world fleet enroute to Durban. Here's the team's latest diary
Well, well, well – since our last instalment, how much has changed sailing-wise on this final third of Leg 2. We went from taking it hard on the nose on a hectic port heel to sailing straight into a chilly but stunningly beautiful South Atlantic hole: the sea went glassy, the sun came out and we clocked seals basking in the rays. Suddenly the deck was covered in dripping foulies in a desperate effort to get them dry, showers were back on the programme and Western Australia Clipper’s crew caught its breath in the calm before?
The proverbial storm, which literally blew up as the sun set on a magically still, yet cool, day. And boy, did the waves grow, too, with swells of 15 to 20ft of cold, green water, that we climbed up and slithered or slapped down, depending on how fast the helm reacted to their size. Dry suits were immediately broken out by those lucky enough to have them and we went from a genoa to the yankee 3 in about 10 minutes (yeah, I know – we’re showing off about how professional we’ve become). Only to have to reduce this set to the storm jib and two reefs in the main some hours later. The crew got washed around the deck a bit and water started pouring in below as heavy waves pushed it through even hairline cracks in our beloved blue boat’s design.
We battled through this gale managing only to shear off a short length of headsail sheet as a consequence. And then the fickle wind just upped and left us. Next thing we knew it was a more controlled reach and a chance to try and pump out gallons of bilge. We had hardly got the boat clean (but still wet) below again, than the weather picked up once more – we e-mailed the rest of the fleet with a gale warning, but they found it hard to believe, so we just focussed on breaking personal best speed records: Kimbra and Mark both clocked 21 knots, Fabio 19.9, Susie, 18, BB 15, and carried on bouncing our way to Durban. As we rounded the Cape of Good Hope, things calmed down a bit. We saw our first land since Brazil and this initial glimpse of Africa also gave us the most amazing views of local ocean wildlife: huge dolphins with white tummies, humpback whales, sun fish, seals and golden crested fat bottomed diving boobies (birds we are not sure of the name of, but this should describe them well enough). It was a great welcome from the marine world. We’re now passing East London (the Brit is feeling pangs of homesickness again), quite close to shore and have just seen a whale’s tail sticking out of the sea, as it grazes and hangs out.
We are all looking forward very much to getting into Durban, because even though we are on the final straight, everyone is very knackered – it’s been a hard sail. Indeed, Pirate Pryce’s peculiar strain of sleeping sickness seems to have infected most of the WA crew – all we do off watch is eat and sleep. E-mails go unanswered, diaries get a bit behind and few of us have the energy to hang out and chat over a cup of tea, once we get below – not that there is anywhere dry to sit. It’s more a case of peeling off wet clothes as fast as possible and collapsing into our bunks, before doing it all again – and this isn’t even meant to be the toughest leg – we have all that to consider in the Indian Ocean.
To keep our spirits up, Klaus and Andy did themselves proud with this morning’s mother watch breakfast duties, dishing up Sri Lankan egg pancakes – unbelievable and highly recommended, as well as greatly appreciated by a food obsessed crew. The sun is now setting behind the South African coast – it’s an incredible picture. All we need do now is keep out of the Agulhas Current, as best as possible, so that we don’t have to battle our way up the eastern coast to Durban more than we have to. We must get there very soon as we have managed to eat ourselves empty of food that didn’t get bilged in the storm. Thinking about steak and chips on shore.