Another violent storm rips through the Clipper fleet as they punch their way to Albany, Australia
The leg from Cape Town to Albany, Australia in the Clipper Race had already been a bruising affair for the 12 boat fleet. Just three days out and teams felt the force of a storm in which gusts hit 90 knots at times causing several injuries as crew were thrown off balance.
But the latest battering was particularly brutal as an intense weather system swept through the back end of the fleet. Conditions were reported by several skippers to have started with winds of 50-80 knots before the gusts rose rapidly to 100-130knots.
Chris Hollis, PSP Logistics skipper explained: “This (100 knots plus) lasted about 20 minutes and then….nothing. The wind backed to the north west and just dropped to 20 knots, and left us bobbing around in the very lumpy, confused sea. It us not really knowing what just happened!”
‘Riders on the Storm’ by the Doors is the soundtrack that comes into my head writing this blog,” said Old Pulteney skipper Patrick van der Zijden. ‘If we could, we would have played it on our outdoor speakers although I doubt we would have heard it. The top of the storm gave us wind force 9 and 10 on the Beaufort scale, with gusts from 70 up to 120 knots plus at times.”
Ben Bowley Team Garmin skipper summarised the experience: “The crew have shared in an epic, once in a lifetime experience and this forms a new kind of bond between them, one that is hard to explain to those who were not here. The last 24 hours will remain firmly etched in their memory banks for many years to come. Thank goodness it only lasted less than a day!”
But it hasn’t just been the winds that have been pummeling the fleet. Shortly before the news of the latest severe gale, Great Britain had sent back a video of a breaking wave catching the 70 footer broadside and hurling the crew across the cockpit.
Great Britain crew, Jim Hendry, Ben Pate and Mark Heywood were on deck when a huge wave crashed over them, knocking them into the cockpit. Jim, who gladly suffered no major injuries recalled: “I was sitting there, talking and singing quite happily, when all of a sudden out the blue, a big massive wave came out of nowhere and knocked me, Ben and the yacht, everything flying.”
Ben Pate commented: “I’ve looked to my left and Jim is lying there with his head in a pretty peculiar position. It didn’t look like he was breathing. I called his name a couple of times and he didn’t respond. After a while, he gave a little cough and started breathing again.”
After coming round and being checked by on board medics, Jim is making a full recovery, has now returned to his watch duties and is incredibly grateful for his team mates assistance, saying: “Unfortunately I got hit, but that was it. Thanks very much for the crew for helping me out and getting me back together.”
The fleet’s front runners are expected to be at sea for another week before they reach the finish in Albany. Meanwhile, Qingdao continues its lead, (1774 miles to finish) with Henri Lloyd in second place (1851 miles) and OneDLL (1861.6 miles) currently in third following after another day of position swapping.