Cape Town was a fantastic stop over. The opportunity for a full week off the water and on land served everyone well and the abundance of excellent food, wine and sunshine provided an opportunity for some real and very welcome R and R. Come Sunday, I personally felt fired up and readily looking forward to the next leg and the notorious sleigh ride for which the Southern Ocean is renowned.
The race start was hugely exciting. Once the parade and photo shoot were over and we waved our last farewells to the supporter boats with family and friends onboard, it was time to take off the kilts and don our race heads. The wind quickly started to build as we all lined up for the start and before we knew it the start gun had fired and we were in 30 knots of breeze, making the initial course around a series of buoys in Table Bay challenging and adrenalin fuelled. The foredeck was a hive of activity as we dropped and hoisted headsails and put in and shook out reefs in accordance with the vastly changeable wind. With all ten boats in such close proximity, and the backdrop of Table Mountain in all her glory, clear blue skies and sunshine behind, it was a spectacular and memorable occasion.
Within hours the excitement of the race start had dwindled and once again we settled into our routine on board and new watch systems. As the 19th hour drew near and it was time for the ‘Whoopers’ to go and get some rest the ‘Screamers’ were alone on deck. The wind had well and truly left us and we were bobbing along in 0 knots of breeze turning doughnuts in the shipping lane. Thankfully we had permission to be there, however after the third circle in a hour and absolutely no headway we started to feel slightly concerned as we looked across at Singapore in a similar situation and overheard there conversation with a huge liner over the VHF in not so many words asking what the hell they were doing..!
With no engine to resort to we turned to our Wind Seeker and sure enough true to form she did what was asked and we were once again sailing and more importantly out of the danger zone! The next three hours were wild. The wind strength grew as quickly as she had left us and in no time was building to a hefty 40 knots. The Wind Seeker was dropped and tied down on deck and the Yankee 2 hoisted and then it all turned messy. The huge waves crashing over the foredeck had swept the head of the Wind Seeker over board. As we jumped upon it trying to retrieve, another wave swept across the bow taking the rest of the sail with her. Thankfully the tack was still secured to the deck but trying to drag the sail back onboard despite being our lightest canvas was no mean feat. We hauled and hauled and as we pulled her in another wave crashed over and whipped her straight out of our hands again. It was relentless and there was no way 3 of us were going to achieve this alone. ‘All Hands on Deck!’ It took the entire crew the next hour to retrieve and bag the Wind Seeker, drop the Yankee 2 and put a reef in. Absolutely wild and truly exhilarating…a taste of what’s to come?
Ironically as we passed into 40’00’.000S latitude we were once again becalmed in clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine and the outing of shorts and t-shirts on deck! Not quite the ‘Roaring Forties’ we had expected. Nonetheless, this sea state did not last and in no time we had wind again. The next few days have been great. Exciting sailing in up to 40 knots of wind and big seas. Sadly there have been a fare few casualties to sea sickness, but thankfully the worst seems to have past and everyone is steadily finding their sea legs and enjoying the sleigh ride to Australia!