Leg 7

June 14, 2016 - prize giving

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Let me share some of the excitement of the Prize Giving reception.  I've gleaned some photos from the Clipper Race website and Facebook to share with you, as well as some of my own...

The prize giving reception had the stunning skyline of NYC as a backdrop. What an event -We were on the podium 3 times!!!

We came in 2nd for Race 10, the first race of Leg 7, Seattle to Panama. It as the first time this boat has seen the podium. 

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We won the photo contest sponsored by PSP Logistics that illustrates the operational challenges of the Panama Canal. Of course, the photo was taken by Han, who has won several other photo/media contests on behalf of our boat already.  "Hey - I'm Asian - I always am snapping pictures!", he said. The team appreciates the extra funds contributed to the crew fund as a result. More trail mix snacks and chocolate to be purshaced, I expect!

 

 Han's award winning photo - Panama Canal logistics.  

Han's award winning photo - Panama Canal logistics.  

Then we were given the Spirit Award since we came from behind in that race after nearly an 8-hour delayed start, and only very narrowly lost first place to top boat LMAX, only to be "unstoppable" in the next race to NYC.

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Finally, we got the trophy for 1st place in Race 11,  the second and final race of Leg 7.

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Then we got to touch the trophy!

 ClipperTelemed+ girls with the trophy (where's Kat?) 

ClipperTelemed+ girls with the trophy (where's Kat?) 

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And what a trophy it is! 

There's Kat!  Watch for her and her boyfriend on another Clipper Race boat to be featured on an upcoming documentry. 

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Next up... What I learned on my epic ocean sailboat racing adventure... 

June 12, 2016 - post race finish

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After we crossed the finish line, we spent a day motor sailing in a beeline to the marina. It was another race, this time to the dock before 5pm on the 9th so we could be processed by Immigration.  

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Turned out that they provided evening service, which was a good thing, because we were needed for a photo shoot at 5:45pm as we passed by the Statue of Liberty on our way into port. We kept a reef in the main sail, since the wind was blowing 30+ knots in the harbour!

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Once again, we were greeted at the dock by the Clipper Race staff, with a cooler of refreshments and keys to the marina showers and laundry facilities. Not sure which was more appreciated!  Oh, and the flag, which they took back. For official prize giving later. 

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To my delight, my husband was at the dock, too!  How lucky that his travel plans dovetailed with our early arrival in NYC and we could spend the weekend being tourists together!

But first, the deep clean...

 The deck of the boat, covered in sail bags, lines, etc. With the boat emptied, Neil and I cleaned the bilges, with the much needed help of a power washer.  

The deck of the boat, covered in sail bags, lines, etc. With the boat emptied, Neil and I cleaned the bilges, with the much needed help of a power washer.  

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I had a day to myself today, so I caught the ferry from the marina park to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (she's beautiful!). Very worthwhile. Beyond ironic that at the opening ceremony for this colossal statue of a woman representing Liberty, women were not allowed to attend. 

 

 

 

June 9, 2016 - Race finish.

It has been an exhausting couple of days. With Rotating Tropical Storm Collin, those high winds did come, with gusts as high as 85 knots! That was around the time we had shaken out the reefs in the mainsail because it looked as though the winds were dropping. Tough work putting the reefs back in! And, having overtaken them with much effort, we lost our lead to Garmin at that point :-(

Matt spent a good chunk of time on the helm. We saw waves about 6 meters high. This boat surfs when off the wind! We touched a boat speed of 30 knots! Where did the waves and swells come from?! With a long stretch of calm weather, I never would have guessed that wind could whip up the ocean surface to such heights in such a short time. I've seen waves crashing on the backs of other waves.  Clouds of mist blowing off the tops of giant waves. The colour of pale ice crystal blue was on crests of waves and in great pools of bubbles all around. There were waves pouring over the deck, sometimes washing us this way and that. Double clipping was essential for safety.

As the storm passed and the wind shifted north, we were trying to sail near close hauled, and the boat was heeled at an extreme angle. The toe rails along the edge of the boat were almost constantly under water. It was hard work just to stay planted in one spot on the deck. Not that there was much time for sitting agog at the view.  Once the main front of the storm passed, the wind took its time settling into a regular pattern. It stayed high, 20-35 knots, gusting 50-60. During several watches, we were constantly changing sails, going through all the Yankees and every reef, up and down, up and down. And often at night, when it was very hard to see and coordinate efforts, since, despite the clearing skies, there was only a sliver of new moon, so not much light. Hence exhaustion, or near enough, for most of the crew. Tough to sleep with a rocking and rolling very slanted bunk. I was on mother watch for one of the days, so didn't put out the same level of extreme physical effort as the rest of the crew that day. But so as to chip in when extra help as needed on deck, and not to miss the excitement, I did join in for a rather busy night watch. This morning, extra crew were called on deck once the most recent 6 hour schedule came through, showing that we had a solid lead of about 10 miles. So as "not  to screw up", the Yankee was taken down 20 miles from the finish line and we worked to preserved our lead. We crossed the finish line in first place, about 30 miles offshore from NYC at about 10:45 this morning with 2 reefs in the mainsail and the Staysail up, and no Yankee sail..

Wow.

 

June 7, 2016 - textbook weather

In my yachtmaster trainings recently, I learned about synoptic weather charts and how predictions play out in the sky and on the water. During Leg 7, I have been watching the skies, trying to make predictions based on cloud patterns. Now I am seeng a tropical depression play out in classic fashion. Usually the skies have looked much like this, with localized convection clouds forming.

But yesterday, during very pleasant sailng conditions, very high cirrus clouds slowly formed over the midday, portending a coming cold front in the next day or so.

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It took about 9 hours for the sun to become obscured by thick cloud cover, at about 6pm. This meant in would be roughly another 9 or so hours before the warm front arrived, with its characteristic strong winds and rain. 

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Sure enough, during our 2am - 6am watch, the wind gradually picked up and we began a series of sail changes.

Now, at 8 am, the warm front has passed and we are in the warm sector, preceding the cold front. As expected, there is steady rain and the wind has dropped somewhat, meaning more sail changes. 

The cold front looms. Will it bring the high winds that Matt told us about?

June 6, 2016 - a change of pace

We've been staying in the lead pack, making steady gains on the first place boat, which is now only about 7 miles ahead in terms of distance to finish, though about 30 miles further west. This has taken diligent work, especially in the lighter air we are in, about 12 knots. We have a new rule - no talking to the helmsperson during their 1 hour shift on the wheel. We do thirty minute job rotations in the pit (2 grinders and one trimmer for the spinnaker) with breaks built in to complete other boat jobs. But still, the fun continues. Yesterday, Matt hijacked happy fun time, saying HE had planned an activity... Spinnaker sail change with all hands. Oh well. Happily, today conditions were perfect for some fun interaction.  The boat was flat, the generator was off (so it was relatively quiet), and the wind was steady. We celebrated accents, noting that we have people from all over the UK and North America, as well as Spain, South Korea and South Africa. I brought out one of my favourite pronunciation practice materials, the silly passage about Betty Botter's bitter butter. We had a chuckle noticing differences such as missing Ts, Ds for Ts, missing Rs, strong Rs and so on. We even practiced copying one another's accents, resulting in much hilarity. Though they said they thought the Canadian accent was the same as the American accent, I challenged them to listen carefully.  They picked up on the tagged, "eh?" without any difficulty ;-) At team meeting, Matt warned us that we are in for a big change of pace. Rotating Tropical Storm Collin is in our path.  Winds will build for the next 12 hours and then drop off, bringing much rain. Eventually we will see big wind - sustained 50 knots, gusting to 60. The worlders are un-fazed. Most of the leggers are excited to experience a bit of weather before the end of this sailing adventure. Hopefully, it will be a fast fun ride to New York! And nothing breaks!!


June 5, 2016 - the fastest watch ever!

If yesterday was the slowest watch ever, this evening's was the fastest! The 4 hours from 6pm to 10pm FLEW by. As soon as the off watch left, we shook out the reef from the main sail to get more sail area up. Then the wind rose to over 20 knots and it became apparent we were over powered (lots of traveller work happening), especially since we wanted to point high to the wind tactically - something the Yankee 1 is not well suited for. So we did a racing sail change, getting the smaller Yankee 2 on deck and out of its bag, hanked onto the forestay beneath the Yankee 1 and ready to hoist. The Yankee 1 was dropped to the deck and unhanked, then the Yankee 2 was raised. We made good speed at a closer wind angle, adding about a knot of boat speed, and more in terms of Velocity Made Good (VMG) - the gains we make towards a target point. But it didn't last. We had just reflaked the huge Yankee 1 sail, tied and zipped it into its bag and wrestled it into the sail locker, when Matt called for it to be redeployed. Out of the sail locker it was shoved, then the bag was positioned on deck and tied to the guard rails, the sail hanked on. Down came the Yankee 2 and up went the Yankee 1. Yankee 2 reflaked, bagged and stowed below. Whew! But no rest for the wicked, other than a few moments to gulp down some liquids. The wind was dying, about 8 hours later than predicted, but as predicted never-the-less. Also it was shifting direction, moving behind us. Time to run the spinnaker lines in anticipation of raising the big balloony sail, Code 1. I went forward to call trim for the pit crew, since the Yankee and Staysail had to be let out to meet the new wind angle. Meanwhile others worked to get the Code 1 bag on deck. We got the sails drawing nicely, but it wasn't to last more than a few minutes before Matt called for the spinnaker to be hoisted. The hoist went smoothly, and my job was to trim the sail, sitting on the high side with the sail sheet in my hands and around a winch, commanding 2 grinders to "grind! (please)" as needed, at other times easing the sail out, to meet the changing wind conditions. There was much tidying of the decks to do, with lines strewn everywhere and lying atop one another. Keep in mind that, except for the initial shaking out of the reef, this was all done in the dark. Nearly pitch dark. The sun sets early and suddenly hereabouts. There was cloud cover and no moon.  Several crew wore red headlamps, switched on as needed in order to sort lines, set lines onto winches, etc.  White lights were shone on the sails regularly to judge trim.  Night sailing is very different than sailing by daylight, and with other Clipper boats around us, we had to keep a sharp lookout as well. We enjoyed about 20 minutes of settled sailing before it was time for watch changeover. The on-coming watch was delighted to be able to ease out of their bunks with the boat relatively flat as opposed to having to clamber out on an extreme tilt. Little did they know what awaited them... Sail changes, wooling and repacking the spinnaker, setting up the Windseeker, taking down the Windseeker, Yankee and Staysail up, Staysail down, Staysail up... We all agreed these were the most engaging watches so far on this leg. In stark contrast to the day before, time zoomed by and energy was high. It seems the green monster has left us and we have learned how to prevent dehydration. We are settled into our watch system routines and functioning well as a team. The results are proof. We are sailing with the lead pack, passing Cuba in the distance on our port side and Haiti on starboard. Not that we've had time to notice.  There's a lot of snoring going on below decks...

 

June 2, 2016 - Caribbean Sea

Race 11 day 4. We are sailing in what feels to me like my home away from home waters. I have spent many a happy day cruising in the Caribbean. Somehow the water seems bluer here. Certainly there is more luminescence in the water as compared to the Pacific side of this leg of the Race, particularly noticeable during the night shifts, which have been moonless recently (waning, and late rising). We are getting more wind than was predicted, so our strategy of heading slightly to the west side of the race course to avoid the giant light air wind shadow of Haiti did not  quite pan out, as there was good wind across the whole course. But much as expected, the fleet is converging on a virtual race course mark NE of the passage between Cuba and Haiti. We are in the middle of it. We have been working diligently to keep the boat moving fast. Trim trim trim.  We are going at about 8 - 10 knots in 15 - 20 knots of wind, sometimes less, sometimes more. We have occasionally reefed and dropped the Yankee in anticipation of squalls, but these have not amounted to much. Yesterday, the watch from noon to 6pm seemed interminable. I have never experienced that before. It's not as though I as not engaged in the sailing. I checked and directed sail trim on the quarter hour for the first hour, then played the traveller in gusts for an hour (spilling wind from the main sail so the helmer could keep the boat going in a straight line), then I was the grinder for the traveller for an hour (used the winch to grind the traveller back up to center after each gust), then helmed for an hour, then was in the pit to respond to sail trim calls (and provide refreshments and snacks to the crew) for the final hour. As back up, I didn't have other duties. Others on the watch agreed the time was moving slowly. I believe that the time goes faster when there are other boats around that you can see and judge your performance against. Because of the wind direction as compared to our target direction, there was no need to tack, so no planning and teamwork excitement there. Also, we were sailing upwind, resulting in a dramatic constant heel to the boat, making moving around the boat and every task much more difficult and time consuming, requiring full attention. As well, we are still settling into our watch routines, and getting over initial sea sickness. There has been lots of sweating with resulting dehydration (headaches, fatigue, drowsiness). All of this combined to make a long somewhat tedious watch. All of that has changed now. We arose for our morning watch to find boats all around us. With the "new" unexpected wind, and efforts to challenge and cover other boats, we have done a number of tacks. During what turned out to be a brief period of lighter air, we swabbed the decks in the early morning sun. Later on, we saw Jamaica in the distance - seeing land always peaks our interest. The watch passed pleasantly and quickly, consummated in what is now our traditional "happy hour". After a hearty meal of pork and beans with smashed potatoes, Matt gave us an update,  we chatted about plans for arrival in NYC, and then it was "happy fun time". Today we chatted about some of our favorite sayings.  There was mention of:

- always walk on the sunny side of the street

- silence is golden (this almost stopped discussion dead!)

- you only regret what you didn't do

- live each day like it was your last (or should it be like it was your first?)

- don't eat yellow snow

- don't skate to where the puck was, rather to where it is going

- and some "Jordy" sayings that I couldn't quite catch

Elaine, appropriately and quite typically wearing a T-shirt that said "inspire inspire inspire" (that tells you a lot about Elaine), explained that the word "impossible" has the words "possible" and "I'm" in it, so never think that something is impossible. This motley crew of all colors and stripes has accomplished a podium position in the last race. Can we do it again? Don't say it's impossible!

 

May 29, 2016 - Panama Stopover, Departure Day, Race 11

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Although I am completing Leg 7 of the Race, some legs, like those I am on, have more than one race, so there are more races than legs in total. Tomorrow begins race 11.  

We have had a good stopover in Panama. We were greeted at the dock upon arrival by the Clipper Race shore based crew with a welcoming smile and a cooler full of beer and soft drinks. After the photo shoot with our flag for the second place finish, we gathered on shore to get our land legs back under us. There was a fair bit of swaying and staggering until we got used to solid ground under us once again!  It wasn't long before we all piled into taxis and  headed to Panama City for a night in a hotel, craving clean sheets and a shower.

 Linda ate the whole thing!

Linda ate the whole thing!

A good value deal was found for all of us at the Best Western. Linda and I followed the recommendation of the reception staff and tried a Panamanian food place for lunch,  and we're glad we did.


 Sean and Jane - Rooftop poolside was a popular spot in the afternoon.  

Sean and Jane - Rooftop poolside was a popular spot in the afternoon.  

 Jill and Elaine.  

Jill and Elaine.  

 Craving red meat, a bunch of us enjoyed Argentinian steak for dinner. The meat portions were huge, juicy and tender.

6am the next morning, we headed back to the boat. Our transit through the Panama Canal began with the boarding of a pilot, who would escort us. 

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 Piloting boats through the canal is a tough job, but somebody has to do it! 

Piloting boats through the canal is a tough job, but somebody has to do it! 

With the pilot safely aboard, we then travelled, together with 2 other Clipper boats to the first of 6 locks, 3 up, through the lake, and 3 down. 

We went through the locks, rafted with the 2 other boats, Derry-Londonderry-Doire (DLD) and UNICEF.  

Here are more pictures to give you the idea.  

 Heading off, with DLD and UNICEF.  

Heading off, with DLD and UNICEF.  

 Chatting. There was a lot of hurry up and wait.  

Chatting. There was a lot of hurry up and wait.  

 DLD and UNICEF rafted.  

DLD and UNICEF rafted.  

 Us Clipper Telemed+  snugged up against UNICEF. 

Us Clipper Telemed+  snugged up against UNICEF. 

 Approaching the canal behind a cargo ship.  

Approaching the canal behind a cargo ship.  

 The gates close once we are tucked in behind the cargo ship. The boats have been carefully measured and scheduled accordingly.  

The gates close once we are tucked in behind the cargo ship. The boats have been carefully measured and scheduled accordingly.  

 Canal worker tosses us a weighted line for us to attach our heavier line to, which he then retrieves.  

Canal worker tosses us a weighted line for us to attach our heavier line to, which he then retrieves.  

 This engine guides the larger ships into place, in concert with a partner on the opposite side.  

This engine guides the larger ships into place, in concert with a partner on the opposite side.  

 After the water rises, we exit the lock.  

After the water rises, we exit the lock.  

 We put our tarpaulin up for shade, but then it turned into shelter from the rain. The other crews looked on with envy, and a few joined us for a visit :-) 

We put our tarpaulin up for shade, but then it turned into shelter from the rain. The other crews looked on with envy, and a few joined us for a visit :-) 

 We were treated to a lovely sunset as we waited 3.5 hours, rafted together on a morning can in the lake, for a new pilot to join us after the first's shift was over.

We were treated to a lovely sunset as we waited 3.5 hours, rafted together on a morning can in the lake, for a new pilot to join us after the first's shift was over.

 Transiting through the final 3 locks in the night time was interesting.  

Transiting through the final 3 locks in the night time was interesting.  

These locks are 100+ years old!  They reminded me of the Welland Canal, that bypasses Niagara Falls, close to where I grew up. Somehow I expected something on a grander scale. I guess the new locks, opening soon, will have a much greater capacity. 

 These locks are 100+ years old! 

These locks are 100+ years old! 

We arrived at Shelter Bay Marina at about 10pm. Most crew were delighted to find the bar still open, and I gather a good number of beers were consumed that night.

The next day, we started work at 7:30am and after final preparations at the dock (refueling, cleaning bunks, rigging check, etc.), we piled into taxis once more and headed for the Radisson in Colon. We were told to always roam in groups and to stay close to the hotel. We did and we were fine.

We spent a day of lounging by the pool and exploring the "Free Zone"  (tax free shopping), The next day, we scrounged up a couple of "tour guides" (they didn't speak English) and played tourists for the day. 

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 Portabello - a 250-year-old fortification put in place by the Spaniards as part of the second phase of defense edifices in the Carribean.  

Portabello - a 250-year-old fortification put in place by the Spaniards as part of the second phase of defense edifices in the Carribean.  

 We piled into a motor launch to get to Isla Grande for some lunch. Photo credit: Sean Lee

We piled into a motor launch to get to Isla Grande for some lunch. Photo credit: Sean Lee

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 Time for a quick dip in the Atlantic before heading back.  

Time for a quick dip in the Atlantic before heading back.  

Today we are to be at the boat at 4 pm. We head off the dock this evening for a motor sail through the night to the start line. Tomorrow is the start of the race.  

I hope we can once again keep you on the edge of your seat cheering for us as you follow the little green boat on Race Viewer! We want to be on the podium twice in New York for Leg 7 prize giving!

 Smile! 

Smile! 

May 29, 2016 - Diversity works

What makes a crack amateur ocean racing team?...

Diversity works. On this Leg 7 team of 17 we have about equal men and women of all ages from 20 to 69. Our skipper is 29, the third youngest on board, with 4 crew over age 60. We have 9 from all around the UK, 3 from Canada, 2 from the U.S., 1 from Korea, 1 from Spain/Indonesia, 1 from South Africa. We are from all walks of life, including surfer dude and top level executives. We have every personality type, from gregarious to serious, extrovert to introvert, and everything in between. One has a hearing impairment.  One speaks English as a second language.  We are each at different ages and stages of life, and quite outside our comfort zones in many cases. Yet we have gelled into a team and achieved a fantastic outcome to race 10.

Having earlier debriefed on our performance in race 10, today we reminded ourselves of what lead to our success in the last race. What behaviors helped us sail with the top boats and achieve a podium position? We kept an optimistic outlook, catching up and overtaking boat after boat after a delayed start of almost 8 hours due to an urgent mast track repair. We rose to the challenge of having other boats around us to measure our performance against. We sought continual improvement, teaching and learning from one another, trying different roles, and debriefing often. We have learned how to communicate effectively when working on deck and intend to consolidate these skills in the next race. We each support the team and demonstrate our commitment to the team in our non-sailing roles, keeping bilges emptied, heads clean, etc., always to a high standard. We each contribute our knowledge and skills to the best of our abilities. Everyone is pulling their weight. No one is a "passenger". We affirmed the value of tolerance.

We are keen to tackle race 11 to see what we can achieve!

May 14, 2016 - crew diary entry

In case you missed it on the Clipper Race website. My crew diary entry. An effort to communicate with you in the absence of the mapshare tweets.  

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We are in what is for us serious race mode now! It has been fun having other boats around us to push us. Also, we have reached that portion of the race where our position crossing through gates on the course becomes critical, since the race could be shortened at any of these gates, depending on the weather (lack of wind in the Doldrums), making each gate a potential finish line.

We have gone from an overall strategy perspective to a more immediate tactical point of view. Initially we were focused on weather patterns and the best route to the finish, catching up after our delayed start, conserving and maintaining crew energy, and boat maintenance. Now all eyes keep a constant lookout, we work hard to defend our position, have established specific roles for each person for periods of time while we implement tactical plans, and focus on optimal sail trim at all times. Trim, trim, trim!

It has been very good to rotate roles thus far in the race. Each person has gained the big picture perspective for the various manoeuvres on the boat and can step into most tasks fairly comfortably. As a result, when we have locked in roles for periods of time, we become very efficient, as each task is completed with good understanding of the action's impact on the rest of the activity going on. With understanding of the coordinated pieces of each manoeuvre, we can recover from mishaps quickly as well. For example, when the Windseeker was being taken down and the clew was inadvertently eased prematurely (it almost looked like Han would go flying through the "letter box" between the foot of the mainsail and the boom!), a quick move to lasso the sheet around a nearby winch facilitated a quick recovery. This is teamwork at its best!

Mascot Marvin the musical ClipperTelemed+ moose even made an appearance today to promote the fun racing spirit on board and to remind us of all the loving support coming our way from back home.

Meanwhile boat care tasks and mother duties continue unchanged. We have wholesome meals lovingly prepared by mothers despite the heat and the tilt associated with upwind sailing angles. We are a happy boat.

May 20, 2016 - crew diary entry - chuffed

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In case you didn't see this on the Clipper Race website. My crew diary entry of May 20, 2016.  

Yesterday at Happy Hour, John lead us in a quiz designed to teach the non-UK folks a bit about the English language as spoken aboard this UK vessel.
I learned that "chuffed" meant something like "proud and happy". That is how we are all feeling today, the day after a challenging finish to the portion of the race marked by gate 3 of the race course. "Exciting" and "action packed" don't begin to describe it!

A couple watch cycles before, we were in third place. The next watch put us in first. LMAX Exchange drew near and we kept them in our sights, always maneuvering to keep ourselves between them and the gate. In the few hours before reaching the gate, we had light air and heavy air, wind shifts and squalls to contend with. Our tactics drew us to the far side of the gate and we engaged in a tacking duel to the western point of the gate.

I wish I could show you a picture. Dusk was upon us. The humid air and the water all around was golden with the sunset. I will forever hold in my memory a view of LMAX Exchange in dark profile in the beam of the setting sun. With thunderhead clouds quickly building all around us. And lightening in the distance.

A squall came through, flattening the cresting waves and drenching us as we raced on. Yankee down, Yankee up, now light air, staysail down, staysail up, wildly swinging wind direction, tack, tack, tack again. Finally, a couple of miles from the virtual mark, the wind settled in. Quite soft. We were reaching for the mark. LMAX Exchange made a bold move and hoisted a spinnaker. Slowly, they creeped ahead. It was agony. We saw them drop the spinnaker and head up for the line, crossing only about 500 meters ahead of us. What an exciting and dramatic finish to this phase of the race.

The crew stood on the deck and applauded LMAX Exchange as we drew near them at the line. It was amazing to be in such close quarters after several weeks of racing in open ocean. A wonder to see other humans up relatively close!

Thanks to LMAX Exchange for returning the tribute with a "victory lap" around us and an enthusiastic cheer for us!

After that, our fighting spirit overcame us once again, and the call went out, "Let's go get 'em!".

For much of the race, we have been in sight of other boats. This has pushed us to be our best, and has driven winning behaviours (trim, trim, trim!) during other times when it was easy to feel isolated and alone out here - complacency can set in. It was great to improve upon our 4th place finish of a previous race. Matt has asked us to reflect on what our "winning actions and behaviours" have been, so that we can carry them forward to the next race and improve upon them.

This will be our discussion topic for our next happy hour.

Meanwhile, we are sailing and motor sailing directly to Costa Rica to refuel and then on to Panama. We will use the days ahead to clean and prep the boat as much as possible, and ourselves as well, for the next race. We are looking forward to a bit of a rest in Panama, and to the crossing to the Atlantic.

It's worth noting that, after several weeks of seeing almost no marine wildlife, there has been an abundance in recent days. Plenty of acrobatic dolphins, and boobies on the bowsprit, also whale sightings, and a turtle, too.

The skies and expanse of water all around have treated us to a feast for the eyes, both day and night.

Thank you for your messages of encouragement and congratulations. We hope you have enjoyed the show on race viewer!


May 24, 2014 - Awaiting admittance to port in Panama

So, here we are near the entrance to one of the man made wonders of the world. We are adrift, with the engine in neutral, awaiting admittance of Flamenco Bay Marina, near Panama City. We were first of the Clipper Race boats to arrive, and we are ready for when the marina opens at 9am. The past five days of motoring/motor sailing have been grating on my nerves. The constant noise and rattle of the engine, not to mention the heat generated by the engine trapped below deck. Now, with the engine idling, it's a relief for the senses. Whew! There was lots of work to be done during the passage to get the boat ready for the next race and minimize work to be done while in port. We put up a tarpaulin during the day time for shade.

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We encountered a drift net. Would we be able to drive over it or need we drive around the end of it, a very long way away?  Under close, we could see it suspended below the surface, and it appeared we could make it over. Indeed we did. Whew! (This is Jen on lookout).

 The sails were brought up from the sail locker so they could be inspected and repaired as needed.

The sails were brought up from the sail locker so they could be inspected and repaired as needed.

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Jen and I serviced the brass hanks on the Yankee sails and the staysail with Vaseline. Several needed to be replaced due to twisting from the forces on them. 

 The staysail stayed hanked on in case the engine konked out.

The staysail stayed hanked on in case the engine konked out.

 Han used a halyard to help muscle the sails back Into the sail locker.

Han used a halyard to help muscle the sails back Into the sail locker.

 Rope/lines were checked and repeaired. (This is Jill)

Rope/lines were checked and repeaired. (This is Jill)

 Meanwhile the boat needed to be pointed in the right direction. Nice job, Jen!

Meanwhile the boat needed to be pointed in the right direction. Nice job, Jen!

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 One day, I was mother while the rest of the crew were on deep clean detail. The chicken pot pie, made with freeze dried chicken, with sweet potato mash was well received. One pie per watch.

So now, bilges scrubbed and floor boards mopped, caves (cubby holes) wiped and bags packed, we excitedly wait for word that we can enter Flamenco Bay Marina.

 

We will have the boat measured and then learn about our departure date and time for passage through the canal. We anticipate a least one night in a hotel.  Adrian said, "I feel like a kid at Christmas!"

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May 13, 2016 - equipment failure - close racing continues

The good news: Our boat handling and teamwork continues to be strong, keeping us in contention for the lead position. The bad news:  This morning at 4:30am, my watch was once again awakened early with a thundering thunk and the "all hands on deck" call.  Thoughts rushed through my mind as I donned my knee brace and listened for clues about what was going on. Was everyone ok? Anyone hurt? Did FrankenSnozzer succumb to the continuing high angle pressure and rip apart? Did something happen to the rigging? Turns out a line designed to hold the tack of the sail to the bowsprit tore due to wear and tear, and the sail had to be gathered in and taken down. As we would be needing it again shortly, the all hands approach continued as we quickly wooled and bagged it below decks. We lost our advantage over LMax who quickly passed us as the Yankee 1 and Staysail were hoisted. UNICEF caught up and it became neck and neck for second place as we got up to speed once more. The fun racing continues, but now it's on a 35-40 degree heel. A significant challenge for living below decks. Having the Y1 and SS put us on a slightly higher (more easterly) course to the gate, not a bad thing, since we need to make progress east towards Panama soon anyhow. We are pulling away from UNICEF once more, to the advantageous side of the course, hoping our good wind will hold. Meanwhile, we've decided to go into serious race mode until we cross through the first gate in about 200 miles.  This is a significant milestone, as the race director may decide to shorten the race, with final boat positions determined by the order of boats through the gate. This is making racing especially interesting, since each gate becomes a potential finish line (after the fact), impacting on course selection and race strategy. On our watch, three are sharing helming responsibilities, with Alex as our lead helmer. Han, co-watch leader with Alex, will also spend some time steering, as will Craig, a sailor from San Fransisco. The rest of us will take the same position in the pit or on the bow each time there is a sail change to maximize efficiency of maneuvers. And we always have 2 people grinding for frequent sail trim when a spinnaker is up. I'm glad that until now there had been lots of swapping of roles. Each person can step into almost any role or complete almost any task, stem to stern, in coordination with the other team members. Now, as we take on dedicated roles short term, we each have the bigger picture and we can coordinate our efforts effectively. There is great satisfaction in effective teamwork, and I am enjoying it immensely.


May 12, 2016 Defend!

A total fun and challenging 4 hour midnight watch. Top finishing boat LMax is .5 mi off our Starboard beam and UNICEF is 2 miles back. Pulled away from UNICEF and held our own with LMax. Young Alex so calm and collected on helm. Constant double grinders (2 people gripping the turning handles in readiness). Going 10-13 knots boat speed. Forced onto a higher more easterly course by LMax who are trying to get by us into the dominant position. Tough sailing. 35 degree heel. Often the foot of the sail and occasionally the end of the boom dragging in the water. 120 degree wind angle with "FrankenSnozzer" (repaired Code 1). Sail repair holding up well to the extreme wind angle and side-ways pressure in up to 15 knots of breeze. It is intended to be used with a more downwind angle. How long will she hold? Are LMax trying to force us into making boat handling mistakes?  Boats are moving pretty evenly on course and speed. Seems we are in the lead as the inside boat. So it might come down to equipment failure or mistakes. Matt is spending more time on deck and some time on the helm to help keep us in the running. 

 

May 8, 2016 - "Mothers" Day

Yesterday, Neil let me sleep in while he took care of breakfast. Then I took over in the kitchen and made burgers and sweet potato fries with all the trimmings, which was well received this beautiful sunny day. I've baked my first loaf of bread from scratch! And made garlic bread toast thingies to go with the delicious pasta Bolognese Neil made for dinner. The smell of brownies baking in the oven filled the air - a pleasant change from the usual scents detectable below decks! Yes, we eat quite well on his boat. I am enjoying learning new culinary skills, and expect I will try my hand at bread baking at home. The act of kneading the dough is a quiet almost meditative task. Perhaps the solitary nature of kitchen duties makes it all the more pleasurable in this environment in which nearly everything you can accomplish must involve coordinated effort and teamwork. Today, it is Mother's Day in North America. We have 3 Canadians on board and 2 Americans. As it worked out, the two other Canadians, Neil from Halifax (on my watch) and Mike from Ottawa (on Dolphin watch) were mothers. As it was Sunday, to start the day off right, Neil fried up a big batch of bacon for bacon sandwiches. A sort of Sunday Brunch theme for the "other mothers". Did you see the crew diary entry I wrote about how we celebrated Mother's Day? I hope yours was grand.


May 7, 2016 - Spinnaker damage

Photo: Code 3 with battle scars.

During our night watch, there was a sudden "bang" and a shaking of the rig. We continued sailing along as per usual and Han went onto the bow to investigate.  A number of potential causes were identified, none of which could be confirmed until daylight hours. This morning, I was awakened an hour or so early as standby crew to assist with a sail change. It turned out that there was a problem with a block at the top of the mast that supports the spinnaker halyard, so it was decided to change spinnakers and use the second spinnaker halyard instead as a precaution.

The challenge was, change to which spinnaker?  We were flying the Code 2. Do we change to Code 3, typically used for greater winds, or switch to Code 1, used for lighter air. With the winds being in the lower range for this sail and gradually dropping, we decided to go for the Code 1. Sail change compete, it was back to bed, and just as I was settled in to do some reading, there was a loud "bang" sort of sound and the call went out for "All hands on deck!" Turns out the wind hadn't yet truly settled into softer winds, and a gust of about 30 knots came along and blew out the spinnaker.

When I emerged once again on deck, it was dragging in the water from the clew (where the "sheet" or rope is attached that is used to trim the sail). In chain gang formation, we heaved it back into the boat and stuffed it down below decks. Linda was hosted up the mast to retrieve a small piece of sail that got stuck on its way down. Before long, rigging was checked and another spinnaker hoisted. The Code 3 was used, since the Code 2 needed "wooling" after its earlier take down before it could be hoisted (this meant it had to be neatly wrapped, with wool ties every 2 feet or so, and packaged just so into its bag). 

Wooling takes a team of 3 people close to 2 hours. If there are spare hands to help, it takes much less time. This work is done below deck, with each of the 3 pointy bits of the sail stretched end to end to end down 3 of the 4 "hallways" using up most of the floor space. After packing away the Code 2, it was soon re-hoisted and the Code 3 was wooled. It was a very busy couple of watches!

The ruptured Code 1 was examined. At first it seemed hopeless. Jane, who apprenticed as a sailmaker in her school days, felt the integrity of the sail could not be maintained. The Code 1 light air spinnaker is the only spinnaker that had not been damaged so far in the race since the boat left London UK last summer. It was expected to be much in demand in this race. Matt, our skipper, put on his puppy-dog face and exclaimed, "I've seen worse! Please, Jane, can't you try?!"

A closer inspection was made. There was a long tear along one edge where the tape pulled away from the main body of the sail. Additionally, there were some square angle tears, and a tear part way across near the top of the sail. An estimated 100+ feet of taping (double sided), plus sewing (on a machine kept on board for this purpose) would need to be done. Jane was given 7 days and taken off watch rotation duties. She has been put on a normal day/night cycle, so she can work on sail repair through the daylight hours. I want to learn sail repair, so I eagerly volunteered to assist. 

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We ensconced ourselves on a bench in the galley and got to work aligning the torn bits and taping the gashes with strips of sail cloth tape, working with 8 inch strips on a cutting board.

I helped as much as I could with the remaining daylight hours. Tomorrow I am "mother", so I am on a normal day/night schedule for 24 hours and hope to be able to help between mother duty tasks. Hopefully we can get the sewing machine out before long. Other crew members will be recruited to the task as well. Will we meet the 7 day deadline?

 Next day... Jane in the sail locker cum sail loft with industrial portable sewing machine.  

Next day... Jane in the sail locker cum sail loft with industrial portable sewing machine.  

 Lynn helps Jane stick on sail patches to be sewn. 

Lynn helps Jane stick on sail patches to be sewn. 

 Jill helps Jane manage all the sail cloth passing through r sewing machine. 

Jill helps Jane manage all the sail cloth passing through r sewing machine. 

May 5, 2016 - "We did it!"

A work-related personality survey I once completed offers the following insightful comment about my preferred work style: "She is at her best in work that involves people and task, where cooperation can be achieved through goodwill." The Clipper Race, and in particular, the culture on ClipperTelemed+, achieves this in spades, and this characteristic goes a leg way to explain why I feel I get so much out of a sailing adventure like this one. Already, we are developing into a cohesive team, and the striving, trust and goodwill from everyone is very apparent. Nothing on this boat can be accomplished individually.  Gybing is an example of a task that requires smoothly synchronized teamwork. Gybing is a multi-step complex maneuver, involving all hands on a watch. The main needs to be centered (sheet brought in using "coffee grinder" and preventer eased), the running back stays brought forward/back, The tack line adjusted, the active and lazy spinnaker sheets closely managed, outstanding helmsmanship, etc. etc., and requires 1-2 jobs from each person on the watch. We'd had several successful gybes both by day and by night, and were becoming familiar and comfortable with our respective roles and the carefully choreographed procedure overall. But this particularly dark night, with winds higher than we'd experienced so far and with a smaller (heavy weight) spinnaker flying, it all went wrong when the lazy spinnaker sheet got caught, pinned against the bow sprit, by the tack line, which wrapped itself around the sprit. We worked hard together to correct the situation.  Mighty bowman Han went forward and sat on the bowsprit (well tethered) to assess the situation. I followed him, stationed on the bow (yes, tethered, of course) to relay messages to the crew in the cockpit over the noise of the wind and flapping sails. With Herculean effort, using a jury rigged substitute tack line, he managed to free the entanglement. We reset to complete the gybe... And it happened again! This time the solution was achieved more quickly, and then we successfully completed the gybe. The mutual sense of satisfaction in our accomplishment was palpable - as in there was much back slapping and hand pumping. It was time to go off watch as the sun was rising and we lingered over breakfast reliving details of the achievement. Adrian mentioned he learned some words he'd never heard before. I don't think he meant nautical ones.


May 4, 2016 - today we took a layer off

Actually, today, several layers came off. In this photo of me trimming the spinnaker, you'll note perhaps the striking blue color of my long johns peaking out below my wind breaker pants. Note also the lack of socks, and no boots. As well, no foulies (foul weather gear), neck warmer, gloves or fleece hat! Every mile we sail south, it gets warmer, but it wasn't until today, about 400 miles offshore south of San Fransisco, a little north of the latitude for L.A., when the layers came off in the afternoon for real. The layers will be coming back on this evening. But hopefully, before long, we will be able to stow away the cold weather clothing. We're also peeling away the miles! Despite starting 8 hours and 125 miles behind the pack, today we are in 10th place (of 12 boats) and seem to be overtaking another two boats. See the white speck in this photo below? That's one off our port beam about 3 miles away. We can see another Clipper Race boat about 5 miles off ahead on our port bow. Our aim is to stay west of them and get the new wind that's coming before they do. Fingers crossed!

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May 4, 2016 - Star Wars Day

 Austin and Craig in the galley with Death Star  

Austin and Craig in the galley with Death Star  

I have been recruited as "Morale Officer". I believe this harkens back to my crimes against happiness recognized in Leg 5 during the shellback ceremony (I was much too happy). But just because I seem to be able to find enthusiasm in almost any situation arising on the boat doesn't mean I know how to arouse it in others, other than by example perhaps. So, I embrace this opportunity as a way to develop this important team building skill. Fortunately, I have a partner in crime. Her name is Jen. She is South African, raised for a time in Oregon and living in the UK. Her indefatigable bubbly exuberance lends a cheerful air to whatever goes on at any time. Our task is to develop a "Happy Hour" activity each day.  Happy hour starts at 11:30 when lunch is served and eaten together on deck. It is a time each day that skipper and both watches can be together and review our accomplishments of the recent 24 hours and plan for what's next. The activity follows "Any other business", often during which time grievances are aired (in the constructive form of helpful reminders for happy group functioning). Despite the lack of toilet seats on board (leave it up or down?), these comments more often than not relate to hygiene in the "head" (replace the toilet paper, pee like a girl, etc.), a fact that has itself become a bit of a joke. Which makes a nice lead in to the activity. We have big shoes to fill. Multi-Legger Tony was the original moral officer, and when he left the boat, it left a huge void. A memorable event, I've been told, involved removing socks and boots for toe wrestling. Today's activity will feature crew mate Elaine, who will lead us in a brief celebration of Star Wars Day. Read this part out loud: MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. Happy Star Wars Day! 

 

P.S. How many ClipperTelemedies does it take to blow up a Death Star? Answer: One - It was Elaine! 

April 28, 2016 - Departure Day

So, this is my last chance to write for a while. I'll try and post in Panama. Unfortunately, I will be unable to post daily messages to mapshare - new Clipper policy :-( I will track our route and post it whenever possible (near shore with cell service). I'll write a couple of the crew diary entries for the Clipper Race website. Maybe I will be able to get the occasional email message out to family that can be posted.  I hope you enjoy following the race! 

Here are a few snaps of today's events - see the photo gallery for a few more. Posting while still in range of cell service! 

 Lifejacket checked; AIS device intalled.  

Lifejacket checked; AIS device intalled.  

 Ryan and Craig service a sticky winch.  

Ryan and Craig service a sticky winch.  

 Food bags stuffed full with fresh veg! 

Food bags stuffed full with fresh veg! 

 Bob is ready for the MOB practice later this evening.  

Bob is ready for the MOB practice later this evening.  

 Sean is making lunch. Yummy!! 

Sean is making lunch. Yummy!! 

 Footwear choice varies person to person...

Footwear choice varies person to person...

 Jane: it's "grind!", not "grin"! 

Jane: it's "grind!", not "grin"! 

 The mood is getting festive! 

The mood is getting festive! 

Goodbye for now!!