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The World’s Longest Yacht Race – Heather’s Update 12

Our team crossed the Race 11 finish line at 0849 GMT (0449 local time) on 27th May, claiming 3rd place in the 2,100 race from Panama to New York. Adding the points earned in this podium win together with the 2 bonus scoring gate points, it keeps our team in 2nd position in the overall race.

Skipper Stuart Jackson says, “What a final 24 hours! It has been quite a battle with only miles separating the fleet. Fortunately, the weather worked in our favor and we managed to secure third place, so myself and the crew are delighted, especially as we have a Manhattan resident as one of our round the world crew members! Adding our two gate points we are delighted with our overall result.”
The team now rests and work on maintenance at the Liberty Landing Marina in New Jersey, before the whole Clipper Race fleet sail in a formal parade across to North Cove Marina in Manhattan’s financial district on Sunday 3rd June.

The World’s Longest Yacht Race – Heather’s Update 11

Looking past the lights of the boat, the darkness of the night is on every side. The sky is cloudy and without moon nor stars. The deep abyss below is haunting. Black. Black. Black. Night time shift. It sometimes feels eternal…and then we get dawn and a new grey day begins. Grey is not my favorite color.

Such has been our life past the Bahamas. The watch this morning, as well as this afternoon had rain spitting from the heavens for the entire day. You think that our foul-weather gear is waterproof, but it can only take so much. It soaks through, and you find yourself sitting in a puddle…every part of you gets pruny, as if you just got out of a nice long bath (oh…if only it were so!). I looked down at my wet and wrinkled feet this afternoon and thought “so this is what my feet are going to look like when I get old…”. I think I might be going crazy. We keep a constant countdown of how long to go until NYC. Currently, we have 311.3 nautical miles to go! We had some really good winds this morning and afternoon and made some good mileage, but alas, they are dropping off again. There is a high pressure system forming off the coast of near Maryland/Washington DC. That means that, once again, if we do not pass the system, we could be stuck without winds yet again. We are plowing through, striving hard to get to NYC before our competitors. As it stands, we have Geraldton Western Australia very near us and have played a bit of a ping pong match gaining and losing ground on each other. One good thing about living on a boat is that life gets simplified. I don’t even wear any makeup, and have honestly lost my hairbrush (don’t judge me)! There are challenges with the sailing aspect and with interacting with others, but it’s all we have, and we learn to work with and depend on each other. Being in such extreme circumstances puts your true self out. There’s no hiding behind pretenses or facades…they all fall down here. Here is our schedule for a 48 hour period, beginning at 6am: work, eat, sleep, eat, work, sleep, work, eat, sleep, eat, work, eat some more. See? Simple!
Life is monotonous. And I have honestly been a bit disappointed with the Caribbean and Atlantic wildlife. Literally, all we have seen has been fish we have caught and the occasional bird. And lots of seaweed. The Pacific, as we neared the tropics, was full of turtles, tons of dolphins, and sunshine. Over here…nothing. I have not lost all hope for a whale, though. I keep my eyes peeled, but see nothing but the white crests of the breaking waves.

The World’s Longest Yacht Race – Heather’s Update 10

 As I sit here typing in the Navigation Station, I hear the generator going, vibrating the entire back end of the boat. My back is a bit stiff as I find it very difficult to get comfortable anywhere on the boat, especially on deck. I hear scrubbing on the floor as some daily cleaning is going on. I smell the anti-bac. I’m pretty sure I smell a bit, too, but we’ve all gotten accustomed to the smell.
Thankfully, the heat is lessening daily as we move north. We just began the ocean sprint this morning off the coast of Florida. I say “off the coast”…really, it is leagues away from land. Also, as I’ve been sitting here we just ticked down to less than 700 miles to go. WOO HOOOOO! The crew are anxious to get to NYC as many family and friends are planning to meet us there. I literally can’t wait.
As the watches changed over this morning a wave of excitement hit the crew when one of our fishing lines out back was fruitful. Stuart thinks we caught a Spanish mackerel. You should have seen how people popped up from below to see it pulled in. It was quite a lovely fish. It will be our dinner! A very nice and welcome change to our usual dinners that are mixtures of dried pastas, rice, etc. and food from tin cans. The meals rotate on a weekly basis, but they do get old. It is very difficult to have variety in the diet, so we are all quite happy when a fish takes to our lines.
One of the crewmembers on our watch who, shall we say, is never at a loss for words, accepted a challenge of being silent for 24 hours and in exchange a donation will be made to WWF. She has gallantly taken up the challenge and at the time that I’m writing this has only 1 hour and 17 minutes left! Wow!
We have thankfully gotten some more wind and our speeds are now averaging 10 knots, which on this leg is really quite fast. The predictions of “light and variable” winds have been true. It also seems that the Gulf Stream Current is not very strong at the moment, so we are almost 100% dependant on the wind. Other boats have been more lucky with their wind. I do think that it is luck.
At the beginning of the race Gold Coast and DLL were miles ahead of the rest of the fleet, I believe due to good sailing skills…until we all hit the same wind hole. Slowly but surely the rest of the fleet caught up. For one day or so we could see almost all 10 boats in the distance in some direction or another.
It was interesting and frustrating how you could look over and see that your opponent had wind in their sails, yet ours lay flat as drapes. Very frustrating. Now that we are out of the wind hole-prone region, it will take a lot of work to catch up, but our crew is up to the challenge. But if there is one thing that a sail boat needs, it is WIND!
Let’s hope that it holds out and takes us to the Big Apple!

The World’s Longest Yacht Race – Heather’s Update 9

Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? The main character keeps on living the same day over and over and over again. I feel like that is my life at the moment. Life on the boat is monotonous, but it is usually bearable when the boat is moving. The past 36 hours (when most of the world was off from work and home for the weekend…maybe you went to see a movie?) we on the good ship DLL were barely moving. Bobbing most of the time. The winds have been “light and variable”…which means that we don’t go fast and we don’t go far. And that is just hard on a crew that wants to race and wants to win.
We are currently passing San Salvador Island (reportedly the place where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, which is pretty cool to possibly be looking at the same stretch of land he did so many centuries ago). Once we pass it, it should be the last of the Bahama Islands that we have been tracking through. We are hoping that we will get better winds as we continue north and start entering the Bermuda Triangle.
Usually on Sundays we have a crew “deck party” where both watches (which normally only see each other in passing) get together, eat and have fun. This past Sunday, we had an extra-special deck party as another crew member, Janice–from NY, had prepared a game show with questions about New York for us all. Prizes included a beach ball, slinky, and various water-squirting toys. I have to say that it was quite challenging for a crew of Europeans, plus me–a Georgian! I do peaches, not apples. Fun was had by all and I’m hoping that I will not be awoken one day to a water gun in the face!
Well…here’s hoping the wind fills in and we soon speed off to New York. I have an appointment with Lady Liberty.

The World’s Longest Yacht Race – Heather’s Update 8

Wind Hole
Not a golf hole. A wind hole. We were cruising along and we all hit it. We were in the lead, and it was disheartening to see almost all of the rest of the fleet come within sight distance today. But we’re moving steadily along to the scoring gate between Cuba and Haiti, currently in 2nd position. We are working hard to move forward, together.
Actual conversation: ”My hair is wet and just won’t dry out.” ”That’s grease.” ”Oh.”
Along with our wind hole came a chance for deck showers, first since we left for Panama, and it was lovely. Below deck is quite warm, and I am more thankful than I can say for a functioning fan…let’s hope my stockpile of batteries last me for just a while longer until we get far enough north.
Other news:
While our boat was effectively parked in the wind hole, we saw some yellow-fin tuna actually swimming around the boat! They were magnificent! Stuart and the other fishing fanatics hopped on the chance to throw a line in, and we will have fresh fish for dinner tonight!!! I’ve overcome my seasickness for the most part…but then again it could simply be that we are not sailing at a severe angle at the moment. Living on a boat is not easy, and that is just one of the numerous physical challenges we must face.
Off I go from the smelly underbelly of the Big Blue Canoe to the deck for fresh tuna for dinner…Mmmm…