Diary of a Clipper Racer

Around the world in 333 days with Mark Osgood

Supporting my chosen charity - "Dreams Come True"

Final Diary entry, 54, added Monday 6th October 2003.

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17 - Race 3 - Havana to Colon (Panama) - December 2002

New skipper, new crewmembers and a new challenge. 

Race 3 was different again to the previous two races.  The route involved a narrow passage to the west of Cuba and then south-east, avoiding the Nicaraguan reefs, before turning to head south to Colon.  There wasn't much scope for disappearing off on a different route to the others, so it became more of a drag race than anything else. 

The other difference was the weather - nasty little squalls with heavy rain and wind lasting anything from three minutes to three hours. 

So the racing was intense and the winners would be the boats that reacted fastest and best to the unpredictable conditions.

We started the race towards the back of the fleet, holding back in order to avoid the inevitable bun fight.  And then we started picking off each boat.  After about 24 hours, we'd worked ourselves into third place behind Jersey and Liverpool. 

As we rounded Cuba and started heading south east the strategy adopted by each skipper became clear.  Some boats headed east whilst others, including London, followed a straight line to our target.  It soon became apparent that whilst our strategy had proved to be the right one, we were behind the leaders, Jersey and Hong Kong, who had made lots of ground and were soon about 30 miles ahead.  And so it stayed for several days, the pressure never relenting for fear of being overtaken by the boats on the horizon behind us.

We needed a wind shift again to catch the two leaders.  And this time, it went in our favour.  Jersey and Hong Kong got becalmed and we caught them and passed Hong Kong.  It became a drag race to the finish and we crossed the line in second place, just eight minutes behind Jersey.  London was a very happy boat to be back on the podium - maybe we are not quite as incompetent as the Admiral had suggested.

Ed Ventures

London has its own new lean mean racing machine as he likes to be thought of - or hippy to most other observers.  Ed Green has joined us as our new skipper until Hawaii and has promptly led us to our second pennant of the Race.  He's been a very popular addition to the boat, creating an environment which, whilst competitive, is also fun.  The crew of London all now have smiles on their faces again.

Ed skippered Glasgow in the 2000 Race and joined this year's Race in Portugal, when Jersey's skipper resigned.  Jersey's new permanent skipper joined them in Cuba, leaving Ed to take up the reins on London.

His first pennant came with Jersey in this year's Race across the Atlantic.  So the pennant for Cuba to Colon is his second as well as ours.  And we're hoping for some more before he leaves.

It's not something that we want to think about at the moment but there is speculation as to which boat Ed will move to after he leaves us in Hawaii.  As he continues his tour of the fleet, there is also speculation that Clipper Ventures is to be renamed "Ed Ventures" - official denials are awaited.

Sail-through movies

Having arrived in Colon, we had a few days' wait at anchor waiting to go through the Canal.  We weren't allowed ashore so time was filled by cleaning the boat (quickly!) before sunbathing, reading and generally lazing around for a couple of days.

Thanks to the DVD Rom on the ship's laptop, we were able to enjoy a film for the first time since leaving Liverpool.  We all crowded round the cockpit and set up the laptop on top of the companion-way roof before settling down with a few beers to watch Monty Python's Life of Brian.  Only takeaway pizza was missing.

Fortunately, some of us know the whole script from start to finish - very helpful as the computer's speakers are not very powerful.  For newcomers to this cinematic delight, we had subtitles.  London crew are looking on the bright side of life at the moment.

The Panama Canal

Having arrived in Colon, we still had to travel through the Panama Canal before settling down to Christmas in Panama City.  The Panama Canal runs from Colon to Panama City, via Gatun Lake and takes ships of up to about 100,000 tonnes from the Atlantic to the Pacific (and back) for a fee of up to $50,000.  Travelling from Colon, we travelled up three huge locks to the Gatun Lake which is about 75 metres above sea level.  When we reached the other end, we came back down through three locks before reaching the Pacific Ocean.

I imagined that our transit through the Canal would be a boring day of motor sailing - I had in mind a canal-journey through the industrial wastelands of the Midlands.  I couldn't have been more wrong -the Canal is cut through the middle of the Panamanian Jungle and we travelled all day through the most exotic scenery, surrounded by the noise of the jungle. Pelicans were everywhere, like pigeons in Trafalgar Square, except more picturesque.

London was very lucky to be the first boat through, along with Liverpool, and it was wonderful to see the Canal in daylight.  It's been the highlight of my trip so far.

Christmas in Panama

Christmas for me has always been the same:  family, church, turkey, presents and the Queen's speech without fail.  It was very different this year.

Seven of us decided to seek out a church service on Christmas Eve and we went to Midnight Mass at a church in the middle of Panama City.  We didn't understand a word of the service, which lasted for nearly two hours, as of course it was conducted in Spanish, but it did put us in the Christmas mood. 

The next morning, on Christmas Day, I woke up and went for a swim outside, before watching the Queen's Speech on TV, by the pool.  Tough, but someone's got to do it.

Hanks from Liverpool had missed the last Race due to a leg injury but had used the time wisely and had arranged a Christmas lunch for the full crew in a restaurant near the marina.  So Christmas lunch was had by all, sitting outside in the sunshine, before the party kicked off for the rest of the afternoon (and night).

Despite the novelty value of a sunny Christmas, I missed home on Christmas Day, so to cheer myself up I entered into the Christmas party spirit as best I could and tried a few glasses of the local Panamanian beer, Soberana.  It's not well named.  There's not much more that I can report about the Christmas party, but I can report a thick head on Boxing Day morning - that was an all too familiar part of Christmas!

Festive London

Christmas arrived for London as soon as we arrived in Panama.  In an effort to show an affinity with our sponsoring city we've tried to model our festive decorations on the Regent Street lights.  However,  we only managed a port and starboard light, an anchor light, a couple of advent calendars and a bit of tinsel.  We're still trying to persuade Saucy to go and sit at the top of the mast wearing something white and fairy-like but for some reason she is objecting.

There's definitely a Christmas feel aboard now, despite the lack of snow and cold weather.  We've even had Father Christmas descend, bearing gifts and letters.  He bore more than a passing resemblance to Colin de Mowbray, the Race Director - perhaps they're brothers.

I wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Clipper Ventures World Golf Tour

Boxing Day is a great day for playing golf so 12 of us from the fleet went to the main course in Panama, called Summit, for a round to continue our golfing tour of the world.

Summit was an amazing course.  If a ball was lost in the rough, it was left there - we didn't quite know what we'd find in the jungle which made up the edge of the course.  From that one extreme, the other was the buggies that took us round the course.  Each buggy was equipped with a GPS machine which told us how far to the green for each shot.  But that was nothing to when we came to the eighth hole - a little message arrived on our screen asking what we'd like for lunch.  Then a nice lady arrived at the tenth with the lunch that we'd ordered.  Nice touch!

Shame I played so badly.

My new Leg 2 crewmates

A little late but a big welcome to my new crewmates and a little introduction for you all.

Firstly,  Lois Howarth (aka Lola) is having a final hurrah before returning to get married in April - not really a honeymoon holiday then.  Lola's celebrity look-a-like is yet to be decided.

John Richardson (aka JR), is taking time out from headmastering to join us until Hawaii.  JR's celebrity look-a-like is Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame - we'll check out how true that is on the beaches of Hawaii!

Derek Chase (aka Doc) is our resident doctor who is also on board with us until Hawaii.  We are not sure how long he intends to stay with us - he has already had all his emails sent to New York.  The Doc's celebrity look-a-like is also yet to be decided.

Cress Whyatt (aka Mustard) is also with us until Hawaii before re-joining us for the final leg from Brazil to Liverpool.  Cress is a rival to Saucy in the talking stakes, and her celebrity look-a-like (and sound-a-like) is Anthea Turner.


Click here for diary entry 18 - Toilet Humour

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