Diary of a Clipper Racer

Around the world in 333 days with Mark Osgood

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

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19 - Race 5 - Update on the Pacific Ocean - Jan 2003

It was a sad moment when the Galapagos Islands dropped out of sight behind us but the challenge of tackling the Pacific Ocean in another 3-4 week passage at sea was enough to take our minds off it.  The Race started off the south of Isla Santa Cruz and the eight boats headed west together bound for Hawaii.

This race starts with an important tactical decision for each skipper to make as to when  to turn north.  It's possible to head to Hawaii from the Galapagos in a straight line - but you would need an engine or a lot of patience.  The ITCZ is the major obstacle in this race, as in Race 4, and having come through it to go south to the Galapagos, we needed to head back through to return to the Northern hemisphere and the Hawaiian Islands.  So with only sails to get there, the only way is to head west, turn north when the Doldrums appear to be at their narrowest point and then turn west again.  Get it wrong and you'll be floundering around for days.

Ed did his homework in Galapagos and arrived on board armed with tons of weather information and a cunning plan - we were to head west for 9 days, turn right at 125 degrees west and then cruise into Hawaii where the surf would be waiting.  All good plans...! 

We set off west and after a poor start, we worked our way up to second place as the fleet took part in a drag race.  Clocks started going back as the miles were clocked.  We were heading for 125 degrees west.  And then the winds changed - with some 700 miles to go to our turning point.  The weather was checked, discussions were had and we decided to go for it.   Glasgow and Liverpool followed us north, Hong Kong had already gone and the rest stayed south.

Our weather information said we needed to get to 5 degrees north of the equator when the wind would set in.  We had some 60 miles to go, but with no wind, we flopped around aimlessly for the best part of a day.  But we managed to edge north and with the help of a few squalls and rapid wind changes of up to force 7-8 (common in the Doldrums at night), we edged towards our target.  As we approached, it seemed as if nothing would hold us back, and within 10 seconds of crossing the 5 degree line, we had 25 knots of breeze and we began to fly. We were through.  Ed had spent most of the afternoon talking to dolphins on the bow - maybe he got some inside information.

Since then, we've been flying along.  We've now covered some 3000 miles and have only 1300 miles to go - we're in second place and fancy our chances a little bit here.  But we have to remember that it will all be decided in the last day around the Hawaiian Islands.

It's been exhilarating racing along with our heavyweight kite up, with gusts of 35 knots of wind at times and an average of 25 knots of wind.  We've been averaging about 10 - 11 knots of speed, which is fast for a Clipper 60.  What's even better however is surfing down the huge rolling waves at speeds of up to 18 knots.  You have to hang on for your life as the roar of the waves and the crash of white surf pick up the good ship like a paper boat and propel it forward with massive acceleration.  Not quite a G-Force moment but it feels fantastic.  I've really learned to drive the boat on this leg and it's like having a new toy.

We expect to finish on Wednesday or Thursday - keep up to date on the Clipper website. 

[Editor's note:  as of today (Tuesday 28th January), the news hot off the press is that London Clipper has hit a wind-hole and Ossie's ETA looks optimistic.  The word is that Saturday may be more likely, and our diarist foresees a re-run of what happened just off Cuba.  Frustration has set in because the islands are almost in sight - as are the boats behind.]


Click here for diary entry 20 - Race 5 - Race to Hawaii - January/February 2003

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