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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22 - Race 6 - Hawaii to Yokohama - Feb/Mar 2003

We have been at sea now for 11 days since leaving Hawaii and life is about to change drastically.  This is another race which is effectively split into mini-races and we are coming to the end of the first one.  Since leaving Hawaii, we have simply headed west, trashing a kite and crossing the date line (see below) in the process.  

We've managed to get into first place for the first time since we left Liverpool and we're locking horns with Glasgow and Hong Kong to maintain that position at the moment.  It's been a race with spinnakers again and the sun has been out most of the way.

The  change will come when we turn north, which is due any day now.  Japan is currently in the middle of winter, and has hurricane-force winds building on its coastline regularly at this time of year, so we can expect it to get very cold and windy.  We're also about to start heading into the wind so the spinnakers will be packed away and we'll go back to living at 45 degrees for 2 weeks - which is nice!  So, no more sunshine cruising - just cold wet and windy days to look forward to.

Going fishing

The crews are required fill in a form at the end of each race giving various details of the race to include the size of the biggest fish caught.  To date, London hasn't caught any except those that have given themselves up and jumped aboard to join us.  We tried to put that right last weekend - by trawling our heavyweight kite behind the boat.

You may recall that this isn't the first time we've trashed a kite.  The last time was across the Atlantic when I was driving and, despite initial fears, that kite was repaired and we've been using it successfully since Cuba. 

This time, I was safely tucked up in bed when the "all hands on deck" call was made. My initial fear was that we had lost a crewmember over the side, as I'd heard nothing before the call was made. 

But when I got up onto deck after jumping into shorts and my lifejacket, (with earplugs still in place) I saw the kite ripped in two and in the water to the left of the boat, being dragged by two ropes.  What had happened was not the fault of any of the crew, but a small bolt at the end of the spinnaker pole had failed, releasing the pole from the kite so that it swung around and speared the kite, cutting it in two.  The kite had to be cut free from all but two lines before we attempted a retrieval from the sea. 

During the retrieval, one of the lines got caught and we ended up trawling the kite by two lines.  We managed to free the caught rope safely but the damage caused by the trawling meant that our heavyweight kite was no more - headless and clewless by the time we had all got it back on board.  Chappers' account of what happened on deck whilst I was still asleep is below.

The total damage was quite major.  We lost most of our spinnaker lines, which were attached to the parts of the sail that went to the bottom.  The pole was broken and bent.  And our long range radio aerial was snapped in two (although one of our new crewmembers, Simon, is a telecoms engineer and was able to fix that).  Most importantly, there were no injuries to the crew apart from one slightly bloodied nose.  But we didn't catch a single fish!


For the last two days, we've seen a large pod of about 30 to 40 pilot whales each morning, jumping out of the water in our wake and swimming alongside us, a massive shadow to port or starboard  We hope they're guiding us to our first victory, although for their sakes, we hope they're not intending to guide us all the way to Japan.

Pancake Day

We crossed the date line on Pancake Day a few days ago, which signified that I have now sailed halfway round the globe.   This involved losing a day in our lives as we went instantaneously from 12 hours behind the UK to 12 hours ahead.  The timing was perfect as we lost Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, so none of the crew can give up sailing for Lent this year.

A Salutary Lesson, by Chappers

It was a beautiful starry night with the sails lit up by a brilliant full moon. The wind was strong and we were sailing down-wind at good speed with the heavyweight spinnaker up and powering us through the Pacific waves.  It was around 23:00 - Fox's watch was on deck enjoying a good night sail, and our new skipper, Rory, was up with us. 

Suddenly there was a loud bang from the front of the boat.  We looked up to see the huge spinnaker apparently broken free from the spinnaker pole and now flogging wildly across the bow.  The spinnaker pole, detached from its lines, was careering madly from side to side and smashing into the forestay.  We all rushed to various stations, first to try to deck the pole before it brought down the rigging, and then to try to unwrap the spinnaker which had now wrapped itself around the forestay and was flogging itself to pieces.   We tried in desperation to unwrap and deck the kite which by now had been speared in several places by the out-of-control pole.

After endless and fruitless attempts to release the spinnaker Rory was forced to give the order to smoke the lines holding it up. 

To hear the shout "All hands on deck" is a frightening experience for the off-watch as they clamber into their life-jackets and scramble onto deck half dazed with sleep and fearful of what disaster will confront them.  It took a good 30 minutes with all hands to get the spinnaker back on board.  The damage was irreparable.  In the process we had also twisted back the six foot long-range aerial at the stern of the boat.  On examining the spinnaker pole, which had almost bent double with the force of hitting the rigging, we discovered that the end of the pole had ripped out.  The whole nightmare had been caused by the failure of just one bolt.

It was a shocking experience at the time and we are very thankful that no-one was injured beyond a few bumps and bruises.  It is not an experience we wish to repeat but I think we are all a bit more conscious of the forces involved in powering our 30 ton boat through the oceans. "

It is a scary moment when you release the lines from the winches and the phenomenal force rips them down the boat and through the clutches and blocks at tremendous speed, but it had the desired affect and the spinnaker came crashing down into the sea.  It was still attached by the remaining line on the port side and it was a shocking sight to see this once elegant and powerfully billowing sail now being dragged like a vast wounded beast through the waves.  We could see the huge rips in the fabric and at some point the head of the sail and one of the clews ripped off dragging our two halyards and one of the guys and sheets to a watery grave. 

The weight of the kite in the water was tremendous as it dragged back behind the boat and we realised we couldn't haul it back in without help.


Click here for entry 23 - race 6 - Hawaii to Yokohama 


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