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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28 - All hands on deck - Eastern Pacific - March 2003

It is the most frightening experience that we have had so far - the cry of "all hands on deck".  London have had four of these in the last two races but they are never something that you get used to.

At any one time, at least half the crew are below decks and probably asleep. It is usual for the sleeping crew to be woken by a gentle nudge and a "time to get up" call.  When you are woken by a cry from the deck, something is clearly serious.  You jump out of your bunk, which may not be that easy if the boat is on its ear, and then get kitted up for deck as quickly as possible so as to go and help out.  In the rush, I have forgotten my ear plugs twice - doesn't help when trying to hear Rory's instructions when on deck.

Getting kitted up is the easy bit.  What I have found to be the most disturbing aspect are the games your mind plays during the few minutes that you are getting ready.  What is wrong up there?  Who has gone over the side? What has been irreparably damaged?  What dangers await?  What injuries have been caused?  The adrenaline kicks in very quickly.  As do the drills when you get on deck.

Chappers has already described the first call when our heavyweight kite was destroyed several days out of Hawaii. 

Our second call was the day before we arrived in Japan.  Having been speeding along with the wind behind us and our No 1 headsail poled out, achieving a personal best speed of 20.3 knots (Simon wanted his moment of fame!), the wind increased to about 55 to 60 knots and we had to get the headsail down quickly.  Whilst dropping it, it got caught under the front of the boat - all hands were needed to pull the sail back in.  Fortunately, the sail was not damaged and we think that we cleaned the bottom of the boat at the same time.

By far the most serious of the all hands calls came just hours later.  As a watch change came upon us at 2am, the winds and seas appeared to be calming down and consideration was being given to sticking more sail up when the wind suddenly picked up drastically.  As the boat heeled heavily, Jazz fell and suffered a serious back injury in the cockpit. 

A blessing was that everyone was still up after the watch change but it was still a frightening experience to see one of our crewmates suffering so much and it took over an hour to stabilise the boat and organise for Jazz to be lowered down below, using a floorboard from the forepeak, without causing any further damage to the extensive injuries that she appeared to have.  I am still very impressed at the calm way that Rory, our skipper, dealt with the situation and the way that every crewmember did their bit to help make Jazz as comfortable as possible and sail the boat as quickly and safely as possible to get to the help that was needed.  It was not until we had experienced the air sea rescue and been able to get Jazz to an ambulance that everyone seemed to take a moment to reflect on what had happened.  None of us want to go through that again.

Worth just also thanking the Japanese authorities for the tremendous assistance that they gave and well done to Colin and Clipper for everything that they did to help - the entire London crew are very grateful.  We are all very pleased to hear that Jazzy is making a rapid recovery and will soon be back with us.

The fourth and most recent all hands call came on the race to Shanghai when our steering failed with our new heavyweight kite up - not keen on thinking what Clipper would have thought if we had trashed a second heavyweight in two races!  With no steering, the boat went over on its side and with the sails flogging desperately, I was convinced we would be adding to the list of damage that has accumulated since Hawaii.  Happily, the only damage that was caused was to the rope (which was cut) that was securing the emergency tiller to the back of the boat.  But that didn't seem likely as I was trying to get ready watching fishes swimming past the galley windows on the starboard side!

So London has had its fair share of excitement in recent weeks on this front - we are all hoping for a few boring watches and incident free races now.

 

Click here for diary entry 29 - Hawaii to Hong Kong via Japan

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