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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41 - Reflections of a Leg 5 Legger  - July 2003 - by Chris Channon

Why choose Leg 5 you might ask  - isn't that one of the most challenging legs (for 'challenging' read 'dangerous') - round the Cape of Good Hope, often called the Cape of Storms?   The south east coast of South Africa has a reputation for abnormal waves (for 'abnormal' read 'ginormous'), caused by strong south westerly winds, as depressions round the Cape and blow against the strong Aghulas current, rapidly building huge waves capable of breaking big ships in half, let alone little 60' Clippers.  At my interview with Colin, back in the comfort of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, he had assured me " it's not really dangerous, just possibly a bit uncomfortable".  The trick, apparently, is to get really good weather information, monitor the procession of depressions which come round the corner every 5 to 7 days or so, and if one is due - get the hell out of the current!  Otherwise from the point of view of winning the race, it was a race to the current and stay in it as long as the weather allowed.   .... Well, I made up my mind that if I was going to do just one leg, it would have to be something of a challenge, so it would be this one.   And so it proved. We stayed in the current, which added 4 to 5 knots to our boat speed and kept a very close eye on the weather faxes.  I think we were lucky and arrived safely without any undue dramas - and I had rounded one of THE big Capes of the world.  Our skipper, Rory, however, made plenty of mileage out of my concern to know what each weather fax held in store for us - winding me up as often as he could with straight faced stories of advancing depressions and cold fronts, just to see the look on my face!  Now we are well on our way to crossing the South Atlantic to reach Salvador in Brazil, skimming the edge of the South Atlantic 'high' and hoping to avoid getting stuck in the large 'hole' of little or no wind - the opposite of trying to avoid too much wind on the last race.  When we make Brazil, I will have achieved the second of my own personal challenges - to cross the South Atlantic.  Not so many sailors get this opportunity - from Britain or the US, the North Atlantic is the more frequently crossed. 

"Aren't you a bit too old for doing this sort of thing?"    looks were on the faces and in the voices of some of my disbelieving friends and work colleagues, as I told them my plans.  Well, I didn't think so and neither did Clipper, although I can truthfully say that 'Foredeck crew' was never going to be my forte.  On the sailing front I have coped well with the conditions thus far, although when we were beating to windward with 40+ knots of wind across the deck and slamming through the waves, I was very glad to be in the relative safety of the cockpit - behind the wheel and 'driving' or operating the clutches rather than being battered by wind and water on the foredeck!  The rest of the crew kept telling me it was a team effort and that there was a place for everyone!  Rory told me I looked as if I was worried about falling out of the cockpit, and at the moment when the boat was on it's ear, toe rail under water, - I definitely was - and hoped that somebody would soon give the order to put in a reef!  However, the more interesting side of sailing with a team of 30 somethings, and even 20 somethings, was "how would I fit in"?  Glancing round the different crews, I had spotted several others who looked as if they could be my contemporaries, but none seemed to have ended up on London on Leg 5.  Since, if life begins at 40, I had reached my second adolescence, it did not seem to present too much of a problem, and in fact all the crew have been great - thanks guys! The four of us on my watch have discussed the extent to which social attitudes and life style choices have changed over the last 25 to 30 years.  The baby boomers, born around 1946, of whom I am one, are now choosing to take gap years at or near retirement, following the example of their children, and are revolutionising the expectations of retirement - not likely to settle for bowls, bingo or bridge and a potter in the garden.  So...if any of you out there are contemplating applying for the next Clipper race, I would say, "Go for It". 

The highlights - rounding Cape Aghulas, the most southerly point in Africa, the amazing wildlife on and around the Cape Peninsula including albatross, Cape petrels, seals, dolphins, penguins, springbok, ostriches, baboons and many more.  Holidaying in Mauritius while waiting to greet the Clipper fleet.  Whizzing round the sights of Cape Town, which were just awesome, and of course winning a third place pennant after a close finish with New York, 2 days after Bristol and Jersey.  COME ON LONDON!!!

Iíll be there in Liverpool to see you all in.

Thanks Rory and all the crew for a happy boat and a great sail. 

Click here for diary 42 - Round the World - July 2003

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