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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50 - Race 14 - Summary of our journey to NY  - September 2003

Current location:  North Atlantic, en route to Jersey and then Liverpool

It was supposed to be the longest race in distance and one of the longest in terms of duration, but it was not supposed to take as long as it did!  Nor was it supposed to include a stop in Bermuda.  The race from Salvador to New York turned into a bit of a disaster for London.

It all started well enough.  We were in the lead shortly after the start of the race out of Salvador bay as we started the run up the Brazilian coast.  All continued to go well us as far as the mouth of the River Amazon where we made our turn to the north.  Then we crossed the equator for the last time on this race.  And it all went wrong.

First the wind went.  Then the generator broke.  Then the alternator on the main engine failed, followed by the starter-motor on the main engine.  And the wind failed to reappear.  Steve, Si-Fi and I spent hours in the engine room or round the main engine, fixing parts, bodging repairs and desperately trying to keep the boat functioning so that we could stay in the race.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we were forced to retire with some 1500 miles to go.  We were in last place but hoped to make up at least two places before the end (not that it would count towards our points total, but would at least mean that we got into port in good time).

1500 miles from New York, and 900 miles from the nearest place to re-fuel (Bermuda).  We had enough fuel to do about 250 miles - and there was no wind.  The feelings of isolation and helplessness were terrible and the realisation that, without help, there was nothing we could do but wait for the wind to come, left everyone feeling very down. 

A plan was eventually hatched which involved a fuel transfer with New York, who were 50 miles from us. When they were also forced to retire following an engine fire, the two boats limped together towards Bermuda, maximising fuel by towing each other and sailing whenever it was possible.  It took about a week, but we finally got there.

After a stop of about 6 hours in St Georges (truly Britain in the sun), with a break for beer and some real food, we set off again and got to New York as quickly as possible.  Everyone on board was thoroughly fed up and desperate for a break, but everyone tried very hard to make the best of a bad situation.  However, the race organisers, did little to help when they awarded us last place for the race to New York, with no credit being given for our engineering problems and the likelihood that, without those problems, our race position was likely to have improved.  Our crew meeting in New York, with the race director present, was not the most harmonious we have ever had.

All of the eight boats have now travelled round the world nearly four times and consequently they are very tired and are suffering from a mounting stack of problems.  London was also one of the first to be re-fitted before this year's race and I wonder whether it should have been a case of more haste less speed.  I believe that it was inevitable that such problems would occur eventually.  It wasnít made any easier for those of us who had to spend days down below in scorching temperatures trying to fix it all to receive an email from Robin Knox-Johnston, the race organiser's chairman, with a message that was interpreted by everyone on board as being critical of our care of the boat over the year.  I am starting to look forward to getting home and getting off this boat more than ever.

New York, New York (so good they named it twice)

However frustrating the previous four weeks had been, arriving in NYC was always going to be good fun.  And it was.  I was really looking forward to seeing Rachel for the first time since Cape Town and to seeing my brother for the first time since I left Liverpool nearly a year ago.

The boats were moored at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum at the end of 46th Street in Manhattan, a short walk from Times Square.  It was a great location.

There is so much to do in New York, but we fitted in as much as possible, including baseball at the Yankee Stadium, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island and Ground Zero.  And, of course, lots of eating and drinking.  It was an excellent stop.

Our stopover was due to end on 1 September but, due to the late arrival of all the boats, it was extended to 3 September.  With limited time left to get to Jersey and Liverpool, no further delays could be allowed, but nobody accounted for the arrival of Hurricane Fabian, which decided to head straight for the race course.  Fabian was predicted to be carrying winds in excess of 150 miles an hour.  There was only one viable option:  we were therefore forced to seek shelter in New York for a further two days whilst Fabian moved out of the way.

Race 15 - our final Atlantic crossing

Our last ocean crossing - and even that can't go smoothly.  Due to Hurricane Fabian, the whole fleet eventually left New York four days late and we are currently motoring from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we will re-fuel before starting the race from there.  It will then be a passage to Jersey if possible but if time goes against us, we will miss Jersey and head straight to Liverpool in order to finish on time on 27th September.

Our course from Halifax will follow the great circle route south of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland (scene of the film The Perfect Storm set at about this time of year!), using the current from the Gulf Stream to help our speed across the North Atlantic as we head for the southern tip of Ireland and then on to Lands End before heading either to Jersey or straight to Holyhead.

Life on board is already starting to get very cold as we leave the sunshine legs behind and head back to England for the start of autumn.  Sleeping bags are out, hats have been dusted down and the shorts are slowly being put away. But the wildlife has already been amazing -  dolphins, whales and seals have all been spotted.

Three weeks to go

Not long now!  Less than three weeks to go before I set foot on English shores again after an absence of eleven months.

Itís been an amazing experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world, but I am really looking forward to getting home again - to English food, to my own bed and a place I can call home.

And Iím looking forward to boring everyone for years to come with tales of the high seas.  I hope youíre all ready!

Click here for diary 51 - Race 15 - Foggy Days - September 2003

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