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Clipper Race 2017/18 - Charlie's Voyage - Sydney to Hobart

In her latest blog, Charlie reflects on the Sydney to Hobart race, New Year's Eve celebrations and some special Christmas cake. 
 Mick on grinder
Happy New Year, I hope you all had a wonderful festive season and hopefully the January Blues haven't kicked in too much!

Race start

Since my last blog I have taken part in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race - with 102 competitors this year, the race start was quite a sight. Our start line was the middle of the three and meant we needed to navigate between the smaller much lighter racing yachts. Safe to say I'm glad Skipper Dale was on the helm as there were quite a few close encounters, mind you we probably wouldn't have felt much if anything had happened as the smaller race yachts really do have nothing onboard and compared to us barely weighing a thing!

Fair weather

Considering the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is known for its strong weather and unpredictable seas we were let off rather lightly with beautiful downwind spinnaker conditions, naturally ending with a wind hole outside and up the Derwent River meaning a close finish between us, GREAT Britain (49 seconds ahead) and Liverpool 2018 (9 seconds behind)! However, had we taken a day longer we would have found ourselves in gale force winds.
Mattie up the mast

The Nav Station

During the race I had the delight of ensuring our HF radio scheds were always submitted. This meant hiding in the Nav station for approximately 40mins three times a day intently listening to the entire fleet's position and not always with the beautiful clarity that we know and love from VHF. Luckily this was not my first foray with HF and my ears quickly adjusted to pick out the sometimes faded and broken transmissions.

One snapped Spinnaker halyard, a torn kite and a broken antenna

Unfortunately, we managed snap our spinnaker halyard causing us to run over our kite thus creating another large tear as well as taking out the top section of our whip antenna on retrieval of said kite. Naturally this presented a few issues for our position reports, one such report due to loss of antenna and atmospheric promulgation was particularly challenging with a barely readable transmission calling for our position it was part guess work as to whether I was hearing things or actually being called upon; I would recommend that in such instances you do not have the Skipper sat next to you having a pleasant enough conversation with another Skipper over the VHF as it really won't help matters! But fear not we did not receive penalty time for missed scheds and we arrived to a wondrous reception from the extremely large crowd in Taste of Tasmania whose applause and cheers really did make you feel like you had just accomplished the impossible. A welcome that I don't believe any of us were quite expecting. Being a part of this year’s race, we were also a part of the race history as new records were broken and a hotly contending competition for line honours between Wild Oats XI and Comanche.
Shonas lifejacket passed the test

New Year’s Eve

The entire Clipper Race and Sydney Hobart Fleet were treated to two firework displays on New Year’s Eve which were delightful. It was one of the best New Years I've had, certainly one that won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Departing Hobart

Since our departure from Hobart, we are making our way across the familiar patch of water that runs to Sydney after which we shall be in new waters as we continue our race north towards Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. The wind has been up to its usual tricks causing us to be heeled over as we beat north but I find myself surprised at how much I've been able to comfortably sleep in my high side top bunk, which makes me wonder if we were heeled over more or less on Leg 1? No more does it feel like climbing Mount Everest each and every time I wish to sleep nor does it feel like I'm sleeping on the knife's edge of a cliff.

Magnificent dolphins

Dolphins in their plenty have come to keep us company by showing off their skills, one such pod were practising their synchronised show jumping routine I'm sure. We've also had a close encounter with a whale who decided that the patch of water 100ft off our bow was the perfect spot to surface and play in the sun, luckily in a Parent Trap style move another crew member Mattie grabbed a winch handle and started tapping the push pit in an attempt to scare the whale away. Unlike PSP Logistics (in Leg 2) we were able to avoid a collision and continue safely on our way.

A delightful treat

To keep moral and spirits high as we continue to beat upwind I've treated the crew today; before departing Liverpool, I had requested one of Grandma's best Christmas fruit cakes minus the marzipan and icing but heavy on the soaked fruit. She did not disappoint. Great care had been taken to ensure its safe arrival to this point in the race with numerous layers of cling film, tin foil, bubble wrap and then sealed inside a sweet tin, it kept the crew on the edge of their seats (naturally nothing to do with the heel of the boat) wondering what delight had been stowed away inside. I'm sure she will be pleased to hear that it survived the bouncy, hot, wet and cold journey as well as being swiftly consumed by all. A few crumbs remain but I have hidden them away in order to cheer up a later night watch although I shall have to become a secret eater to enjoy them otherwise I'll be fighting the rest of the crew off. Now all I have to do is find the perfect secret eater spot on the boat...perhaps hiding under the spinnakers in the sail locker would do the trick?

We are one big family

Last night we were put to the test with squally storm conditions thanks to a brilliant lightning show, it's always great to hear such a commotion happening on deck when you're tucked up in your bunk, warm and dry. Knowing that the other watch is able to handle all that is thrown at them I was able to stay warm and dry, surprisingly falling back asleep until called for watch an hour later, where I climbed on deck to find little to no wind and a rather wet and cold off going watch eager to get to their well earned bunks. Last night we received a call from the Skipper of GREAT Britain who was also in the vicinity when the squall hit, checking to make sure that we had passed through the squall alright as they had been hit hard enough to get their mast in the water. It's times like these that show the team culture that we have overall within the fleet, we are one family out here always ready to make sure we get through this together. The Skippers although highly competitive have great respect and support for one another taking the time to look out for each other, everyone of GREAT Britain are well and this morning a few minor repairs have taken place which goes to show that they dealt with the situation like pro's. I shall look forward to hearing about their experience fully in the Whitsundays.
Until then we shall continue doing our best and with the ocean sprint coming up we hope to gain a few more points.
This blog was written by Charlie Garratt, Clipper 2017/18 Crew Member and 3Si Ocean Safety Ambassador.