We are currently hurtling (well plodding at 5 knots) under spinnaker down the East coast of Scotland. We’re level with Edinburgh and all wishing we could call in to say hello. Our send off from Derry/Londonderry was the most amazing yet, people lined the waterside for miles in the spitting rain to send us on our way. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of supporters waving and cheering as we paraded up and down towards the Peace Bridge before setting off. We had the most amazing welcome in Legenderry, the friendliness and interest was second to none, we couldn’t have asked for more. People on boats, people on the quayside, people in flat windows, people on visiting warships, it was just incredible. Quite different from our support in China where, I wonder how much of it was genuine interest!
It’s been a great race so far (not least because, having been given antibiotics for my chest infection, I am now feeling much better). We have been chasing the leading pack all the way and are only 13 miles behind the leaders. For me this has been an amazing race. I have always wanted to sail the Western Isles and round the North coast of Scotland and here I am (ok so doing it cruising style, stopping to enjoy the beaches and coves, visit the distilleries and eat lots of seafood may still be on the list but this is a close second). As we sailed passed Lewis (much longer than I thought it was and much further north!) the other evening we had the pleasure of waving to Yorkshire as they tacked behind us and then DLL. It was quite something to have both of them so close and in such a short space of time. That put us into 4th for a bit but DLL took a brave move to follow the coastline into the Pentland Firth which gave them better speed than us and put us back in 5th place. We have been playing cat and mouse with them round the oil rigs of the North Sea ever since.
As I write it’s 2255 and still light outside. I love the longest day of the year (21st June when we were once again in the Atlantic) but this year is likely to be the only year where, after the 21st June the days have continued to get longer for us. We’ve continued to head north, 59 degrees north to be precise, the most northerly any boat has been in the Clipper Round The World Race before, as we rounded the tip of Scotland. In fact, the most northerly I have ever been! It was the most spectacular sailing coming round the north of Scotland. Up to that point we had been beating upwind yet again (more seasickness for some :-() but as we skirted the spectacular coast of the Orkneys we hoisted our heavy weight spinnaker and began enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of downwind sailing. A fitting way to pass the giant cliffs and hundreds of seabirds up there. I even saw a Puffin fishing, a personal highlight for me as I’ve done a bit of Puffin following round the UK but with no joy (only cuddly toy versions so far!) until now. It makes me laugh to see their wings flapping ten-to-the-dozen to keep their little fat bodies in the air. I’ve also had fun listening to the shipping forecasts delivered in a lovely lilting Scottish accent. All in all, the Scottish coastline has definitely been one of my biggest highlights.
It would be unfair of me not to share the latest tit bits of boat gossip with you all as I know that, much as you are following the race, you are also following the people so here goes: Jussie has celebrated her 6 year anniversary of her double lung transplant. Goldilocks has made a new addition to the crew by bringing along his very own ‘Purple Beastie’ (a lovely purple dragon that his gran gave him in Derry. The dragon is now sitting in the nav station with Derek the tea monkey whilst Hector resides looking out from the bottom of the companion way.) Keith has become cheery and we are all wondering what can possibly be wrong with him. Scarlet is very excited at the prospect of a visit to Amsterdam. He and Shaggy have booked a town house for a few days and are threatening to assist Georg in his search for a girlfriend!!! Webbo is working out a plan for how to take us all home as he claims he will miss us all (I’m sure his family will miss sail repair a bit less!) Baz and Trinngg are considering how they can maintain their 20 minute chats (who would have thought a watch-leader handover could take so long?) 3 times a day from a distance. Bernie will be glad to be rid of all of us and our ailments, as she has become our surrogate mother whenever we are hurt or feeling ill and she’s run out of space in her ‘the crew have done something stupid to themselves’ book. Paul has started planning his Clipper lunches on land and I’m sure has selected the wine already. Martyn is making the most of his last few days at sea and contemplating who he can climb the Old Man of Hoy with as his next adventure. Karen will be delighted not to have to make pizza for the entire crew ever again and is looking forward to getting over her cold. And as for me, I look forward to, the not too distant future, when I will never again have to stick my head in a bilge at 2am at an angle of 35 degrees and pull out 15 buckets of water from under my bunk! Of course I will miss all the great things, the fresh air all day, every day, the scenery, the crew, the wildlife and the feeling of adventure. I’m also looking forward to seeing how I’ve changed and what lessons I’ve learnt which I’m sure will only become apparent when I get home.
The Clipper Round the World Race, which stretches over 40,000 nautical miles – the world’s longest sailing race, is almost over. We have had wind speeds from 0 to 55 knots, wave heights from 0 to 12 meters (probably even more), boat speed from 0 to 26 knots, we have covered anything from 4 to 80 miles in 6 hours. During our voyage we have visited all continents (except Antarctica), been to 11 countries (Netherlands still to go) and we have even been able to lift the Purple Beastie 20 meters above sea level as we went through the Panama canal. So with the adventure drawing to a close I’m sure I’ll do a lot more reflecting and bore you with my findings over the next few blogs!