Update: The sun WILL rise again

On the 22 November at 14.00 UTC, the entire crew for Punta del Este were finally put out of our misery by this official update from Clipper’s Race Committee following the collision with Sanya at the start of Leg 3:

Race Committee Ruling

Regarding the incident which occurred during Race 4 Start in Cape Town, the Clipper Race Committee has agreed upon the following :-

After investigating the Port / Starboard incident between CV25 Punta del Este and CV29 Visit Sanya, China, at the beginning of Race 4, the Clipper Race Committee has adjudged that CV29 Visit Sanya, China to be at fault after a clear breach of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) 10 ‘On Opposite Tacks’.

As a result of this ruling CV29 Visit Sanya, China has been disqualified from Race 4. The team will officially receive a zero points score and is prohibited from entering into any Scoring Gate and Ocean Sprint for Race 4.

CV25 Punta del Este is exonerated from any breach of RRS 14 ‘Avoiding Contact’ and has been awarded redress as follows. The team will receive an average points score of 9 points and this has been based on its finishing points to date over the three races completed so far and includes any Scoring Gate bonus points, as well as points gained from its Joker. The team will be entitled to enter the Ocean Sprint for Race 4 as per normal.

The calculation for average points is detailed below :-

Race 1: 11 points
Race 2: 6 points (3 x 2 including Joker)
Race 3: 8 points

Sub-Total: 25 points

Scoring Gate: 1 point
Ocean Sprint: 6 points

Grand Total: 32 points

Calculated thus :-

25 points over 3 races = 8.33333 average.

Adding the single point gained from the scoring gate to the total and then calculating average points gives 25 + 1 over 3 races = 8.66666 average.

Over 3 races CV25 Punta del Este has gained an average of 0.3333 scoring gate points per race so will be awarded another 0.33333 points for the scoring gate on Race 4 (which it cannot enter).

This gives a total of 9 points awarded to CV25 Punta del Este for Race 4 and the option to go for the Ocean Sprint (which has not been averaged as it is still live for them).

CV25 Punta del Este and CV29 Visit Sanya, China will commence racing in Table Bay after all repairs have been completed. They will start together as a Le Mans Start and will match race against each other following the course, as laid out in existing Course Instructions for Race 4.

They will not be racing on elapsed time and will therefore not be racing against the rest of the fleet. They will be match racing against each other and will be competing for a unique Clipper Race match racing trophy which will be presented to the winning team.

As both teams will be racing, they will still be able to accrue penalty points for sail and equipment damage as per the Clipper Race Sailing Instructions.

Repairs and Race Start dates for Punta del Este and Visit Sanya, China

Repairs are going well on CV25 Punta del Este and CV29 Visit Sanya, China and the Clipper Race Office estimates the work should be completed by 27 to 28 November. Current estimates would see a departure by both teams on 28 or 29 November. Before that date, but around repair work, crew of both remaining teams will be training on the Visit Sanya,China yacht as additional preparation for the Southern Ocean.

Based on the above departure dates and subject to weather conditions enroute, it is estimated that both yachts could arrive into Fremantle on or around 21/22 December.

This will obviously have an impact for crew joining on Leg 4 and we will be able to give a further update on this as soon as we have some more accurate information.

20 November 2019

Work is being done around the clock in Cape Town to carry out the necessary repairs to Punta del Este and Visit Sanya, China.

A core team of Clipper Race Director, Mark Light, Operations and Logistics Manager, Matt Pettit and Maintenance Manager, Jay Haller, along with the Skippers and AQPs of both yachts, are remaining in Cape Town until the boats are ready to depart. Their focus is making sure the repairs to both yachts are completed to the highest standards and as soon as possible as well as supporting the crews and dealing with all of the immigration and clearance formalities.

In the spirit of the Clipper Race both teams will definitely be competing against the rest of the fleet in Race 4. Facilitating this in a fair way, for all teams, is being considered and worked out by the Race Committee.

The Race Committee will be deciding on any repercussions from the incident and how this may affect the results of Race 4.

Both crews are supporting each other and remain in close contact with the Clipper Race team in Cape Town.

Whilst it can’t be guaranteed at this early stage, Clipper Race organisers hope to have both teams on the start line for Race 5 from Fremantle to the Whitsundays.

And here’s a blog account from a crew member onboard Sanya to get another perspective…

Meanwhile, repairs are progressing for Punta del Este

Repairing Punta’s damaged hull on the port quarter.
Prior to the repair.
Limping back into Cape Town with a lot of damage sustained to the helming station.

Alien with extraordinary ability?

It’s been a few months of pensively waiting and biding my time between various stages of a bureaucratic process, in order to obtain the necessary US visa that allows me to arrive and depart the United States of America by various ports in US waters.

It was with great relief therefore, that on Saturday morning on my way to Appledore (Devon) in order to compete in my last gig regatta of the season, I swung by a soulless trading estate on the periphery of Bristol and the M4/M5 coridoor to collect my passport containing the much needed visa. Huge relief on my part and another milestone on the Clipper journey passed, as well as another item on the never diminishing ‘to-do’ list ticked off.

I must say, prior to having to attend a face-to-face interview at the US Embassy in London, I’d had to go through a two-stage online process, which given I’m supposed to be educated, I still often found confusing. The language of sovereign state borders, the control of the movement of people and the categorisation thereof, is truly mind-boggling. Clipper had advised that we should apply for what’s known as a B2 non-immigrant visa, but whilst in the process of applying for one you quickly realise there are several quite different circumstances why a person might need a B2 non-immigrant visa; as varied as being unpaid crew in the Clipper RTW yacht race to traveling to the States as a ‘medical tourist’. Dare I say that there might be occasions where those two intentions of travel to the States might collide, but I hope not on my watch! One category of person I found particularly interesting and half-jokingly reflected whether as race crew we were included, was an ‘alien with extraordinary ability’; certainly some people back onshore might identify us as being so!

Embassies are a curious piece of state apparatus, so although I was standing around for three hours waiting for my ticket number to be called for my interview, I found the whole process and aesthetic of the embassy fascinating. From being made to stand outside with no cover in front of two security guards with very large guns, to being asked to take a sip from my water bottle during the security clearance, to the faceless room we were all processed in, there was much to keep my anthropological gaze focused. I then spotted a woman, Catherine Johnson, from my team who was also waiting to be processed, so we quickly became animated talking about the race events of the last few weeks and comparing our own preparations. It was an odd acknowledgement that the next time I’d see her would be in Seattle as she disembarked after 3 long legs in the race and I step aboard to play my part for the team…

Saturday was clearly a good day despite the torrential rain obliterating my visibility on the drive down to Appledore…rather like helming in big seas actually! Perhaps having my US Visa gave me some special super powers (in addition to being able to travel internationally – unlike so many people in this world) ‘cos later in the day, I and five fellow Bristol women’s vets won our race in the North Coast Gig League hosted by Torridge Gig Club. Whether categorised as a ‘female vet’ gig rower or ‘non-immigrant’ traveler to the United States, both grant me permission to race, be on the water and an incentive to win.

Scoreboard November 23rd 2019 NCGL.
A great way to finish my regatta racing season, as the NCGL is my last Bristol gig appearance until I return from the Clipper race next autumn…

Colliding in Cape Town

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

I realise this nautical adage is referring to sailing competency, but it could equally be applied metaphorically to team development, as my team have not had the best arrival and departure from Cape Town…Perhaps the spirit of Table Mountain had a beef with Punta del Este and wanted to show who’s boss, because we were penalised on our way into Cape Town and now we can’t leave Cape Town as Sanya has spectacularly T-boned our beautiful boat! Now she and the crew are being repaired back at port. All this happened a mere FIVE minutes into race start (!) to add insult to injury. Punta was starboard of Sanya, so technically Sanya was the give way vessel, although I gather a number of circumstances were reported that imply it is beyond simple anti-collision rules being broken…Skippers’ protests and a Race Committee investigation are ongoing, so no ‘official’ outcome yet.

Following a briefing back in port yesterday with both crews, Clipper report that repairs will take 8-10 days. All crew have either decided to fly home for a few days or go off sightseeing South Africa, but have to reconvene in port on 26th November. Sanya are also staying in port to race with Punta del Este when the time comes, as no one wanted a yacht going out into the great Southern Ocean on its own. Sanya also sustained some damage to her bowsprit in the collision so that needs to be repaired too; although it is a lot more of a routine repair. Nonetheless, it’s all still a very fluid situation and despite the intention of having all the fleet racing from Freemantle at the same time, precisely how this will be achieved is yet to be confirmed. I also do not know at this stage if Sanya will receive penalty points or if we will pick up some bonus points in sympathy. The official statement from Clipper on the collision typically does not give much away.

Many of us onshore crew and our team supporters are having withdrawal symptoms from not being able to avidly check-in with the race tracker on a daily basis and seeing the rest of the fleet draw ever further away from our stationary position is soul destroying, but nonetheless, the humour from team mates has been brilliant. David Lee’s message on the Crew, Family and Friends of Team Punta del Este Facebook page made me laugh out loud:

“Any chance you guys could challenge Sanya to a beach volleyball game or something? We are sort of lost without the race tracker, although Alan’s game face videos helped me get through another day of work. ;-)”

Alan, Alan Loy, is another team mate who is only racing in this leg – Leg 3 – managed to also make us all laugh with this:

“…You’ll be pleased to know that Punta del Este is a learning team, fully committed to continuous improvement.”

But despite the humour to keep up morale, it’s very sad to see our beautiful boat in pain; I wince just looking at the photos of the damage and impact of collision.

I was initially in shock when I heard the news yesterday morning and then I spent the rest of the day feeling great empathy and being gutted on their behalf; especially for my team mates who have joined in Cape Town to undertake a very challenging leg across the Southern Ocean and it’s their only leg in the race. One crew member may have to withdraw from the race as he does not have the flexibility to wait for the completion of repairs and then race on to Freemantle. His race could be over before it’s started and I feel for him. Another crew member also can’t continue because he sustained injuries to his shoulder as a result of the collision, so has had to withdraw. This is one of the scenarios I dread. All those months and years emotionally, financially and mentally committed to the race and then, BOOM! It’s over. Just like that.

Until very recently I strongly felt the hardest part in all this was getting myself to the start line, but recently, I am also beginning to see that this is then swiftly followed by the challenge of remaining in the race. Despite the fact that Leg 3 has only just got underway and race start was only 10 weeks ago (it feels like an eternity!) we have already seen one Skipper sacked, another resign and I know of one crew member who has resigned from the race despite being a RTW’er for his team, not to mention those crew from across the fleet who have sustained injury and had to withdraw in port for medical treatment.

Still, it is also true that “every cloud has a silver lining.” For me this is encapsulated by the spirit of Team Punta del Este and those crew currently biding their time in Cape Town who took the initiative to locate a charity for all the fresh food that had been stowed aboard less than 24 hours previously to feed 22 crew 5,000 calories a day, for 28 days at sea (i.e. there’s a LOT of food on board!). So it makes me proud to learn that due to the significant delay in Punta’s departure from Cape Town, the fresh food on board Punta del Este went to a local charity in Cape town, U-turn, who work with those living on the streets (http://homeless.org.za), because the crew donated all their fresh food to the charity yesterday. A big shout out to fellow crew Craig Palmer and Nick Binks for organising this; true Punta del Este spirit!  

Victualing in Cape Town

…So every cloud has a silver lining. We were able to be charitable despite our major setbacks and we could repay the hospitality shown to all the crews whilst in port, by feeding some of those people in Cape Town, for whom the idea and opportunity to race in a round-the-world yacht race is even more of a pipe dream than mine was.

I hope it won’t be long before we can!

Stealth

stealth/stɛlθ/

Yep, my team are racing hard for the finish and using secrecy as a tactic, because Punta del Este have gone into ‘stealth mode’, potentially within 24 hours of their arrival into Cape Town marking the end of Leg 2. Just before they went into stealth mode, they were in 2nd place behind Qingdao….this is going to be a very exciting finish as the fleet jostles East in the South Atlantic.

Not far to go now!

Each team can choose to go into stealth mode for 24 hours, which means their position will be hidden from the other boats in the fleet (and the race-viewing public) until Friday morning (7th November). Clipper have also given the 7th November as an ETA into Cape Town…

For those of you who are curious or indeed, sticklers for detail, here are the lengthier Sailing Instructions from Clipper HQ about using stealth mode in the race:

a. Each yacht shall have the opportunity for up to two 24-hour periods in each nominated race to activate ‘Stealth mode’.

b. Yachts shall not be permitted to use ‘Stealth mode’ in the first 24 hours of each nominated race.

c. Yachts shall not be permitted to use ‘Stealth mode’ within 250nm of the finish line.

d. Each yacht may choose not to use their Stealth period(s), however, any that are not used shall be lost and may not be carried forward to the following races.

e. Where more than one Stealth mode period is permitted in the nominated race, each yacht shall be permitted to take them back to back, which means that their position shall not be available to the fleet (or the public) for a 48-hour period.

f. Should a yacht wish to activate their Stealth mode, the Skipper shall notify the Race Office by email, giving no less than six hours’ notice, and nominating the schedule from which the 24-hour Stealth period shall begin. From that nominated schedule, for a period of 24 hours, no polling data for that yacht shall appear on the public website or be posted to the rest of the Fleet.

For example, a Skipper sends an email to the race office before 0600UTC, nominating the stealth mode to begin at the 1200UTC schedule. The fleet and the public will receive the 1200UTC position for that boat, but no other position information until the 1200UTC schedule on the following day (i.e. 23 hours and 59 minutes).

  1. Request made to activate stealth at 1200UTC schedule 0559 UTC
    >6 hours
  2. Position Broadcast: 1200 UTC
  3. No position broadcast: 1800 UTC
  4. No position broadcast: 0000 UTC
  5. No position broadcast:0600 UTC
  6. Position Broadcast: 1200 UTC

g. Once the Skipper has notified the Race Office of his decision to activate Stealth mode, the yacht shall be deemed to have used that opportunity, i.e. the Skipper cannot cancel his request to use the Stealth mode, even if he contacts the Race Office prior to the requested start of the Stealth mode period.

h. Whilst the yacht is in Stealth mode, the Skipper shall not prevent the automatic tracking units from providing data to the Race Office, and shall continue to send the reporting emails to the Race Office at the appropriate time.

i. The Race Director reserves the right to cease Stealth mode for any vessel before the 24-hour period has expired for reasons of safety. This is not grounds for redress.

j. When a yacht in Stealth mode passes a reporting position or a Scoring Gate, her time of rounding or passing may be made public.

A mountain-biking milestone

This weekend marked the 6 month count down till I set sail from Bell Harbour Marina in Seattle, USA, for the official race start of Leg 7! That means that as I sit and type this post, 6 months from now, I’ll be into my 3rd day aboard Punta del Este. I wonder how I will be feeling and what the weather will have subjected us to? It’s hard to process that I’ll be in the Pacific ocean sailing down the Western seaboard of America, given I am currently in the thick of wrapping up two academic research projects, have just taken on a new allotment plot nearer to my home and, like many other people, am feeling the onset of winter.

Saturday 2nd November was the 6 month milestone to be precise and I realise now that I spent it in a very appropriate way (no conscious planning on my part). I was mountain biking in a beautiful woodland near Warminster with 30 young people in torrential rain and high winds. Like many of the young people, I had never done any mountain biking, so I was just as nervous as them initially. It seems very apt that my 6 month countdown was marked by doing a new outdoors activity that challenged my own confidence on a bike (mountain biking is absolutely nothing like road cycling I now realise!), saw me having to be a positive team player and motivational, despite feeling wet, cold, tired and hungry myself. It was a day we all had to exercise determination, a positive attitude and just get stuck in as a team. I was participating in my role as a programme volunteer with Youth Adventure Trust (YAT); a youth development charity I choose to spend a week’s annual leave and some of my weekends involved with from March – November each year, as the work they do is simply brilliant in my opinion.

YAT are a Wiltshire-based charity who have recently expanded into Somerset and rely heavily on volunteers. YAT provide a 3-year programme built around using the power of the outdoors to transform the lives of vulnerable young people aged 11 – 16. The aim is that over 3 years these young people are inspired to: build resilience, develop confidence and self-esteem, learn valuable life skills and achieve their full potential through an outdoor adventure programme. There’s a camp for each year of the programme – Forest Camp, Mountain Camp and Coastal Camp – as well as day-long activities scattered over weekends throughout the year called Explore Days, Pathway Days and Activity Days. Although I inform YAT at the beginning of each year which weekends and camp dates I can cover, what I love is that until the day I never know who the young people I am going to be spending my time with are, nor what activities I am to do with them. Like many of the young people YAT serve, I have participated in lots of new activities that I would never have done outside of YAT: coasteering in Purbeck, raft-building in Swanage, canyoning in the Black Mountains, mountain biking near Longleat, surfing in Pembrokeshire…

The Youth Adventure Trust’s 3-year youth development programme

Although we are all naturally a  little bit apprehensive when we undertake a new activity, by the end of the day, everyone has enjoyed themselves and feels proud to have pushed themselves to try something new. I am always amazed by those in my group on Coastal Camp who are afraid of water and not confident swimmers, but who quietly push themselves to jump off a rock into a heaving swell by the end of the session. They inspire me every time and this weekend was no exception! One girl in my group was not confident on a bike at all; never mind having to mountain bike uphill in thick muddy tracks! We started the day all getting used to our bikes by cycling around a tennis court, whilst she simply stood in the corner and stared at her bike with a big frown on her face. Somehow the instructor managed to coax her onto her mountain bike, but she was not confident and quickly lagged behind. The fact that there were high winds and torrential rain did not help, but despite this, she plodded on at the back of the group, occasionally pushing her bike. Another young person who was not in his comfort zone either, promptly vomited over his handlebars once we all re-grouped at the top of a track. The next section of the route did nothing to entice either of them into the activity either, as the heavy rain meant that each dip on the forest floor became a good pool of very muddy water that came over our feet and peddles and the tracks had become sticky, thick mud slides, which threatened even the most confident cyclist’s balance and challenged even the strongest thighs to keep turning those peddles in the resistant grip of mud. Mud was everywhere! The young woman by this stage was getting quite fed up and had long since given up being in the saddle. She huffed and puffed and heaved her bike through the mud and occasionally threw her mountain bike down in frustration. But despite this, she and the young lad who had vomited both completed the course and returned to the scout hut covered in mud, having free-wheeled down the hill back into Warminster with the rest of the group. Neither vocally complained, nor gave up, shouted, swore or cried. They stayed with their group and quietly gritted their teeth. They really impressed me. Their grit and resilience was impressive. During those challenging moments at sea aboard Punta del Este when my own energy levels take a nose dive or seasickness threatens to stop me from fulfilling any of my onboard duties, I need to recall these two young people and summon the same grit and determination that they did whilst mountain biking, for they NEVER gave up and stayed with their team.