By Brian Hancock
Right now it’s a bit of a magic carpet ride. That is if you like getting slapped in the face by cold Southern Ocean water. On the bright side of things you are not getting whacked in the face by a flying fish. They (the flying fish) are smart enough to stay in the tropics.
Most of the fleet are now into the 50s (The Screaming 50s). They are going to see some hairy days ahead (not hairy like my uncle) but hairy enough. Things can go wrong at a moment’s notice, and sometimes without notice. Like your old boss that just showed up at your cubicle with a dark look on his face. But I digress.
There is some breeze out there (luckily). It’s a yacht race after all and they need wind. The fleet are pretty much sailing down the rhumb line, no not the other rum, but we are getting close to the weekend so maybe just a tot like they gave old British sailors of old just before going into battle. They are just digging in and getting the job done, and good on them.
I will come back to my Canadian Mountie friend in a few, but let’s first talk about life on board. The crews are hot-bunking. Sounds like something you would do in college, but anyway. The crews share bunks and they share sleeping bags, except maybe on Translated 9 where they have turned down sheets with a mint chocolate under the pillow and biscotti with a steaming cup of hot coffee waiting when they get ready for their watch.
In my day it was a smelly old rat bag that I shared with a smelly old (no names mentioned) crewmate and we used the same sleeping bag for six weeks. He would get out of it to go on watch and I would get into it when I came off watch. And vice-versa. The real fun part was when it got really cold, the bottom of the sleeping bag would start to freeze so I was happy to share it with (no names mentioned but his nickname was Filthy Phil). Oops – sorry, I think that I just mentioned it, but he had warm feet and I had cold feet so the deal worked just great; for me at least.
So back to my mate Derek Hatfield (RIP). He made it around the Diego Ramírez Islands only to find that Cape Horn was still ahead of him. He was totally knackered (technical term) when the wind really started to blow. Now Derek (was) a very calm guy (I miss him). But I can only imagine his horror as he got closer to that most famous of all capes. He might have said something like, “so that’s Cape Horn eh” (he was a Canadian Mountie after all). And that would have been when he was knocked sideways and totally capsized. Eh. True story.
The boat went upside down. Derek told me later that he heard his carbon fibre mast explode; underwater. Luckily (if you can call it that) he was clipped on. The mast exploded and somehow (and I am an atheist but sometimes you have to wonder) the boat came upright and it flipped him back into the cockpit. Now earlier, I forgot to mention this, his fusebox had actually caught on fire. By the time he flopped (technical term) the fire was out but he was there right off Cape Horn with no mast and no electricity. He rigged a jury mast and made it safely to land. One of the greatest people in our sport, Andrew Pindar, who at the time was sponsoring the great Emma Richards in the same race, bought him a new mast and he finished the race.
I tell these stories (anecdotes) because I want people/sailors from around the world to understand the camaraderie and friendship that becomes a bond between sailors that are racing a small sailboat around the world. I miss Derek; fu*k cancer.
But back to the matter at hand. Oh, there is no matter after that story. I cleaned the house, finished off my birthday Bloody Mary and now I am looking out of my window at 20 turkeys that come to my door for breakfast every morning, but I can hardly see them. I still have tears running down my cheeks.
Happy weekend to all the OGR sailors.