By Brian Hancock
Let’s talk pirates for a second time in two days. I did have an encounter with pirates once, but on the west coast of Africa, not the east. It was shocking and horrifying and I wrote a story about in my book Twisted Tales. But enough about me.
Twenty plus years ago I was working as part of the management team of the ’01/02 Around Alone race, a singled-handed race around the world (formerly known as the BOC – ask Don about that). There was a beautiful 28-year old woman racing on a boat named Pindar. Now it’s hard to know how to write these things these days but Emma Richards was and still is a beautiful woman. I just don’t want to get into any trouble if I don’t mention how handsome the men were, and they were, in a manly kind of way. I think that I might have lost my point. Oh yes, I remember now. Emma was sailing close to the coast of Africa when she had her own pirate incident. Or maybe, it was a lonely, tired old fisherman that might have got into the rum a bit early, we will never know.
Now, I know that this is the Ocean Globe Race, the retro Whitbread if you will, is a little different from the Around Alone, but I will join the dots and make the connection. Emma met, fell in love, and married Mike Sanderson, the youngest skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race, the VOR being what a fully sponsored Whitbread Race looked like in 2005. Again I digress – I told you that I have ADHD.
Emma noticed something on her radar, a blip which can quite often happen. The radar can pick up a wave that seemed to be bigger than other waves. But the blip stayed just behind her at the exact same distance. Now let me set the scene. Emma was alone, on a really powerful yacht, sailing the greasy still waters off Senegal, and there was not a breath of air. The pirate/fisherman, call him what you want, probably had no idea that he was following a very vulnerable target and that target was scared to death. She called her shore manager, Robin Gray, who tried to reassure her that it was probably nothing, but what would you be thinking if you were in Emma’s shoes? I most certainly know what I would be thinking; and doing…
The blip on the radar stayed just where it was. Emma prepared herself and had her flares ready and ready to use if the blip got closer and if anyone tried to board her boat. Then through the VHF radio she heard a voice, a voice singing in what might have been Portuguese or Spanish. It sounded like someone who had fallen out of love (painfully) and had managed to polish off a full fifth of rum; on his own. There was still no wind. Emma thought of turning on the engine but an Open 60 can do maybe five knots if there was a slight tailwind, but there was no wind and even if she had motored a drunk pirate/fisherman with an outboard could easily have overtaken her. For all she knew there could have been 10 pirates on board.
The lucky part of this story is that whoever it was in the boat trailing her must have fallen asleep and there was a slight breeze coming off the coast of Africa, and a light displacement, carbon fibre Open 60 only needs a slight breeze to get the hell out of there and that’s just what she did. Emma still has no idea if it was a pirate, or not.
Back to the OGR. I am interested to see that the crew on Maiden have been fending off Translated 9 and they are practically side by side. Think about it. On a race leg that will span six weeks or so, well except for the Fun-O-Meter crowd on Godspeed, sailing just a couple of miles apart is less than most of us drive to the grocery store to take advantage of the weekly specials.
There is a lot more going on the the middle of the fleet but I will save it for tomorrow. I looked at my weekly circular and saw that Whole Foods had a special on flying fish so I am off. Hancock out.