leaving cape town

I was under no illusions that we would sail serenely out of Cape Town after
what happened in Rio.  We had been told repeatedly that the weather was
due to be awful for the first few days.  Apart from having to wear the
orange Danang shirts for the photos during the Parade of Sails, we were to
put our foul weather gear on immediately.

So, with some trepidation, I got on the boat again.  Believe you me, I did
think about not getting on.  And I wasn’t the only one!  But we all did,
and once on, there is no turning back.  We slipped the lines from the V & A
Waterfront at just before 12.30pm, and we were all accompanied out by
cannon fire.  Groovy!  We had to parade for nearly three hours before the
race start, so that gave us opportunity to practice – and after the last
two race starts we need it!

We crossed the start line, and were actually one of the first boats to the
first mark we had to go around.  We then had to go around another mark
before heading off to Australasia.  At one point we were in the lead, but
as usual we seemed to make our way back to being last again.  The weather
was not bad – but we were all prepared.  LMax and Qingdhao tacked to take a
short cut close to land, and were followed by all except us.  We were
warned of wind holes close to land – but there were none today.  They all
streamed ahead of us.

At around this point, someone saw a whale water blow.  We were going to see
whales coming out of Cape Town – yay!  Not only did we see whales, we were
surrounded by them.  There must have been over one hundred.  They were
everywhere, surrounding the boat and between us and the other clipper
boats.
whales
They gave us a spectacular show – flukes came out of the water as
well as many, many semi breeches.  A baby whale played just off the port
side, and a huge one swam beside us.  For over half an hour we watched in
awe as more and more were swimming around.  That made up for the one
sighting of two whales we had in total over the first two legs.  Mega!

The weather was still pleasant – if not windy enough.  We weren’t exactly
setting the pace to get to Albany in record time.  I was on port watch
again this time, which meant my first watch was the double nightshift.  Oh
what joy!  After race start, we had half an hour off to get dinner, then
straight into watch mode.  The wind did not really pick up substantially,
so it was a serene sail out of Cape Town after all.  Well, it was quite
roly poly, and several people were sea sick.  Some round the worlders too.
And some quite substantially.  Touch wood – I was OK.

At some point towards the end of that first watch, after we had decided to
get closer to land with the others, we seemed to get a bit too close.  It
was dark, but some even darker mountainous shapes came into view.  Surely
we were going to tack?  No.  Then we could see the surf breaking on the
rocks.  Surely we were going to tack now?  No.  Then we could hear the surf
getting closer and closer.  Then we did tack.  I think we were feet away
rather than yards.  Not sure why we waited so long, but no harm done.  That
got the heart rate going!!

I slept soundly, as usual, on the off watch.  Just as we were getting up to
go on again there were shouts from the deck and the engine was switched on.
We had got too close to Garmin, and it looked as if we were going to
collide.  We had the right of way as we were the overtaking boat, but the
skipper was not on deck and the crew didn’t take evasive action.  Wendo
tried to call him on the radio, but there was no answer.  She had to start
the engine to avoid a collision.  A report had to go in, and she said they
would get into trouble. Just glad we didn’t get damaged.

Then the storm came.  It was perfectly quiet when I went to bed, but all
hell broke loose whilst I was asleep (yes, I managed to sleep through the
whole lot)!  Apparently, the weather came in very quickly, and was not
forecast to be as bad as it was.  The wind started gusting at over 100
miles per hour.
cape1

The stay sail sheet snapped, so was flogging wildly.  The
lazy sheet managed to fly uncontrollably.  The clew was ripped off
completely, but they managed to get it in – albeit now completely useless.

stay_sail

It took four people, including Wendo, to put two reefs in the main sail.
During this process, four of the battens on the main sail broke.  The
flogging clew and sheets took big pieces out of the boat.

sail3

Nobody on the boat had ever sailed in winds that bad – we were extremely lucky to get away with only a broken boat and no other casualties.  But this is all hearsay – I was asleep!
baby

We spent most of this morning repairing what we could.  The main sail
battens were replaced, Marc went up the mast and sorted out all the halyards
that had managed to wrap themselves around each other, but the stay sail is
terminal – from us being able to repair it on the boat that is.  Be
prepared to have some points deducted for damage this time!  But, I don’t
think we will be the only one.  And I have a feeling other boats may not
have escaped casualty free.  I hope nothing too bad.

Maybe that will be the worst storm we encounter………….

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