What I had failed to include in my last post was the effect that the bad weather had on the crew.  Nearly half of them had gone down with sea sickness in one way or another – some had taken to their bunks for a couple of days whilst some had just missed a few shifts.  The weather really had been atrocious.  Even the most experienced of sailors amongst us were feeling the effects – I saw Wendo on the floor at one stage with a very strange look on her face.  She said she had never felt that bad before.  I felt squiffy when I was upright below decks – it is a case of getting from the prone position in your bunk to upstairs as quickly as possible.  And if you know me I don’t do quick.  Luckily, there was a rubbish bin that is just next to the wet locker so at one point in the midst of putting on my foulies I did have to make use of it to throw up in.  Just in-between the foulie bottoms and top, and felt a lot better afterwards.  After the weather had done its best, Kirsty did an amazing job with the anti bac to make everywhere clean and sweet smelling again.  Well, sweet smelling may be a going a little too far!  And someone had been sick on a sail that was stored along the floor of the saloon, so when we launched the yankee one a day or so later we had a little reminder of the conditions we had gone through!

But got through them we did, and three days into the race we were still in the lead.  Not used to this at all – there must be some sort of malfunction on the position reporting.  Not only do we have to report our position to Clipper every six hours – although I am sure they know exactly where we are as the race viewer that you all have access to is updated at least hourly – we have to give a position report to the organisers of the Sydney-Hobart race.  This is done by means of a twice daily schedule report that comes in over the radio.
All boats report during the same briefing, at a pre determined time.  There are forty minute time penalties for any briefing that is missed, and if you miss four briefings you are disqualified from the race.  This is one radio call that you don’t want to miss.  It also gives you opportunity to know exactly where every single other boat in the race is as well.  The chap on the radio has a very dead pan voice, and always goes through the same procedure.  He states your boat number and name – in our case CV25, Danang Vietnam – and we have to repeat the boat number and name, and then give our longitude and latitude position.  He then repeats the position to make sure he has it written down correctly, which you confirm.  Then goes on to the next boat.
Except with us.  In the same dead pan voice, he adds “Go Danang” on the end.  Another one of Wendo’s friends!!

Having the two media people on board this leg and Olly from the last leg has given another layer to our team.  The media team have huge personalities – well, with Knuckles being one of Wendo’s long time friends I would have expected nothing else.  He is able to hop and jump around the boat with at least three cameras strapped to his body, a go pro attached to his chest or his head, and even climbs the mast to get “that perfect picture”.
I really hope we will be able to get the results of his hard work at some point after the race.  Having not even got my phone out to take but only the odd picture I am having to rely on others that are able to balance without using both hands for my pictorial memories.

Another day comes and we are still in the lead.  We have had a couple of wind holes where we have virtually stopped, and can only hope that the other boats have the same conditions or we will see them sailing past waving as they go.  I am sure they all think they will – the boat in orange is not usually in front of them.  As our windseeker flaps in the small puffs of wind that occasionally propel us up to two knots per hour, we can all feel that the lead is probably slipping away.  The sunset tonight was probably one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  The sky turned glorious colours – it was even calm enough for me to go and get my camera and take some pictures.  Now that doesn’t happen often!!

The nearer we get to Hobart, the more we can’t believe that the orange sperm (that is what our boat looks like on the race tracker) is still at the front of all the other colours.  On the 30th December – the window of arrival was the 29th/30th – we were within striking distance of Hobart.  Or we hoped so.  When I got up for the 6am shift we were about 100 miles from home.  GB was only three miles behind us – the closest that anyone had got to us since the start of the race.  LMax was close on their tail, along with about seven other boats.  We had been very close to another boat called Imagination several times, and we had passed them the previous evening.  We could see another couple of sails ahead of us, and the gleaming white spinnakers of the clipper boats behind us.  We all had a small knot in our stomach thinking that this was where the glory was probably going to end.  We had little wind during the night, but had picked up to about six knots just before we came onto shift.  Then it dropped again.  Just as all our hearts did.  Why is the wind being so cruel to us?

We were sailing down the east coast of Tasmania.  Beautiful.  I remember this when we sailed up it a few weeks ago!  The sun was shining, and it was the most amazing day.  Please, please let it end the most amazing day.  The wind picked up, and we started moving again.  We kept looking behind, thinking that the spinnakers in the distance were getting smaller – or was it just tricks being played on our minds?  No – they were getting smaller.  Because we were so close to land, some of us could get a phone signal, and we could get the race tracker up.  We were pulling away!  After a few hours we could see the bottom of Tasmania, where we needed to hang a right, and we were then just forty miles from victory.  The spinnaker came out, and we were trucking along very nicely.  We had another boat a few miles in front of us with lovely purple sails, so that gave us the heads up when the wind changed and we could prepare in advance for any sail change.  And the following boats were not catching us – what is wrong with them??

And then the dolphins came.  Hundreds of them.  Swimming beside us, underneath us, in front of us – everywhere.  Jumping, playing, small ones, big ones – what a spectacular sight.  As I had phone in hand, I tried to get a video, but pressed the wrong button and didn’t get much.  I had plenty of time to try again.  They were with us for about an hour.  A dolphin escort to victory – hopefully!

After that right, we were heading for home.  Twenty eight miles along the south coast, and then we turn into Storm Bay and head up the River Derwent to the finish line.  We had another boat “Hartbreaker” come up behind us and try to overtake several times – they did eventually, but not a problem, we weren’t really racing them.  The distance between us and GB was now fourteen miles – everyone was holding their breath actually thinking we could now do it.  I didn’t go off shift – how could I?  I needed to see everything that was going on.  We all sat on the rail, silently crossing fingers toes and anything else that could be crossed.  David had also not been off shift all day – he comes from Hobart and if anyone could guide us up the river to victory he could.  Him and Wendo took the helm all day, and you could see in their faces that they now believed we took take the honours here.  Wendo was also up for the first female skipper in the race – a few had retired, and the next nearest one was a good way behind us.  A double whammy for her if we could do this.

As we came inland, David turned into tour guide.  He gave us a running commentary of lighthouses, houses, pieces of rock and anything else that he could think of.  Nervous verbal diarrhoea I think.  Wendo was very quiet – although I don’t think she could get a word in edgeways.  We were then heading straight for David’s house in Blackman’s Bay.  A couple of boats had come out to meet us – David’s brother in law in one, and his wife and some friends, including Paul, in another.  Not quite the flotilla that we had in Sydney, but again it would be only us that was escorted in.
Someone shouted, when we got quite close, that we didn’t have time to call in for a cup of tea!  We then saw the bridge in the distance, that had the finish line just in front.  We all silently prayed that the spinnaker didn’t wrap, the wind didn’t drop and that a water spout didn’t appear to tip us over.  It didn’t!  We passed the finish line in first place, and 22nd overall.  Everyone had a tear in their eye – well I did, and I decided to look steadfastly at the winch I was working on to make sure nobody saw I have no idea about anyone else.  Except Wendo.  I looked at her and saw her wiping her eye.  If anyone deserved this win, she did.  She is one hell of a skipper, and one hell of a person.  She did admit that she had several personal emails from people that were meant to be unbiased wishing her luck – everyone was rooting for her.

Then all hell broke loose.  Everyone hugged and kissed, congratulated one another, and made merry.  Until we heard that Aussie yell saying that we still had a boat to sail, and we would park it in the bar if we didn’t get the sails down!

One downside to this – I made a very rash promise to Marc earlier on in the race.  He had bought a “tattoo” book in Sydney, and had one that he felt suited me down to the ground.  It said “Bad Ass Mo Fo”.  Thanks Marc.  I said the only way I would wear that tattoo is if we came first.  He reminded me of that just as we crossed the finish line.  So, not one to go back on my word, I am now the proud owner of a “Bad Ass” skull on my upper arm!

First place in the Clipper Class in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race – not something I would have imagined in my wildest dreams.  The champagne certainly flowed when we docked.  Paul, Fran and Georgina were at the dock, along with hundreds of people cheering us in.  What a spectacular sight and feeling.  Like winning a gold medal in the Olympics – or the nearest I am ever going to get!

GB came in about an hour or so after us, and then another seven boats in fairly quick succession after that.   And Sir Robin’s boat – nowhere in sight.  Not that I am counting – I think he came about 46th.  I beat Sir Robin in a Yacht Race.  Hee hee!

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