The 48 hours that it took us to get from race finish to arrival into Danang seemed to take two weeks. The weather turned cold and wet and the sea decided to toss the boat around a little. As we were not officially racing any more, we didn’t need to sit on the high side and everything was a little more relaxed. Except for tempers, which were becoming just a tad frayed. This has certainly been a long leg, not helped by sailing over 2,000 miles more than the advertised quota.
We had a few dolphins join us one evening, along with a couple of fish specimen that actually joined us on deck. We had a huge squid on the bow one morning, which had obviously made its way there during the night. It had squirted squid ink all over one of the ropes, and the ink had somehow got a third of the way up one of the sails. It must have been a big wave that smashed it all the way up there! We also had another flying fish join us. It came via Matt’s left ear, and after flapping about for a couple of minutes trying to evade capture, it managed to make its way into the winch mechanism – again. Rather than dismantle the whole thing as we did before, we got a jug of water and tried to flush it out. Someone got on the winch, and quipped that we were “Grinding Nemo”. Quite funny at the time. But we did manage to return him safely to his family!
The weather really did turn against us on the way in. We were all back to wearing full foulies, and were quite cold even with those on. Wendo gave half the watch the night off on each of the two nights, so that we could all have a full night’s sleep before arrival. Which in theory sounds great, but there isn’t enough bunks for us all to sleep in. We had people on the floor and in the sail locker, and in bunks which have only been used for storage up until now. I actually watched a film on my night off – Mr & Mrs Smith. Seen it before, but it was easy watching. Spookily enough, it starred Angelina Jolie, and was the film that Paul took the picture of Val from in the “You’ve Been Danangoed” trailer.
The weather was completely against us in the end. We had been given a time of 2pm that we would be able to get into the marina in Danang, but had to be in the bay by 10.30am for photos. The wind changed direction, which meant that we weren’t able to sail and or motor in totally the right direction. We didn’t make the 10.30am photo call. We sailed when the wind was allowing us to travel faster than having the motor on, or turned on the motor when that was the fastest option. Things are beginning to break again – the engine room fan has a terminal problem, which means when the engine is turned on it gets really, really hot. The generator stopped working, but that was got going again. The weather was still pretty awful. Not the blue skies that I envisaged. It looked right up until the last minute that we would have to go in with our foulies on instead of our orange Danang shirts. A few miles out we were met by a pilot boat, and boarded by a pilot. That is a first!
This is the first race that has gone into Danang, and the marina is a mile or two up the Han River. There is a bridge we have to go under, and up until now our mast would not fit. So, they dredged a narrow strip out of the river to allow us to pass under the bridge. As it is so narrow, they have insisted on one of their pilots being on board. All of the boats went under in the order that they finished, starting at 9am. We finished sixth, so our slot was 2pm. We were met and boarded by the pilot, and was also given a large black bin bag full of Vietnamese conical hats and paper flags. An came to life. I think he is looking forward to going home! Someone did, very cruelly, suggest that we tell him that the City of Danang wanted to surprise him and pay for him to do the rest of the race. And then film the reaction on his face. Don’t think that happened! He was totally animated, and had a constant smile from ear to ear.
Just before we went under the bridge, we sent Matt up to the top of the mast with a camera. From below, it really did look touch and go as to whether we were going to fit – and if Matt was going to end up with a massive headache. No problem though – although he wasn’t far off giving the spectators on the bridge a high five.
It wasn’t far after that when, even though we were sixth boat in, took pride of place at the head of the fleet. There were spectators lining the route, and cheering and clapping. Amazing. Wendo commented that she had put the boat in neutral to go extra slow to lap it all up. It was pretty special!
Once we had docked, we had a few minutes to get customs clearance and have a beer or two. After a few dignitaries came on board for a photo shoot, we were escorted off and lined up. There were drummers drumming, and so many photographers it was like paparazzi welcoming celebrities. We were marched through throngs of people up to a stage, where we were all presented with a beautiful lei of orchids.
We were officially welcomed, with bouncers having to hold back all the photographers. Madness! We were then all presented with a gift (haven’t opened it yet, so not sure what it is) and had the team photographs taken.
We then were shown to tables full of Vietnamese food. At this point, friends and family were allowed in. Chewie was there, as was Sandra from Leg Four and Emilia from Leg One and Two. Kirsty’s mum was there to meet her – a complete, but most welcome, surprise. We really do have a team that bonds together well – can’t stop them from coming back!
That was one welcome that will not be repeated. Our home port, and even though we didn’t have a podium finish, we were treated as champions. I think this is going to be a rather busy stopover!