SPORT - Cape Breton Island takes line honours in Race 7
Wednesday, March 31: Cape Breton Island is safely tied up in San Francisco Marina after claiming its second line honours of the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race campaign. The Canadian yacht, with the eagle emblazoned on the hull passed under the Golden Gate Bridge with their spinnaker flying and an escort tug spraying jets of water to welcome them at the end of their 5600nm journey across the Pacific Ocean from Qingdao, China.
Cape Breton Island skipper Jan Ridd, who hails from Dorset in the UK, has done an exemplary job in leading his team of non-professional sailors, representing all walks of life, across the largest ocean on the planet.
"I'm relieved to be here as it was a long and hard race," says Ridd. "Coming into San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge was an amazing arrival and we're all feeling extremely happy right now.
"The hardest part of the race for me personally wasn't the Pacific crossing but sailing through the Yellow Sea. The water was relatively shallow, there was lots of shipping and some crazy fishermen! Once we'd past Japan we had our first storm, which tested the crew and gave them a taste of what was to come.
"After a couple of days respite a massive depression formed behind us. Fortunately we were far enough ahead to outrun the worst of it, although some of the other teams weren't so lucky and consequently suffered a fair amount of damage.
"We still had three or four days of very heavy weather with winds reaching 60 to 70kts, but luckily managed to come out the other side with very little damage. Most of the crew felt confident in the boat and the way they were sailing and didn't feel scared, even though they were regularly getting knocked over by waves crashing across the decks every 10 minutes.
"The last couple of days have provided some fantastic sailing conditions and we've had a great run into San Francisco," Ridd said.
Cape Breton Island’s crew will have a short wait for the next teams to arrive, but Qingdao and Jamaica Lightning Bolt are enjoying some reasonably fast downwind conditions. There's an interesting contest between the two brewing in the final stages of their race as they close in on the finish line.
The crews are looking forward to joining Cape Breton Island's crew in San Francisco although, as Jamaica Lightning Bolt's skipper Pete Stirling explains, emotions on board are mixed as the last 500nm tick down. "On the one side there's elation at the thought that this very tough marathon leg of the race will soon be over,” he says.
“Sympathy for our fellow competitors and friends on other boats who we know are several days, or even weeks behind us. Sadness for those leggers who, despite it all, secretly wish they were continuing on after San Francisco. Crew keep their thoughts to themselves, but there are very few secrets within the confines of a Clipper 68-foot racing yacht.
"The crews of Spirit of Australia and Hull & Humber have worked hard today, transferring over one tonne of diesel to California," reports Hull & Humber skipper Brendan Hall.
"The process is a slow and laborious one. First we fill our 10 20-litre plastic fuel containers with diesel. This involves disassembling our engine box, disconnecting hoses, fuel pumps, and rigging up a fuel nozzle using a piece of garden hose pipe.
"Once the 10 canisters are full, we heave them up on deck and tie them together in a long line with one of our sheets. We tie a fender to one end of the line, so it is easy to pick up. We double-seal all the containers so there is no chance of any diesel spilling into the ocean.
"Now comes the tricky bit. With myself and Pete steering the boats in synchronisation as we surf down some fairly large waves, we heave the line of containers into the sea. Pete then manoeuvres California around so his crew can pick the fender up with their boathook. Once they have this, they can heave the 200 kilos worth of fuel on board and begin the messy task of pouring it into their diesel tanks in a rolling sea.
"Once they're done, they take the empty containers, tie them up again and throw them overboard for us to pick up in the same way, and the process starts again. We have nearly filled California to the brim with diesel today, meaning she should be able to motor the rest of the passage to San Francisco if needed," Hall said.
The crew of Spirit of Australia has sent back a video of the transfer so you can see for yourself the skills of the crews. Watch it online at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/index.php/Follow/VideoGallery
All of the crews have proved their extremely high levels of seamanship on this, the longest of the 14 individual races of the Clipper 09-10 Race. Uniquely Singapore's skipper Jim Dobie has been reflecting on what they have learned during the last 30 days of racing. "Looking back at the race it would be fair to say that the North Pacific has been an angry and sometimes violent ocean,” he said.
“It never seems to be quiet and even when you
think you are in the relative safety of a high-pressure system it still surprises. I say this as we see a cold front move through, dropping the barometer, and an increase in the wind. What this ocean has done has fine tuned our awareness and the need for calling sail changes early.
"It was during a sail change today that our ever cheerful and always up on the bow in the thick of things Simon Hope got rather unfortunate and received a cut from a hank to his eyebrow. Not too severe, but enough to send a trickle of blood down his face. He was alright and soon had Yee Onn and Jiang Lei, our medical students, debating about stitches, while Rachel, our coolheaded medic, took one look, sighed, put a steri strip on, patted his bum and sent him to bed. All-in-all I think Simon would quite enjoy a little scar just for the stories he can tell when driving his black cab in London!
"Anyway, once this front goes through we should see a return to pleasant downwind sailing and fast speeds, hopefully, not seeing the wind drop too dramatically.
"Last but not least it's my wife's birthday today: Happy birthday hon, hope you had a good one, sorry I can't be there to celebrate but will make it up to you in San Fran - all my love," Dobie said.
Team Finland continues to make good progress and is approximately 800nm northwest of the Midway Islands.
Positions At 0900 UTC, Wednesday, March 31
1. Cape Breton Island
FINISHED: 1425 UTC, Tuesday, March 30
3. Jamaica Lightning Bolt
4. Uniquely Singapore
5. Hull & Humber
7. Spirit of Australia
8. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
9. Team Finland
(DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader)
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com
Become a fan of the Clipper Race on Facebook: www.facebook.com/clipperroundtheworld
Photo: Cape Breton Island gets the water treatment from an escort tug as it passes under the Golden Gate Bridge, arriving in first place in San Francisco, California at the end of Race 7 from Qingdao, China.