Clipper Race Report: Rio to Cape Town

It’s been a fascinating first few weeks following every twist and turn of the Clipper Round The World  Race 15/16 and we often try to imagine ourselves onboard to understand what the crews are going through.  We’ve attempted to put our thoughts on paper having spoken to Matt Ogg - our onboard ambassador but writing from a comfy desk in a boatyard just doesn’t do the experience justice.  Instead we waited for the sort of report that got our hearts pounding - the sort you want to keep on reading.  Matt Ogg’s account of Leg 2 from Rio to Cape Town aboard 'Da Nang - Viet Nam' gives exactly that sort of account .  It’s longer than our usual posts but worth every word.
Over to Matt…

Here came the wind. Next came the water. Welcome back to racing.

Race 2, the Stormhoek Race to the Cape of Storms: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Cape Town, South Africa

After the marathon to Rio, it was time for a sprint (relatively speaking). The South Atlantic beckoned, with Cape Town at the end of the rainbow. That is not to say it was going to be easy. It wasn’t.

Longest Night, Part 1

A different beast altogether, leaving Rio behind we paraded by Sugar Loaf Mountain. We didn’t see the next 24 hours coming - a terror-carnage combo. Here came the wind.

We were the first boat to reef, opting to do so before the race start. In the end the race practically started without us as we crossed the line in 11th. However, we had the right sail plan while those ahead were overpowered, heeling over and smashing along through the waves. We rapidly chased down the fleet. Meanwhile they had a fight on their hands further out trying to put in a reef of their own.

Next came the water. In sheets over the bow. As dusk approached the Yankee 3 was required, so we went forward to drop the Yankee 2. It would be nearly two hours before we had completed the manoeuvre.

It’s difficult to describe the situation, but imagine standing on a tumble dryer, on a trampoline, while all your friends throw buckets of cold salty water in your face over and over again, while trying to do something useful… in the dark. And then imagine falling off as a wave sweeps you down the deck! A not so gentle reminder of the power of the sea. Ouch. Picked up and dumped like a rag doll.

Better still when my life jacket went off under a wall of water, so add an inflatable donut round your head and repeat the previous. Terminal saturation as Craig put it. Welcome back to racing - and we were right in it - enjoying our first ever race lead jousting it out at the front of the pack. Good times.

Bonus Point

Our good start and favourable winds placed us for a two-day upwind hike for the scoring gate. Off the beaten track, but having missed out altogether on Race 1, we were keen to seek a bonus. Da Nang - Viet Nam, Derry~Londonderry~Doire and IchorCoal broke off to the south as we gunned for the gate. Derry~Londonderry~Doire stretched ahead, but never too far. IchorCoal exchanged places with us on more than one occasion but we sneaked the line ahead. Qingdao later bumped the teams down but we walked away with a point for our efforts. Time to turn east for Cape Town.

The wind forced us back up somewhat but we escaped the worst of the light winds and only suffered a few minor kite wraps until our starboard spinnaker shackle exploded, putting dear Frankie, our heavyweight  spinnaker in the water… again. Sorry Frankie. We did however clock 27.4 knots, our fastest speed downwind so far. Pretty cool and pretty fast.

We are now well schooled in recovery and we pounced. Back on board, minor damage. We repaired the halyard in the light of day and have since flown kites on it again. My repairs and blood knot have held…(relief)!

Longest Night, Part 2

After steaming along for the best part of two weeks, mostly incident free, the wind came back on the nose for the run-in. Time for a repeat of race start, another bit of symmetry as we smashed into the waves. We were still speeding along. All up on the rail to try to better balance the boat. Reefs in as the wind gusted to 63 knots while averaging 40s. The terrifying force of nature, in numbers. A flavour of what is to come as we head towards the Southern Ocean. Yay - or rather not! (Feel free to try the previous trick to recreate the carnage but after a few days without sleep. It’s way more fun that way. Don’t forget to keep the lights off.)

Photo Finish

The famous Table Mountain wind shadow. From 40 knots to 4 knots just like that it seems. So close, we could see the finish, land ho. Yet so damn far. The coastline was spectacular as the sun rose in tandem, not a cloud in sight.

No less thrilling despite crawling along, IchorCoal stopped dead ahead in a wind hole. After 3,500 miles, we were metres apart. Every light wind trick we learned on Leg 1 (*see Madeira Moment), we exchanged places repeatedly as we tried to beat the home boat into port.

Just 6 minutes between us, but only a hundred metres or so after an ocean. Frankly it’s ridiculous. After sneaking them at the Scoring Gate, we did it again. Sorry not sorry. 6th place was ours - Da Nang -Viet Nam are on the march. Onwards into the Southern Ocean… basically I’m terrified.  We’re going anyway. See you in Albany.

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