After the euphoria of Hobart – a reality check!

You know that saying, “Things that can go wrong, will go wrong”? Well, that’s sailing!

Today is January 14th and the arrival window for the fleet to arrive in Airlie Beach as set by Clipper was the 13th to the 15th but we are still just off the Gold Coast with some 550 miles to go – and no wind!

Where the run down to Hobart was highly unusual in that we had northerlies which meant we were able to make excellent progress these winds have not changed on the way back up and we are having to tack all the way. The weather Is most unusual and is playing horrible tricks on us.

In addition, we have encountered wind hole after wind hole meaning we have been all but standing still for hour after hour only to see the rest of the fleet move forward away from us.

We receive updated weather forecasts every six hours and the skipper reviews them eagerly trying to work out which route to take to achieve best currents and winds – I do not envy him this role, the judgement of Solomon is required.

One good thing though is that as we move north the temperature is improving and clothing layers are gradually being stripped off. However, life on a fibreglass boat with temperatures in the 30s with no shade or air conditioning is interesting! And not only do we get soaked by the ocean but we sweat profusely and personal hygiene is a real challenge!

Flying a spinnaker is an exact science and few off us have much experience and when they work they are huge fun and progress can be exhilarating. But they have to be handled so carefully otherwise the consequences are severe. A dreaded “wrap” can take several hours to fix – luckily we have not had one of these on this trip nor have we damaged any which can mean hours and hours of work for the sail repairing team. But we have had several fail to launch properly; one failed at the tack and flew up in the air – beautiful to look at but an absolute disaster as it took us a long time to rescue it from the ocean. We have had backstays break, flyaway halyards, sheet wraps and many other less major incidents all of which take time to resolve and for us to get back on course.

We are not making the progress the rest of the fleet are but we are also hot; we will be late getting to the next stop; food supplies are beginning to be rationed; we have had too many routine sail evolution problems. We are getting tetchy.

These are all team issues but we all have our own, personal challenges, for instance: It’s night, pitch black and I am given the helm with the spinnaker flying and am feeling confident that my helming skills learnt so far on the trip will enable me to really help the watch eat into the remaining miles speedily. Suddenly you realise that the weather conditions are not what you are used to – the wind is no more than a gentle breeze and the boat does not respond in the way you want it to. The boat lurches out of control and the watch leader shouts “my helm”, grabs the wheel and gets everything back under control. A slight feeling of letting the team down creeps in. Yet another skill I have to learn but not tonight, I’ll wait for daylight.

I have just written a couple of emails and a new blog and am ready to send them off using the the boat’s WiFi system. Although it is quite a reliable system, it is only turned on at very specific times of the day – usually, wickedly, times to be when you are off watch and asleep. I have planned this transmission carefully and just as I press the relevant buttons I realise I have just missed the slot and it could well be another 24hours before I can practically have another go.

Oh yes, and I have ripped one pair of shorts, broken the zip in the others, smashed a pair of sunglasses and lost my watch.

On the same theme when you Send your emails, you also Receive any incoming emails and you eagerly await news from the outside (I nearly said ‘real’) world. Oh! Nothing there?

One day you are on a high and you are kings of the seas and the next you are knocked back and put back in your place. Such is ocean racing!

12 thoughts on “After the euphoria of Hobart – a reality check!

  1. Hi Robin Well done. Another challenging stretch by the sounds of it. My god I so admire you for what you are doing. Amazing. Say hello to Micky and family for me, and enjoy your time there. Lots of love Pauline xxx

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. I love reading your blog Robbin! The honesty and humour are great. We sit here -Tony doing his tax returns day after day and you spice up our lives with your tales on the open sea. Full of admiration for you . Well done!!!!!!
    Love Sheila xxx

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  3. Robin, you’re one of the most positive people I know so although this is a most humbling experience at present, you know that your own self belief will see you to the next port. As we know, nature is all powerful….or not when you’re in a ‘wind hole’ but not for long…hopefully you’re already making-up for lost time and waving at some of the other clippers as you pass them 😂. Loving your Blog. Stay safe and just think of that ice cold lager and a hot shower! Xx

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  4. Auntie is lost in admiration for you courage, stoicism, endurance – I could go on and on. An achievement never to be surpassed, I am proud to know you. Keep going, and keep safe.

    Sent from my iPad

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  5. Hi Rob -Like you we’re wishing ney praying for your absent wind-That should be blowing you speedily to Airlie Beach- with the rising temps you’re experiencing- the war film ‘Ice cold in Alex’ comes to mind as John Mills who just survived crossing the dessert in an ambulance, arrives at a bar with a long ice cool beer being poured for him by the barman – as he sits there running his finger through the condensation down the glass – gripping it with the other hand slowly lifting it up to his lips as that cool liquid flows freely down his throat – So Rob hold that thought – because in very short time now – you can be re-inact that wonderful scene all for yourself – By God you deserve it- keep safe Mikal.

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  6. Hi Robin,
    I sympathise with your frustrations but am glad to sense that you’re managing to keep your spirits up. Peter’s nephew Paul is heading off tomorrow to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. So much adventure going on around me! Must get planning some of my own…
    My best wishes for some desirable winds.
    Maggie D

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  7. hello Robin,

    We have just been out with JIm and his lot and discussed the fact that we hadn’t heard from you for ages… we even mentioned spinnakers…. hope the rations last…. it makes me feel guilty about what we all ate for Brunch. Keep cheerful and pray for some wind to get you to your next port and a chance to buy some new shorts! The main thing is,,,, stay safe….

    Sally x

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  8. Glad to read of your latest trials and tribulations Robin. Playing golf here at the moment is bad enough – so can understand your frustrations!! Hope the right sort of wind gets up!! Stay safe. xx

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  9. Robin
    Exciting but frustrating I’m sure!
    Similar theme at Harlequins yesterday 0-21 down at one stage then won 33-28 with a try in the last minute. Marcus Smith at the helm….
    Best from Will (now off to Brazil), Richard off to NZ, Mike (back to France shortly) and me (back to work next week!)
    Neil

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  10. I am not sure if I envy you but I admire your spirit. I too am off south but to the Falkland Islands returning mid March, but I shall be able to continue to receive your fascinating reports. Well done Robin, Hugh

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  11. Robin,
    Thanks for the update and details. Are you able to take any photos? Would love a glimpse. Stay safe and focused.

    Xxx

    Richard

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