San Francisco

The San Francisco stopover was another short one for us thanks to arriving a bit later than expected (seriously though, this should be expected by now). Personally, the best bit was having my parents and brother there (first time he had seen the boat!). Like I said, it’s all about the people.

Now, being the amazing daughter I am, the first thing I did after the traditional hugs and tears was hand over the biggest, smelliest bag of laundry to my mother. Like a real trooper she actually agreed to do it for me! And spent some quality time the next day in a laundromat. If that’s not true love then I don’t know what is.

In all seriousness though, it was amazing to see them. I got to stay in a lovely hotel, go shopping for bits and pieces I needed, eat some great food, and just have people to talk about life outside sailing. It’s also amazing to arrive with them cheering you on. I managed to swing my day off around when they were in town - a full day of escape from the race. It’s a powerful thing. 

Quite a lot of people had friends and family in town for this stopover, so it was a relatively scattered one in terms of meeting up with people from other boats. DLL hosted a 70s-themed night at a local bar, but that was pretty much it. A lot of us just had quiet nights in with those who had come out to meet us (a bit of post-Pacific recovery never hurt either).

I waved off the family a couple of days before we sailed and was stuck back into boat routine (with a lovely extra night in a hotel though!). That meant a day of corporate sailing around the Alcatraz area. A lot of people hate doing the corporates, but I actually really enjoy the ones with Mission. It’s usually a really good group of guys, focused on their leadership task. Ends up being a pretty casual, fun day of sailing for us crewing. We had some drinks afterwards and went out to dinner with some of the Mission guys. They’re all lovely people and it was a nice time. One managed to pick my brain apart about my thoughts on my leadership abilities, which was helpful but also stressful and probably in general would have been a better experience if I had been sober. It gave me some things to think about though, which is what matters. Like I said before, I really am my toughest critic.

We also had debriefs with Matt during this stopover - something I find really useful. It’s nice to get his perspective on how things are going (though I do always walk in feeling like I’ve just been called into the principal’s office). 

One evening we had a big team dinner at a lovely place whose name escapes me at the moment. These are always great meals with a ton of people (crew, sponsors, friends and family). Mission’s paid for a quite a few - something they don’t have to do but we all certainly appreciate. I can’t say that very many of the other sponsors were anywhere near as good to their crews as Mission was to us - thank you!

We also had a kite photo-shoot one morning with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Got some awesome photos. Then Derek and I had an extensive boat introduction with the new guys. He covered the safety brief (it boils down to fire, flooding and MOB preparedness). I covered watches, mothering, etc. We spent ages with the new guys talking about life on the boat, expectations, and answering any and all questions. It was exhausting, but I think the new guys found it worth it. San Francisco saw quite a lot of crew turnover - the beginning of leg 7!

There’s not much more to say about this stopover. We left with a pretty spectacular parade in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, led by an old fire boat. Racing was busy for the first few hours with tacks and headsail changes (including a rather-rushed hank replacement while parading). Then nothing more than a long run south.

10.15.14 ♥ 1

Post-Pacific Retrospective

I did actually write this after Leg 6. I did write some things during the race, I swear:

Crossing the Pacific was always the big, tough piece of this race. It’s been the milestone to cross before moving into the home stretch - only three months until race finish, only one long(ish) race left. Now the promise, or perhaps threat, or returning to London becomes real. 

The question everyone constantly asks is what’s coming next for me. You hear it all the time. I had a bit of a life coaching session from a very drunken skipper in a bar in Qingdao where his suggestion was to make a plan - regardless of whether you actually stick to it - as a way of dealing with the questions and perhaps the anxiety surrounding the next step. How do you follow something like this? How can anything ever be as real?

I know crew members I’ve been with for a while better than some people I’ve known back home for years. I certainly trust them more and would make serious sacrifices for them. There aren’t very many people I would put myself in serious harm’s way for - and the majority of them are on the boat with me. These are people who quite literally have my back on a regular basis (there’s always someone to grab you lifejacket or calves as you dangle over the side). We’ve been through an emotional roller coaster together.

It sounds a bit silly, but life on the boat feels so much more real than real life. We’ve experienced so much of the world that people never see: the raw power and beauty of nature, the places you’ll struggle to find on a map, the constant theater of human emotion. TV and news from the outside world don’t exist. Days of the week and time don’t really exist - they’re certainly malleable. We move the clock when the sun demands it (It can’t really be 4am if the sun has already broken the horizon).

 How can you ever understand what it’s like to taste an orange after a month at sea spent eating some combination of carb+tinned veg+meat-ish product out of dog bowls. Or what crawling into a fresh, soft bed when you’re used to a cold, wet, smelly one that regularly tries to throw you out. 

Everyone says the same thing - you realize what is actually important to you. And in most cases it’s the same thing - people. The little stuff doesn’t end up mattering in the end. It’s the same thing I’ve always said about traveling for so long - it’s not the places, it’s the people. You want to surround yourself with good people. And be a good person - define it however you like.

10.15.14 ♥ 1
Just to go with the article - the three of us messing around. How many RTWers can you fit on the bowsprit?
All of them.

Funnily enough, Clipper wasn’t too pleased with this photo. Turns out having three crew members playing on the bit of the boat you’re most likely to fall off of is a safety issue.

Just to go with the article - the three of us messing around. How many RTWers can you fit on the bowsprit?

All of them.

Funnily enough, Clipper wasn’t too pleased with this photo. Turns out having three crew members playing on the bit of the boat you’re most likely to fall off of is a safety issue.

10.15.14 ♥ 1

This is an article about Sophie, Claire, and I. We sent in the info towards the end of the Pacific leg, although it wasn’t published until much later (had some issues with the photo)

10.15.14 ♥ 1

Some photos of our arrival into San Francisco.

10.15.14 ♥ 1

The End of the Pacific

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been stuck in the Pacific for ages. There’s a good reason for that - it really was the transformational trip of the race. I feel like I’ve been writing about it forever - and I always get stuck. I’ve been stuck for so long, trying to write about a couple of incidents that brought me to the lowest point I’ve ever been. 

And you know what? You’re not going to get to read about them. I like writing, I like talking about my experience. But those memories are horrible and they upset me, still. I don’t want them written down to keep upsetting me. I am my own worst critic and I know my version of events isn’t objective. It sure isn’t productive for me to keep re-hashing my errors and faults. It’s done. It’s in the past. So I’ve erased what was going to be my last Pacific entry. 

Here is my new version. 

Following the drama of the last entry was more drama amongst my watch. Safe to say it was a bit of a nightmare and a pretty miserable time (at least for me). We did get past most of the issues after some extensive discussions (both as a group and as one-on-ones with me). Some things hit to hard to ever recover from though. People can never take back things that were said. We did get back to a certain level of efficient sailing though. 

In the end, the miles kept falling away and we put the worst of the weather behind us. There was a certain level of joy as we marked off milestones. First the International Date Line. 000. And it’s yesterday again! I might have been entirely selfish and hogged the wheel for a solid hour and a half so that I’d have the pleasure of driving across. I couldn’t feel either my hands or my feet afterward and could barely walk. Serves me right. (But seriously no regrets - there’s got to be some perks to being watchleader). 

After that we marked off various mileage milestones. I remember the joy when we hit 2000 miles to go. Until we realised, actually 2000 miles is a long way. It just doesn’t really register when you end up doing 6688 for the whole trip (our longest leg by far in mileage). 1000 miles was also exciting, but we hadn’t built it up in quite the same way (turns out you really do need something to look forward to when you’re in the middle of nowhere for an indefinite amount of time).

One of the most joyous occasions though was when we finally turned south for good. If you remember, we’d cruised as far north as possible in hopes of adopting a polar bear and re-enacting various scenes from Titanic. Kidding. But we had spent what felt like an eternity colder than, at the bare minimum, the rest of the fleet. Colder than I’d ever like to be again. Heading south was the moment when we could say things were going to get better. San Francisco would be in our future! It was all downhill from here.

Naturally, several days from the finish we hit a wind hole. Because seriously. Do we even know how to finish a race without one? It was both frustrating and absolutely lovely. Sunshine, blue skies, the ability to move around because you haven’t got on enough layers to give the Michelin Man a run for his money. But also, seriously so close to San Fran and not moving anymore.

Anyway, of course we made it. The day of our arrival was amazing sailing - pushing it with the kite up, wind just aft of the beam. My absolute favorite kind of driving (and yeah, I might’ve hogged the wheel a bit). Bits of shoreline appearing. Then houses. And a city. And finally the bridge! You can’t underestimate the power of seeing a landmark like that after such a trip. 

We had to gybe a couple of times to actually get under the bridge, but did finish up. It was amazing. There’s video of us all screaming and cheering as we head underneath. These are the moments to celebrate! We’d beaten the Pacific (okay, maybe it beat us a bit as well). 

Eventually sails came down and we started up the engine to motor into the harbour. Minor engine issue meant we set the boat on fire. Oops. It was very, very quickly put out, hatches opened to let the smoke out. The biggest issue was that a jubilee clip had popped off the water intake hose which meant we were very quickly filling the boat with water as the engine ran. Ended up with a human chain (involving most of the crew) bailing out the engine room as fast as possible to stop us sinking so quickly. I guess you could call it a bit of a dramatic finish.

The important thing was that we finally got into port and through immigration. And then I got to see my family. It was the first stopover they’d come to.

10.15.14 ♥ 1

Some footage from that bad night. You can see how few people are on deck - we were on 30min rotations to prevent cold shock. Possibly me driving? You can’t really tell in the outfit haha.

10.01.14 ♥ 1

I love this video - it sums up so much of what I feel about ocean racing. So excited for the Volvo race to start!

09.14.14 ♥ 0

It’s not all doom-and-gloom in the North Pacific. We spent plenty of time messing around: groping each other while making bread, taking selfies, inflating drysuits, swinging from the rigging, eating cake.

08.19.14 ♥ 0

Footage of the Derry knockdown in the Southern Ocean.

08.18.14 ♥ 1