An Affair to Remember is a 1957 film starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. What’s that got to do with racing from Bermuda to New York? Well, when you’re stuck in a wind hole going nowhere and you’ve exhausted your attempts to remember songs about New York, you turn to film. An Affair to Remember was set, very largely, in New York. As was Gangs of New York, West Side Story, Rear Window, Taxi Driver, Ghostbusters, Manhattan, Saturday Night Fever, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Funny Girl, Wall Street and The Odd Couple – just to name a few more. It was a BIG wind hole!
Race 13 will probably not be my favourite of Clipper so far, it is certainly NOT my favourite result. It started badly with the tragic news of the unexpected death of my brother-in-law (from my first marriage) just as I was leaving to join the boat. It included my wedding anniversary during which Ruth informed me she was not going to be able to make it out to New York after all, and concluded with us being the last boat across the finishing line. I wont dwell on the first two aspects but I will write about the race, and the result. With everything that occurred I needed no reminding that this was Race THIRTEEN starting from one corner of the BERMUDA TRIANGLE!
We were the 9th yacht to slip lines and there was a stiff and lively breeze blowing us on to the jetty and we had ”holding-off” lines rigged to mooring buoys in the harbour. With the assistance of a Rhib to pull our bow off the jetty we got away in a timely manner but within a minute of clearing the berth we suffered a serious overheating problem and had to shut down the engine. Less than 150 feet off the jetty and in danger of being set down by the wind across Hamilton harbour and hitting at least one multi million £ racing yacht and drifting amongst the Clipper Fleet executing the Parade of Sail, we ended up with our kedge anchor dropped from the stern and, assisted by another Rhib, our bow attached to a mooring buoy. And there we waited. The Parade of Sail came …… and went …… and the other Clipper yachts left the Harbour for the Great Sound. Clipper engineers came out to us, rectified the problem, and we waited for the engine to cool down so we could play catch up. Catch up would be the theme to our race.
We eventually caught up with the other yachts as they completed their demonstration sail and their man overboard exercises in the Great Sound ……….. only for our engine to overheat again. At least by now we also had sails up and we were able to tack across the Sound and await the return of the engine experts (and in this case a jubilee clip of a size we were not carrying) and the engine to cool again. Meanwhile the other yachts proceeded to the start line. Time was now against us. It was going to be touch and go whether we would get to the start line in time. Worse, if we couldn’t clear the channel out of Bermuda by 1900, we would have to return alongside and sail 24 hours late. As it turned out we did clear the channel, did complete our compulsory man overboard exercises and almost (almost) made it to race start. But not quite.
Time to play catch up. And with the benefit of the clarity of 20:20 vision that hindsight always gives you, I cant help but wonder whether a catch-up mentality convinced us all that we had to ”do something different” when it came to routing, rather than trust our sailing and our speed to ”reel the other boats in.” We were also aware that there were periods of light winds and wind hole conditions (next to no wind) in the forecast, very likely to affect all boats at some time or another. We did overtake Punta del Este on the first night, and did the same to Imagine Your Korea the following morning. But ….. when the other boats tacked north that day, we chose not to, seeking stronger winds (and less punishing light wind conditions) to the west. To cut a long story short this was (hindsight time again) a mistake. And remember our ”troublesome” engine? Throughout the race we had a salt-water cooling leak into the engine bilge. Easy to pump out (manually and automatically) when on an even keel, but requiring buckets, scoops and sponges when not. We were emptying the engine bilges every 2 hours and removing 4 to 5 buckets a time.
When we did eventually hit light winds and a wind hole we managed to find the Mother of all wind holes! In one 6 hour period between position updates we managed an average speed of just 0.5 knots. 3 miles in 6 hours. And not even 3 miles in the right direction. To make matters worse, those boats who had tacked north (basically everybody but us!) made better progress and when the wind “filled-in”, it filled in for them first. In very short order we were 150 miles behind the lead boats and 50-60 miles behind GoToBermuda and Dare to Lead at the back of the pack. In a long ocean crossing that’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds, but in a relativel short hop like Bermuda to New York it meant 11th place became a nailed-on certainty and the only real race left to us was crossing the finish before midnight on the 24th in order to get alongside on the 25th in time for a prize giving party the following evening. This would require a 52 mile motor – you remember our ENGINE at the start of this piece!!!
Ironically, some of the sailing, when we were actually sailing, was fabulous. It was warm, humid and at times the wind was strong enough to tip us over at an angle and put the low-side rail in the water. It was pretty much shorts and t shirt sailing throughout but occasionally chilly over night. We flew all three Spinnaker sails, all three Yankee headsails, the Staysail and the Wind-seeker, the latter sail for much longer than any of us wanted. The new joiners to the team (Ricky, Tom, Daniel and Greg) were all new to the Clipper 70 but settled in well. We enjoyed some spectacular star-lit and moon-lit nights and some glorious sunrises.
And the entry into New York on the morning of 25th June under a cloudless sky was stunning. Despite the result I consider myself extremely fortunate to have sailed into 3 iconic harbour/skylines during Clipper so far – Cape Town, Seattle and now New York.
Derry-Londonderry up next and we are very very keen to put this result behind us.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
For UNICEF UK see:
We’re back at sea first thing on Wednesday.
One thought on “147. An Affair To Remember …. A Result (but not a Race) to forget.”
Great summary Keith. Sounds like a real challenge. Hope skipper kept his cool!