Clipper RTW – Leg 4: The Bass Strait x 3

The next month would see us sail from Albany to Brisbane, while taking in a Sydney Hobart race, and transiting the Bass Strait three times. New Skip Burkes on board, and the biggest change around of crew thus far meant there was lots of learning to be done, from both new and old crew.  Still Southern Ocean sailing for a large part of it meant more cold and heavy weather was in abundance.

Although the ‘big’ Southern Ocean crossing was behind us, our course round the bottom of Tasmania in fact took us further South than we had been so far, which meant it was still amongst the coldest of sailing experienced.

Watch change could be a humorous affair, it often being hard to determine who was actually behind the many layers of clothing. Our resident Australians were quite excellent at the ‘layering’ system, as they are well accustomed to protecting themselves from the sun. In this context it was just taken to a new extreme with thermal qualities.

The initial week out of Albany was pretty unpleasant weather, and this compounded the difficulty in adjusting that newer crew had. Sea sickness was rife, and I know my watch had a fairly tough time for the first few watches, and during one particularly challenging head sail change I was vomited on by no less than two of them. Nothing like a bit of puke to break down social barriers! I wasn’t feeling too clever myself having started a night watch by reassembling the crash bulkhead that had been left undone. Trying to locate and tighten 24 small M6 wing-nuts in a storm getting bounced around the sail locker is by no means an enjoyable experience, and I was glad of the opportunity to be bounced around the deck for the rest of the evening!

Below is a picture of our one and only Courtney Powys who came on board in Albany. Courtney started Clipper looking fairly respectable and clean shaven. This wasn’t to the be the case many months later. His appearance aside though, I think Courtney is best compared to Andrex toilet paper; “Soft, Strong and very very Long”. Very handy for reaching high up things, and well worth the fact he bumped his head all the time.

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It was on this leg that I finally honed by bread making skills, and developed my focaccia to a regularly edible level. Below are Angela and I prepping some dinner on the run into Sydney. Despite my initial reluctance, wearing a Santa apron definitely made me a better cook.

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Leg 4 - Albany to Sydney

Sydney saw us get the boats turned around and a bit prep for the next few months done.

This included a few repairs up top of the rig, and during one session I bumped into Greg on the next boat over, just hanging out.

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The Sydney Hobart race was an eventful few days. The race start involved making out way out of a tightly packed Sydney Harbour, and eventually making the turn South towards Tasmania.

Things started well, with good current and wind angles allowing fast spinnaker runs well into the second day. As we approached the Bass Strait we peeled spinnakers as we neared one of the Clipper 68s, and sailed past them. While the end result of this manoeuvre ended well, it did involve a crash gybe with two spinnakers up, and the skipper hanging onto the boom while the boat broached as it was carried out, nearly ending in a sticky situation and skipper OB.

Soon after this the wind began to build considerably, and we entered into an eventful night in the Bass Strait. Rough seas and consistent high winds saw us continue with a deep reefed main and storm headsail, in a busy night of tricky helming and labour intensive foredeck work. The aforementioned storm jib didn’t go up with ease either, and during its hoist one of the flogging sheets managed to lay me out on the deck, and I came around to discover that my beloved head torch was consigned to the depths of the Southern Ocean, but to offset this disappointment, I had managed to retain all my teeth, which was surprising considering I had taken a full hit by a 18mm sheet violently flogging in 60kts of wind.

The night survived, and the drama continued with all of our reefing lines parting company from the mainsail. A request to rerun the lines in situ was denied due to adverse weather, and the main was taken down for the work to be done. A combination of this and the previous nights weather had ruined our position within the fleet, and we made it into Hobart as one of the later finishers.

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Leg 4 - Sydney to Hobart

A brilliant NYE complete, we departed Hobart and set sail for Brisbane. However, a problem our Port rudder bearings meant we would take on not insignificant amounts of water when on at Starboard tack. This meant we stayed on a Port tack for most of the trip, following the wind as it shifted round. Being largely unable to tack makes for quite inefficient sailing, and a very indirect route.

One particularly humorous occurrence on the sail the Brisbane took place while hoisting the storm jib in many knots of wind, a bit later than probably wise as I had been a tad overenthusiastic at holding on to the Yankee 3… The yankee wrestled down, the storm jib was rigged, and the hoisted. At this point the small orange sail should rise to about 1/4 of the way up the forestay, and then fly from there. Hoist begun, we all watching in stunned amazement as the small orange scrap of canvas launched itself off the deck, and continued unimpeded for the full 90ft of the forestay to the top of the mast, where it looked very small indeed. However, with some quick thinking, and even quicker rope work, the sail was back on deck, reattached, and re-hoisted within minutes, with much less drama than first attempt.

On our way back up to Brisbane we encountered the most spectacular electrical storm any of us had ever seen. Its peak lasted for over 30 minutes, and the lightening was so bright it illuminated everything for miles as if it were daytime.

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Once arrived, our boat was lifted in order to effect repairs to the damaged rudder bearings. This was the first time I had seen the yacht out of the water, so was a nice opportunity to have a proper look around underneath.

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It was also the perfect time for me to carry out one of my favourite pastimes; organising trays of tools and materials. Nothing more fulfilling than turning chaos into well organised system.

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My engineers mate – Monkey. Bloody handy with a drill, and surprisingly good company.

Another one complete, half way through the legs now.

Leg 4 - Hobart to Brisbane

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