Clipper RTW – Leg 8: Across the pond, around the top

The final stretch now ahead of us, we started out of New York in the company of people even crazier than us. As we motored out of the main channel we passed two Brits setting out on their attempt to row from NY back the UK. It was an impressive sight to see them in such a small boat as they rowed out into the Atlantic.

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Good wind and sailing was had throughout our race to Derry, Northern Island. We trucked on under spinnaker for the majority of the crossing, with dolphins often keeping us company. The most unexpected company we had was from ice. We received weather updates warning us of the possibility of ice, but we were sailing a much further south than ice should have been, and the water temperature was between 10-20ºC. However, Courtney was at the helm when he called out to say he’d spotted something in the water ahead. As I moved forward to keep a lookout, I watched as a vehicle size ‘growler’ floated down our port side, only metres from the hull. A sobering moment, not only in regard to our near-miss, but also to the fact that ice is now seen so far south into an ocean where it has rarely historically been.

Good racing throughout saw us take 2nd place into Derry, which was a great result for all the team. Smiles were once again glimpsed on faces for the first time in a while, and we set off to sail around the Scottish coastline to Holland.

Sailing past the Western Scottish isles was some of the most picturesque sailing of the whole year. At the higher latitudes in summer it was barely getting dark by 1am, and light again by 4am, so the views could be appreciated even on the ‘night’ watch. Tiny cottages perched on cliff edges with nothing for miles around gave a small insight into the remote living that must be experienced for the locals. Not for everyone I’m sure, but very special for those that love it.

We made it though the Pentland Firth on a fair tide, which was perfect timing, especially as the charts showed that the tides could run at over 6kts in some areas, creating some exceptionally tricky sailing. Entering the North Sea life got bumpy and windy again, and the subsequent days were spent dodging oil rigs, and the numerous supply and utility vessels that are their lifeblood, 24/7.

We adjusted to life on an angle, and spent the remainder of the trip in this fashion.

Holland provided a good opportunity to get the boat back together, and then a few days sailing back to London saw us complete our circumnavigation. Slightly over 10 months, and 45,834nm later, we were home.

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