Crew Diary | The Clipper Yacht Vortex | derry-go-round (the world)

CV30 St Katherines Dock

It was my turn to write a blog post for the derry-go-round (the world) website the other day, so I wrote about the black holes found on every Clipper Yacht I have ever sailed on. I have lost many things in this vortex; some things have even been recovered. To see the original post head over to the Derry~Londonderry~Doire Crew website where is the additional commentary from one of my fellow crew mates Wendy.

Crew Diary | The Clipper (Christina)Yacht Vortex | derry-go-round (the world).

It is a well know fact amongst Clipper Race crew members that there is an additional part of the boat that doesn’t show up on any of the original drawings and is not mentioned during either the boat familiarisation tour or during the obligatory safety brief that takes place before the Clipper Yacht heads out to sea. Whilst I cannot attest to it’s existence on the Clipper 60, it certainly exists on the 4 Clipper 68′s and the 2 Clipper 70′s I have had the good fortune to sail on over the past 12 months. I am of course talking about the Clipper Yacht Vortex, otherwise know as the Clipper Black Hole.

On some boats, the force field surrounding the vortex is stronger than others, with things being claimed early on. During my level 1 training aboard De Lage Landen last September, I lost two head torches and one hand torch on the very first night, and we hadn’t even left the marina. Add to that socks, boots, passports and you get the idea. What makes things worse is that most of the crew have the same or similar gear – so you don’t know if you have misplaced an item, if the Skipper has confiscated it because you left it lying around in a communal area, if another crew mate is wearing it believing it is theirs or if it has indeed been claimed by the black hole.

To add to this confusion, the vortex is not above taking in people for a while. Yes, it really is possible to misplace someone on board a stripped down racing yacht. You can imagine that this is not a great thing for the cardiac health of the rest of the crew; if you lose your socks, toothbrush or even your life jacket down below then whilst it may result in a minor inconvenience, it doesn’t really get the heart racing like not being able to find a person at sea. After a few minutes, even though you know for sure the person hasn’t gone overboard, the adrenaline does start to kick in… I mean really, there aren’t that many places for a person to be down below. (And yes, the person we ‘temporarily misplaced’ during level 2 training turned up just as we were about to turn the boat round and commence full man overboard procedures… we were so relieved to see him that I don’t recall where he said he had actually been!)

Most items are returned eventually, although some things are lost for ever (or until the next spinnaker hoist if it is a particularly embarrassing article of clothing). There is most definitely an errant tape measure on Derry~Londonderry~Doire as she makes here way down to Rio – I search the boat 3 times in port, emptying all the cupboards and checking all the pockets and bilges but without luck… I know I put it in a safe place…

I have four weeks to go before I head off to Cape Town and join the Derry-go-round, so I am trying hard to figure out how best to keep hold of my gear, or even just my head torches as they are the first things I lose when I join the boat and the last things I find. I’m thinking of building on the ‘Mittens on a string’ concept and attaching everything to me with bungee cord… now what could possibly go wrong with that idea?!

A Laser Sailor’s Proverb

So, I was sat out on my Laser in the bay this afternoon, the first time I have sailed in the past two months since I injured my ankle during my Level 1 training. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, and, with a southerly breeze coming off the land, the sea was flat. At 5 degrees Centigrade (41F) it was a bit on the chilly side, but I had all my winter sailing gear on so was feeling quite toasty.

Having just spent the past hour reaching back and forth across the bay in winds of 15 knots, gusting 23 knots, throwing in a few tacks and gybes as well as hiking out just for the fun of it, I was watching a group of the club’s cadets being put through their paces around the club marks. A few of them were being overpowered in their toppers and picos in the gusts, resulting in a few capsizes. ‘Well’, I was thinking, ‘at least I have kept my gear dry and so I won’t struggle to get it washed and dried before racing tomorrow’. As any sailor knows, it is quite unpleasant to put cold, wet gear on before you go out sailing, so it was a bonus that I wasn’t going to have to sort that out this evening.

Another Laser sailor came alongside me and we set off on a reach across the bay together. I got most of the way across when a gust hit and before I knew it I had death rolled the boat. If you don’t know what a death roll looks like in a Laser, it looks exactly like this:

Did I mention it was 5 degrees and this was the Irish sea? I managed to get thrown clear of the boat during the capsize, so was having to swim back to my boat as my other mistake was to not to keep hold of the main sheet. It was at this point I realised that whilst pride may come before a fall on land, in Laser sailing “Smugness comes before a swim”.


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