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10 July 2003, 05:01 pm
It Wasn|t Very Eventful!
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Clipper 2002/2003 Round the World Race
Cape Town (RSA) - Salvador (BRA)

Ocean yacht racing can be busy, sometimes so much so that crews have little time to even think.
Sail changes, course changes, peels and reefs until the watches change and its your turn to head down below, thankfully collapsing onto your bunk to grab a few precious hours before you have to climb back into your waterproofs for the next four hour stint. And sometimes it isn't. Ironically, the "better" the weather conditions - steady winds from the right direction - the less activity required on board. Steering, trimming sails, keeping lookout, these things go on regardless, but the external factors that require reaction can be absent for days on end. And so it seems at the moment.

Speeds are good, and virtually the whole fleet are making a steady 8 to 9 knots in the right direction, but the challenge now is more mental than physical. Duty Skipper Rupert PARKHOUSE reports from Glasgow that it is "good, in fact very good, to be moving again", but that there is currently little to report from what is turning into "quite a quiet race really". Cape Town, charging along in second place, reported that there seems little remarkable about the south Atlantic, and both commented about the lack of wildlife. Even the normally chatty Bristol Skipper Richard BUTLER finished his daily report with "that's it. It wasn't very eventful!"

But these comments rather hide the full picture. As the boats come to the end of their second week at sea, the sheer scale of this race is beginning to show. Geographically they are almost exactly in the middle of the south Atlantic, with more than 1000 miles still to sail. The watch routine will have become exactly that, routine, and they can expect at least another week of the same, and although there may be little to break that routine at the moment, there is a certain relentlessness to life on board. You can't suddenly decide you fancy a break, and "the tyranny of the watch system" will begin to have real meaning. This is as much a part of the challenge that the crew have signed up for as the rough weather and frantic sail changing.

But what the comments also fail to show is how much the crews have adapted to life on board. They are now seasoned sailors taking much in their stride. Following Rupert's comment on the lack of activity, he goes on to note that crew member Tim WALKUP sustained a sprained wrist on one of his frequent trips up the mast, leaving fellow lightweight crewmember Claire STEVENS, AKA Squirrel, in "pole end position" for their many spinnaker peels. It says something that these days climbing out to the end of the pole for a spinnaker peel on a regular basis hardly rates a mention from people whose normal existence more usually involves sitting behind a desk.

Evan RUPERT's description of the conditions hints at an experience that most of us would jump at. "Currently east south east 4, 8-9kts apparent so lightweight up, making around 8kts on a course of 310 true. Very settled, a few clouds around but not much, most of a moon so I suppose a pretty idyllic nights sailing."

Tim Hedges
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