THE WORLD D RACE
LATITUDE / ROB
e'd been trying to wrap our heads around the Clipper 'Round the World Race phenomenon — it's really in its own category among sailing events — since we started profiling local erstwhile Clipper sailors in Latitude a year ago. But it wasn't until the Leg 5 prize giving at Golden Gate YC on April 6 that it really started to make sense. The 10-month, 35,000-mile odyssey had always seemed to us to be in a sort of existential limbo. Sure, it's more than a rally. But with the sailors, skippers and nine boats up at the discretion of the organizers, is it really a race? The boats departed Qingdao on May 2 for the start of the trans-Pacific leg. Storm after storm pounded the fleet as they crossed the North Pacific, buffeted by breeze of up to 70 knots. It was a full-on surfing fest out there, with some teams sending their identical 68-ft, 66,000-lb battlewagons at speeds of 20 knots. "It was absolutely bonkers," said Qingdao sailor Andrew "Heston" Jones. "The first two times in my life I've ever been proper-scared were on this leg. You're on the foredeck, levitating as the boat's pounding up and down, you think, 'The world is ending. . .' We had a knockdown and the best way to describe it is like a train crash; time slows down and you stop dead," he added. "I was going into one of the cabins beneath the companionway at the time and all of a sudden the door slammed shut and smashed my hip. The hatch had been torn off, and we were at an angle of over 100°. The water that came down the hatch floated the floorboards, which jammed the cabin door shut around me, and all of a sudden, I'm thinking, 'I'm proper fucked!' The boat made a noise like a groyne and suddenly righted. We had 40 bottles of chili sauce onboard and all of them went flying. The whole interior was like Vesuvius; when the boat righted, everyone down below was covered in chili sauce, thinking, 'I'm bleeding . . .' — it was like being pepper-sprayed!" While the crew enjoyed one of its best positions in a leg to date, California was dismasted the night of March 21, some 1,800 miles from the Bay. Sailing under only a storm jib in 60-knot winds, the boat was rolled to 120° and came back up without its rig. The knockdown flooded the boat's nav station and knocked its antennae, so skipper Pete Rollason's only option was to activate the boat's EPIRB while they could attempt repairs to their comms equipment. The Coast Guard scrambled a C-130 from Kodiak Island, Alaska, which dropped a radio in a bright-orange, steel canister that landed six feet from the stricken boat. Three of the other race boats rendezvoused with California and began a laborious process of transferring fuel while the crew set The Clipper 68 'California' rumbles out the Gate on her journey around the world.
The May 2010 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.