Step aboard as we spend 24 hours in the life of an amateur ocean racer in Leg 5 of the 2019-2020 Clipper Round the World Race.

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We have now spent 9 days at sea and are 7 days into the race. Current location is 07 Degrees 16.05′ South 153 Degrees 40.79′ East, somewhere in the Solomon Sea. I decided this would be the day that I would capture what life is like aboard a Clipper Race yacht.

To start the day, I was off watch from 0000 to 0600, when I was woken by the boat heeling over as if it was about to broach. It was about 0330 in the morning. I heard lots of yelling on deck, followed shortly after by an “All Hands on Deck Call”. When you hear this, you know it is serious.

I quickly donned my lifejacket and got on deck. The wind was blowing 20kts+ with driving rain. I scrambled to the high side and only then did I look up to where the Code 1 spinnaker was supposed to be, but there was no sail. Unfortunately, it ripped along the entire luff (leading edge of the sail), with a majority of the sail in the water, dragging alongside the hull, only attached to the boat via the tack line.

We would spend the next 30 minutes manually pulling the sail back aboard and stuffing it below deck in the sail locker to be reviewed in the morning. A squall had sneaked up on the on-watch and the wind built so quickly that they did not have time to bring it down before it maxed out on it’s apparent wind rating.

I was woken again at the customary time of 0515. This allows time to get dressed and eat breakfast before going on watch at 0600. The morning was pretty uneventful. I was on “cleaning duty” for the day. It was my responsibility to clean both heads (bathrooms) 30 mins before the next watch was going to be woken. This meant that the off watch will always have a clean toilet to use. Cleaning duty also requires general cleaning of all the common spaces with anti-bacterial spray. With 18 people living in a 70′ yacht, disease can spread quickly. We are unfortunately finding that out in the world currently with Covid-19.

Back off watch from 1000 to 1400, it was time to try and get some rest. The daytime off watch period can be extremely difficult to get any real rest. The midday sun beats down on the deck and there is no air conditioning aboard the yacht (it’s a race boat, remember?). I would be lucky to get 30 mins of actual sleep during this time period. Most of the time is spent in a pool of your own sweat. The only respite coming from a wet hand towel and a small portable fan that I had brought with me. That fan was worth it’s weight in gold!

Back on watch at 1400. At about 1630 we could see the squall building on the horizon. At this point we were in the motoring corridor and were underway motor-sailing. We purposefully drove towards that black wall of rain. To prepare, we removed the sunshade and put in Reef 1. As the squall hit, almost all the crew including the off watch came out with soap and started to lather up. Our skipper climbed the mast and slide into the reef 1 pocket where a few hundred liters of fresh water collected. Using a bucket he dumped water on people below in the cockpit, all the while with a massive grin on his face.

It was extremely refreshing to be cooled off in the rain and to feel fresh, and somewhat clean after sweating below deck.

We had our daily team meeting at 1800 and just as we went off watch we entered another, this time larger, squall. The wind picked up from 4 knots of wind to 25 knots of wind in 30 seconds. The on-watch experienced those variable conditions for the next 6 hours.

I was back on watch at midnight. The wind was consistent at about 15 knots with great upwind sailing conditions. We had our radar on with a crew member conducting “squall watch”. You can actually see the rain clouds on a radar screen! We also saw lighting in the distance which was amazing, but nothing close enough to capture on camera. We ended our watch at 0600 and with that it was the end of 24 hours in the life of a yacht race crew member.

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Next week we motor through the doldrums and have a bit of fun with our competition. You don’t want to miss it!

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