Clipper Race: Crossing the International Date Line

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Clipper Race

In the coming days, the Clipper Race fleet is set to tick off the next big Race 10 milestone – crossing the International Date Line. Whilst it has no technical impact on racing, it does mean each crew member will get to do something very few of us will – live the same day twice!

We asked some Clipper Race alumni, who have returned to the race as staff, if they could live one day on the Clipper Race again, which day would it be and why?

For Clipper Race Director Mark Light, who previously skippered the Derry~Londonderry team in the Clipper 2011-12 Race, before becoming Deputy Race Director in 2012 then Race Director, this was easy to answer.

“One days stands out more than any other. 11 November 2011.

“Leg 4, Southern Ocean, a week out of Geraldton, WA, and en route to Tauranga, NZ. White sails (vaguely remember one reef in the main, staysail and Yankee 3). We were power reaching along under the great Australian continent, with the wind just aft of our starboard beam in about 30 knots of true wind. It was mid-afternoon and the sea was almost dark green in colour with waves with white breaking tops. Sea state was very rough, not huge but the odd wave was much bigger (maybe 6 – 8 metres). We had some blue sky with white fluffy clouds and the sun came out to enhance the light and lighten the sea to a mix of lime green and grey. There was almost a glow of light as we surveyed the sea-scape surrounding us.

“I spent several hours on the helm and we were regularly catching surfs and smashing along at 14 – 18 knots SOG. It was unusual for me to spend much time on the helm at all, but this particular day I pulled rank and took my opportunity for some amazing sailing. Several of my crew stayed on deck with me as I helmed for a couple of hours but then they all disappeared and left me on deck on my own. There were lots of smiles, photos and laughter down below as they looked at me, happy as the proverbial pig. In total, I helmed for about 3.5 hours and over an hour completely on my own. It was fantastic being in charge of this powerful ocean racing yacht, in the middle of the roaring forties and hundreds of miles from anywhere……

“That day I celebrated my 40th Birthday in the Southern Ocean and I will never forget that experience….. It was incredible!!”

For Crew Recruitment Director Della Parsons, who twice circumnavigated with the Clipper Race – as Race Crew during the 2009-10 edition, and as Media Crew during the 2011-12 edition, it was a tougher call.

Della explains: “There are SO many amazing moments and events it’s hard to find a day. Some obvious things stand out:

Sail changes in huge conditions in the Roaring Forties, watching hundreds of dolphins as far as the eye can see, helming and surfing down waves under spinnaker at 24 knots – and of course tying the knot as a circumnavigator (the moment we crossed our outbound track).

While the race was much more about those shared moments, both tough and awesome, and fun with my team, my boat family, rather than the competition as such, probably as an entire day the one that stands out most, was the final day of racing into Cape Breton Island when we (Hull & Humber) achieved our first (and only) race win.

It wasn’t the most exciting sailing conditions or biggest challenge faced, but was the most gripping day of cat and mouse racing of the whole circumnavigation and proof that we had really learned so much, had grown as a team and as a bunch of sailors, during the course of our amazing adventure.

Jilly St John, who was former Race Crew during the 2015-16 edition, and subsequently is now Clipper Race Crew Recruitment Coordinator, recalls a particular day during Leg 7 racing from Seattle to New York via Panama.

Jilly says: “Whilst there were so many moments that stood out, like being struck by lightning (!), or dolphin pods in bioluminescence, or a moon so full that night was almost a day, weirdly, one of the days I found most challenging sticks out as the most exhilarating and is a feeling I’ve continued to chase in life ever since.

The day Hurricane Colin came. Being surrounded by walls of water in one moment and on top of a salty mountain in the next. The droplets of sea that found individuality and freedom in breaking away from the vast ocean, being hurtled immediately sideways. I’ve witnessed such wildness from the safety of shore before but nothing compares to being in it. The water was all colours – turquoise, black, blue, grey, white. Below deck, it was a bit like trying to stand up on a rollercoaster. I remember quietly crying at one point for no other reason than being unable to get into my bunk on account of it having moved what seemed like a further 10 feet higher up the inside of the hull, meaning simply walking up the opposite side of the interior and launching across was no longer an option as it was now a straight up pull up. This memory makes me laugh now!

“I remember one particular wave washing over me on deck that day depositing a little piece of seaweed on my lap. Underneath my smock was a grin that hurt, and not on account of the 100 thousand liquid needles penetrating my skin every second. I felt so tired, sore, emotional, in awe of mother nature and ALIVE. A million miles from the safety of my flat, that only a few years before I’d struggled to leave, and I wanted to remember it forever and I popped that little piece of seaweed in my pocket and still have it to this day. Bizarre as it may sound, one day I will live it again… I think I’m broken!”

With the International Date Line on the horizon, stay tuned to the Clipper Race Viewer to see which team crosses first – at time of writing, it’ll be a close call between Unicef, WTC Logistics and Punta del Este.

  www.clipperroundtheworld.com.