Arriving in Qingdao, I was surprised by the coverage of the Clipper Round the World Race! There were posters and placards everywhere all over and various Jumbotrons across the city were playing clips from the last race. Qingdao is a very big sailing town, but considering they were the location of the sailing events for the 2008 Olympics, it is no surprise after all.
Race start day (march 4) was a sight that I had never experienced before. Despite the mixture of snow and cold rain that was falling, Qingdao hosted a wonderful race start ceremony. As the various teams and skippers lined up on the stage, there were probably over a hundred drummers playing in synch. What a sight to behold! It was actually quite emotional as well as various people i have trained with over the past year came up and hugged each other, wishing a safe trip before we jumped onto our boats. It really hit home then that what we are about to undertake is a challenge that very few people in the world have achieved. And, the North Pacific is a mighty ocean that demands respect with safety always in the forefront of your mind. The memory of the California boat dismasting in the last race and surfing down monster waves is still very fresh in our memories.
As we set off in the falling snow and rain, fireworks were lit to wish us well on our journey. And with that we were off! Our first day was spent in fog, rain and light winds as we made our way down the East China Sea to our first big waypoint off the southern tip of Japan.
Day three was a much better day but with better weather (no rain) and the sun occasionally poking her head out from the clouds. We were able to hoist the spinnaker (large balloon like sail) and have a great day of running with the spinnaker as we closed in on the southern tip of Japan.
Getting used to life on a boat, or living at a constant heel (angle) is a bit tough. All the time down below, you have to make sure a handhold is available to make your way around the boat. Miss a handhold and a wave throw the boat to one side and you could end up taking a nasty tumble! There have been a few broken ribs on other legs of this race. The other aspect that takes time to adjust to is the watch system. During the day, it is four hours on and four hours off. At night, three hours on and three hours off. However, the three hours turns out to be only about two hours of sleep at a time as it takes time to get undressed from all the foul weather gear and layers, and you are woken 40 minutes early to get ready for your next shift and have a quick meal.
Well, after rounding the southern tip of Japan, it is time to go to bed again for my two hours of sleep and then wake up for the 12 am to 3 am shift.
Tired, so tired.