More doldrums…

The doldrums,the no mans land between the Great North Atlantic Depression which rotates clockwise and the Great South Atlantic Depression which rotates anti clockwise.

The result? everything comes to a grinding halt and the whole thing becomes as exciting as it sounds!!
The received wisdom is that the first boat that exits this zone wins and we are all close to the exit door. The trick is to enter this zone at the shortest point, obvious really, except that the whole thing moves around in a wave formation, so where you enter it today will not be where you’d enter it tomorrow. The other key is to use whatever breeze is available to inch forward, so suddenly instead of racing you are crawling and it demands even more concentration than in good winds with less obvious results.
So you sit in this windless place in temperatures of 40 degrees plus with such hugh humidity that you sweat just lying in bed. Everyone tends to get irritable, you have to be really careful…
We are now close to the exit, asssuming it hasn’t moved, and the reason we are on the Eastern side is that the forecasts say there will be slightly more wind this side of the exit than to the West where most of the other boats are. To a great extent you could start the race just North of the Doldrums because this is where it’s won or lost, 48 hours ago I was pretty confident about our strategy, now less so but I’m not sure why.
So, all will become revealed in the next 48 hours.

Next up… Ricardo’s straw pole amongst crew ” what fun things could you have done with the money if you hadn’t spent it on being completely exhausted!! Mine ?? I’d have a F*** off holiday with a bed, bar and someone who cleans the loo!




The Doldrums…

We’re not even there yet and have come to a grinding halt!
Temp inside boat is 38 degrees and as humid as hell, can’t do anything without breaking into a sweat.
The only wind comes from squalls that come cross the ocean, during one I decided to have a rain shower under the main sail, OK, I admit playing to the crowd a bit in that I got all lathered up, and then just as soon as it had started someone turned the rain off …to the huge amusement of all on board.
Still, a couple of hours later a huge squall came over and I got well rinsed.
All well

Love, your grain of sand xx

Musings from the back of the boat…

Musings from the back of the boat with my legs dangling in the surf created by the boat speed, wondering of there are any sharks around!

It’s the vastness and depth of this ocean that gets you.

I’ve crossed it countless times but never so ‘close up and personal’. Hour after hour, day after day of incessant motion. Forget about the boat or Clipper, focus on the raw power. Nothing but sea all around you, no land hazy in the distance, no otherboats, just Atlantic rollers, bigger than the boat, lifting you up and this time at least gently placing you down again. These are the trade winds, easy and benign.

The sea keeps relentlessly moving, the boat keeps moving, you can’t switch off even for a moment. Dolphins join us from time to time, racing and diving right next to the boat for the sheer joy of it. Flying fish hit the deck with an eerie thud, a remarkable example of evolution as they ‘hover’ over the sea.

At night, when the moon is out, it’s magical, phosphorescence streams off the back of the boat and last night shoals of luminescent squid like marine paparazza flash lime green.

You can’t help but turn your thoughts to the enormity and power of nature, God, mother earth or whatever your household Gods are, the sheer raw power of it.

Pointless wonderings are sparked, how many people on our planet? 6 Billion? …8 billion?? and if they were all in the North Atlantic how much space would there be between them? Say… 3 sq metres each and there’s 3,900 metres below them. 80 % of this planet is water. So how come we are steadily destroying it? Of course whatever we do we can’t; all we can do is make it uninhabitable for human beings. We can’t shatter it, just make it unusable and then over millennia nature will take on the long task of repairing it.

So you look at the stars, 1000’s more than you’ve ever seen, so bright in the Northern sky, where the Milky Way is so clear and you know that this planet is just one rock on a spiral arm of our galaxy which in itself is just one galaxy in millions in our known universe… it’s overwhelming.

Meanwhile back on earth we are just grains of sand in our own ‘galaxy’, with all our ridiculous hopes, dreams and fears. In the scheme of it just grains of sand on our amazing planet which in itself is a grain of sand in our galaxy and universe and that’s the beauty of it…

1 week in to race 2

Currently south of the entrance to the Med with Madeira, Canaries and Cape Verde ahead.


You can see how the fleet has split, some kept closer to the Portugese coast hoping for better winds, some west of us searching for same reason. Relatively the whole fleet is remarkably close which I guess is what happens if you all have the same boats!Strategy and concentration are the key variables.


Our strategy is to head downwind on a direct course to our waypoint, the shortest route. Those to the west of us are going faster but not in the right direction, so will have to zig zag downwind to get there.


We’ll see what strategy wins… Currently we’re 6th but hope to benefit later.


Our waypoint is a ‘scoring gate’lying just North of Cape Verde. There are 3, 2 & 1 extra points for those who go through it 1,2,3. Right now it’s 1000 mls away so approx 4 days away. London to Brest was 3 days and worth 12.11.10 points.


Life on board is cramped,!! 21 people living within 40 ft of each other.


Amazingly you hardly ever see the people on the other watch, just at watch changeover when no one wants to speak!


I hit a bit of a low point yesterday, the sheer effort and lack of sleep makes it pretty difficult to enjoy it and you think you should be!


I’m working on managing that and just accepting it, makes it hard to enjoy in the moment but I remembered Davina’s Rhys’s advice of when you are struggling, enjoy it through others around you.


Since writing we’ve now gybed and are going due South heading straight to the waypoint, the main reasons are we can steer straight there and the winds are predicted to slacken further West.




Dad / Richard / Ricardo / Tricky / Dick x

Off Portugal‏

Literally bashed our way though yesterday and last night.


35 knot winds, waves bigger than the boat coming from behind and we surfed down them. Our speed around 13 knots with peaks of 16. Fast !


Boat pitching all the time and a simple task of getting around the boat takes on a huge new level of effort as often the deck disappears from beneath your feet. Pouring water into a cup is total guess work as what appears to be a vertical line between kettle and cup is actually 30 degrees one way or the other.


I was ‘mother’ yesterday cooking and cleaning for 21, supposed to be two of us but my other ‘half’ was ill so it became almost impossible with pots and pans flying around all the time!!


We’re off Portugal about 190 mls away with Lisbon pretty well due East, Race info last updated at 6.00 put us at 8th, measured from Rio, but that takes no account of position and or likely winds, so we feel we are better placed.


Ripped our spinnaker last night, result…. 3 days of sewing!!

Bay of Biscay Blog

Set out from Brest on Monday midday heading into Bay of Biscay. Weather was forecast  as ‘sporty’ which means we were beating straight into the wind for 24 hours. Result, half the crew feeling and being, very ill and the other half exhausted from the sheer effort of keeping vertical! Good job this is leisure, i’d hate to do this as a job!!

Plan is to head around Cape Finestere, onto Canaries, past Cape Verde and then into the dodrums at the equator.

Simple tasks such as just getting around the boat take a whole new amount of effort and when someone asks you to get something for them because you are closer to it uses valuable energy.

Having had my mini energy crisis at the outset from UK to been keeping up the hi energy powders, gels and bars. Result is good.

More in due course, watch becons again only 82 more to go!!


Pre Race thoughts‏

<Written Sunday 8th PM>

So here we are, after 4 days in Brest which has consisted mainly of fixing boats and drinking beer, we are about to set off for Rio tomorrow at 1.00.


Brest is not the most beautiful of French towns and most of the resto’s are very touristy, most of the crew are, understandably on fairly tight budgets particularly the Round the Worlders, so cheap food and wine was the order of the day. Eventually I cracked and booked into a great seafood restaurant right by the docks and picked up the wine bill, the only way I could guarantee a decent bottle or two!


You could feel the tension mounting today on all boats as the list of things to be done grew and the time available shrank. Plus people were thinking about what lay ahead. We start out crossing the bay of Biscay which will be ‘beating’ direct into the wind, so pretty rough and potential for a lot of seasickness. Crossing the bay should be about 3 days then basically a straight line, past the Canary Islands, then into the doldrums at the equator where the North Atlantic depression meets the South Atlantic depression and they both cancel each other out.


They sat the race will be won or lost in the doldrums as every metre gained with almost no wind counts, so concentration when there is nothing going on and it is really hot is the clincher.


After the equator hopefully relatively benign winds coming from behind us into Rio. The whole journey should take around 23 days!


Then into Rio for 5 days before the fleet heads off to Cape Town, everybody on board wants me to stay on for the next leg, I’m thinking of doing a ‘Sea Survivor’ TV show where people can vote me on or off the boat!! I can see it going viral and syndicated all over the world!


I’ll let fate decide if I carry on of not, at this point I genuinely don’t know… Off to pack now then to bed.. more sometime later…

Track how my team are doing at, and you can sign up to our Skipper’s blog here and you can sign up to email alerts from the blog in the top right hand corner.


You can also follow on Facebook either on Team Qingdao’s official team page or on the friends and family page where everyone who knows the crew are posting photos and updates.


As always, you can sponsor me in aid of MacMillan Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer UK by clicking here to go to my JustGiving page and donating online, or by texting the word ‘SAIL72′ followed by the amount you wish to donate (eg, £10) to 70070

And the bronze medal goes to….

<Written Thurs 5th Sept>

We’ve just got into Brest in France at the end of our first race. We finished 3rd, so were on the podium which is a real result after all our tech problems.

The reason is that we stuck at the task 24/7 even when there was little or no wind, foggy damp and cold. The fog was amazing, a real sense of drama allied to an edge of fear that someone who wasn’t concentrating on their radar, if they had it, might loom out of the fog and hit you.

One of the crew called Liz and I did a Titanic impression on the foredeck, so Ricardo is now Leonardo and she is Kate!

Highs: I did a 4 hour stint trimming the sails in light breezes which means 100% concentration every minute so squeeze out the max poss speed albeit slow, that was one of the reasons we did well and everyone acknowledged it which was nice. I’m using up this well earned credit.

Lows: Hit another energy black out !! bugger!! but this time saw it coming so took some Torq high protein gels and bars which Polly recommended and within 25 mins I was OK (thanks Polly!) In truth, it was my own fault because a few days beforehand I had stopped taking them and I paid for it…big learning!

Looking forward to setting off on our next race – much longer this time. Next time I see dry land it’ll be in Rio.

If you want to follow by boat’s course and see who is winning, you can do so at the Race Tracker –

As always, you can sponsor me in aid of MacMillan Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer UK by clicking here to go to my JustGiving page and donating online, or by texting the word ‘SAIL72′ followed by the amount you wish to donate (eg, £10) to 70070

Update from my first race – London to Brest

We’re currently 2/3rds of the way through our first race to Brest.

Frustration followed a slow start, as we watched the whole fleet disappear over the horizon because one of the quick release shackle that holds one of the three corners of the sail to the boat, took it’s name far too seriously and release whenever it felt like it.

The result was a sail that most often looked like a bed sheet flapping on a washing line rather than a bit of sailing kit!!

Since then we’ve clawed our way back up the fleet to the front runners.

Two ‘watches’ of 11 people each, watch patterns are 4 hrs on 4 off at night and 6 on 6 off during day, and ‘hot bunking’ which is not as much fun as it sounds it should be !! You grab sleep when you can off watch, a couple of hours at a time.

I’ll blog again once I’m on dry land.

In the meantime, you can sponsor me in aid of MacMillan Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer UK by clicking here to go to my JustGiving page and donating online, or by texting the word ‘SAIL72′ followed by the amount you wish to donate (eg, £10) to 70070

And they’re off!

Yesterday was the official start of the Clipper Race. It was an amazing day down at St Katherine’s Dock.

You can watch the official footage from the day here – Team Qingdao (CV 22) are on at the following times:

21:00 minutes is Qingdao team introduction and interviews

44:00 Qingdao entering the lock

1:00:00 1st lock coming out, but switches back to stage before Qingdao comes out

3:18:00 is the bridge opening

3:20:20 are the 4 yachts including Qingdao going under Tower Bridge

3:48 4 yachts coming back through the bridge

You can follow my team (Qingdao – CV22) on facebook on the official team page or on the friends and family page, on clipper’s twitter feed or hashtag or on the live race tracker where you can see the position of the boats and who is winning – Team Qingdao are the yellow boat.