This has been my first week racing onboard Clipper UNICEF which started with some very unexpected events even before we set-off on our journey to Da Nang. The Friday before the start the team said goodbye to the skipper of leg 4 and we had a team meeting with the original skipper now returned from his medical procedure in the UK. We agreed objectives for the next leg and how we would work together as a team, prepared the boat for the Monday departure at 12:00.
At 10:30 on Monday we were told that our returning skipper had decided not to continue and we were to get a new skipper and another race assistant to complete leg 5 of the race to Da Nang and onto Qingdao where the leg 4 replacement skipper would return to complete the rest of the race on Unicef.
Confused? Well you are not alone.
It was a bombshell for the crew and the news was received in silence with some people not sure what was going to happen next. We eventually got underway and started our race the next day with the rest of the fleet 150 miles out of Airlie Beach. The new skipper and race assistant integrated particularly well. They both are based in Sydney and were given the opportunity to participate in the race at very short notice.
The rest of the week the racing was great with good weather but very hot in the sun and below deck. The temperature in my bunk is 34oC and does not come down a lot during the night. Many are sharing a bunk because some bunk are used for storing the food and provisions for four weeks at sea. Many crew have little USB operated fans to keep cool at night.
From Airlie Beach we sailed north through the Coral Sea into the Solomon Sea between the islands of Bougainville and East New Brittain. All islands we have not heard before.
On Friday we entered the Doldrum area at 7 degrees latitude and the wind died down together with the speed and the refreshing breeze. Conditions were getting very hot onboard and we were all struggling to drink enough water to replace the bucket loads we sweat. An afternoon monsoon rain shower brought everybody on deck just to cool off and to wash the sweat out of the clothes we were wearing. Of course within hours we were all dry again.
Positions between the fleet are changing daily. Some are trying to get round the high pressure area on the west side while others, like UNICEF are trying to go round it to the east. The weather forecast and the wind predictions are just that, predictions. Sometimes they are correct, sometimes they are not. So in the end it is a lottery to see who will be arriving at the next waypoint on the western edge of the island New Ireland where we will turn to the west towards the top of the Phillipines.
It is surprising how we miss the race tracker on the Clipper Round the World website with it's instant map with locations of each boat. We get this information twice a day and then we need to plot the positions ourselves to try and make sense of it all. You arm chair sailors have an easier job following this race.
Well, I better get some sleep in my oven hot bunk ready for my next watch from 6 to midnight.