This is the third in a series of blogs by Dell Ambassadors competing in the Clipper Race, a 40,000 nautical mile race around the world in 70-foot racing yachts. You can find the first post from Samantha Harper, and the second post from Marek Omilian, here on Direct2Dell. For more background on Dell’s involvement, read our initial blog about this exciting race here.
The South Atlantic Challenge Leg 2 : Punta del Este, Uruguay to Cape Town, South Africa: 3,560 nautical miles : 14 days
Greetings from sunny Cape Town! Another Leg down, and what a rollercoaster ride it was. It’s hard to imagine the next Leg will be even more challenging and so Team Dare To Lead is busy repairing and restocking in order to be as prepared as we can be.
While on the Atlantic Trade Winds Leg 1, Mother Nature gave us every possible combination of heat and weather, the South Atlantic Leg 2 was a steady slog through wind, cold and rain. The wind was howling right from the start line, and the conditions left a large swath of the crew reeling from seasickness early on. Fortunately, while the seasickness abated, the weather did not and so the ‘Race to the Cape of Storms’ (as Leg 2 is known) certainly lived up to its name. We set a new speed record of 27.6 knots on this leg, with the surf and swells helping us get those extra surges of power.
When the wind is strong and the boat is moving fast, our yachts are designed to heel over. The twin rudder/twin helm design means even at an angle, the boat is easily steered. Life at 45 degrees, however, means chaos below deck. Even the simplest of tasks become a feat of superhuman strength when the boat is lurching over. Crawling into your bunk suddenly becomes a mountain climbing expedition and the fear of flying out of it leaves many sleeping with one eye open. Mystery bruises appear and multiply, from incessant and inevitable bumping into bolts, door handles and other humans. Food in the galley is often catapulted onto the floor (alas the dishes aren’t skid-proof!) and trying to relax while using the toilet is nearly impossible when you have a death grip on the only grab bar in the compartment!
The only feat of engineering on board which seems to allow for the boat heeling is the stove, which is on a gimbal (i.e. on a horizontal swivel). On a dark and cloudy night, when the horizon is completely obliterated, one only needs to look down the hatch to see the warm glow of the swiveling gas stove, with its kettle perched precariously on top, to have a sense on how heeled over we are.
I have never looked forward to pumping out the bilges or cleaning the bathroom as much as I did on this leg!
Obviously, between the wind, waves and lean of the boat, safety on deck becomes paramount. We are tethered onto the boat 90 percent of the time – only in calm daylight is it safe to unclip. Many of us resorted to breaking out our drysuits after getting drenched by waves, which would frequently turn the cockpit into a temporary bathtub. Unlike Leg 1, which left the accommodations below deck feeling like Dante’s Inferno for weeks at a time, there was no shortage of volunteers to go down below for a few minutes and do chores. I admit I have never looked forward to pumping out the bilges or cleaning the bathroom as much as I did on this leg!
Leg 2 covered over 3,400 nautical miles in 14 days, ended for us in a painfully close finish with our friends (now rivals!) on Team Greenings. For the last three days, they were within eyesight of us, just two nautical miles ahead. We tried every trick in the book to make gains but ultimately, they crossed 18 minutes in front. Any disappointment on our second-place finish, however, was short-lived as we entered harbour to a raucous crowd who came out despite the dark and rain to see us in. Cape Town is the hometown of our Skipper Dale Smyth and South Africa is home to the Sapinda Rainbow Ambassador program, which supported our crew member Nqoba Mswazi on this race, with the hope that the leadership and confidence developed over a Clipper Race can be brought home to promote positive change.
Tomorrow is ‘Open Boat’ Day and Dare to Lead is looking forward to showing the public what life on a racing yacht is like. Skipper Dale’s family have made us a banner saying “Welcome home Dale’s Dark Horses!” which is proudly hanging on our guardrails. Friends and family support are what make this type of race possible and nowhere have we felt the love more than Cape Town!
On a final note – many wonder where the Dark Horse moniker has come from. Skipper Dale was a last-minute replacement when our previous skipper stepped down pre-race for personal reasons. With only a few weeks to go before Liverpool, there was a lot of apprehension in the team. In a team email, Dale encouraged us to embrace the idea of having a ‘Dark Horse’ as a skipper and reassured us that his experience teaching amateurs and his extensive sailing record would put us in good stead. He hasn’t let us down and we look forward to more podium finishes in the future!
Thanks again to Dell for outfitting us with technology rugged enough to withstand the rigours of life at 45 degrees. Fortunately, I never had to field-test its drop-proof abilities but the rubber feet on my 12” laptop certainly kept it anchored when everything around it was flying.
Onward to Australia! Stay tuned for my Southern Ocean Leg 3 blog coming soon, and thanks to all who have sent messages of support on our Team Dare To Lead Supporters Facebook page!
About Samantha Harper, crew member, Dare To Lead
Samantha is a 37-year-old doctor from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The Dell Latitude Rugged laptop was made for people like Samantha; when she is not sailing 40,000 nautical miles around the world on board Dare To Lead, Samantha splits her time between working in remote communities as a GP, and pushing herself to the limits mountaineering and running ultra-marathons (she has done the infamous Marathon des Sables, a 250 kilometre race in the Sahara Desert, five times). However, the Clipper Race is Samantha’s first sailing experience, and after initially considering only doing three legs, she signed up for the whole circumnavigation, knowing that once she started, she wouldn’t be able to stop until she completed and experienced the entire thing.