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Around the World with Catherine Nurrsaw

July 4, 2006

Yup, I've woken up in the city that never sleeps, though alas on this occasion it was not to find that Team Durban was king of the hill or, indeed, top of the heap.

No, indeed, this time we fell back to 6th place. I guess after 6 podium places in the last 6 races it was time for us to give some of the other boats a chance, though personally I feel we were being a little too sporting. Still, it keeps us popular and is certainly going to make the last leg of this race interesting - there is now only half a point (or possibly a point and a half - it depends on whether we get a point deducted for sail repairs) between us and WA in 2nd place. Should make for a nail-biting finish!

The last race didn't exactly get off to a nail-biting start, however, due to a distinct lack of wind - yet again. On race start day, 23 June, the weather reports showed very little wind, with even less predicted for the next 24 hours or more. However, there were light winds just in-shore, so it was decided to start off with a short "fun race" from the marina to a marked point just off-shore. It was, to be honest, something of a shambles. Trying to get the best sail for the conditions we hanked and unhanked the No 2 Yankee, then went to the No 1, then back to the No 2 - then when the race actually started it wasn't at all clear where the mark was, as the press boat was blocking our view of it...that's our story, anyway, and we're sticking to it.

Anyway, after that little flurry of excitement the wind died and it was back to motor-sailing for the next couple of days. The fun part of that was that most of the boats met up a couple of times for some R & R and socialising. On one occasion Victoria put up their spinnaker pole as high as possible with a rope trailing off the end, and we climbed up on the safety rail, took hold of the rope as high as we could reach, and swung out to fall, jump or dive into the water with varying degrees of grace and agility. Brilliant fun! There were also epic inter-fleet games of water polo, during which the pitch would gradually get bigger and bigger as the boats marking the boundaries gradually drifted further and further apart. Somewhat exhausting for the players! The water was a beautiful dark blue, and amazingly warm, especially in patches where it was more like bath temperature. Somewhat sadly, I suspect this may be the last sea swim before the end of the whole race.

On the afternoon of the 25th, the wind finally picked up enough to allow the race to begin, and Durban got off to an excellent start. By that night, the wind had really picked up - suddenly we were hit by a freak gust and bang! the midweight spinnaker more or less exploded. Poor Mike and Claire, our sail repair team, spent about 24 of the next 27 hours putting it back together.....

Somehow by the following night we had slipped from 1st place to 8th. We did manage to pick up a couple of places over the course of the next few days, but sadly not enough. Not for lack of effort, I can assure you - on the last night of the race the wind was so up and down that we changed spinnakers 9 times (I think - I have to confess I lost track after about the 5th change) in 12 hours. Must say that packing spinnakers is NOT going to be one of the many things I will miss when this race ends. Having to come up about half an hour before the start of one watch, then stay up about two and a half hours extra at the end of that watch to help with spinnaker drops and sail changes meant that one watch lasted 7 hours - exhausting!

There were a few brief but happy hours on the morning of the last day of racing when we were convinced that we had WA in our sights and were back near the front of the fleet. They were far off on the horizon, but gradually we reeled them in, closer and closer - until finally they were close enough to see clearly through the binoculars, at which point we realised they were not a Clipper yacht at all. D'oh!

Anyway, the race finally ended with Singapore in first place, with a very impressive lead, and ourselves as I have said with a somewhat less impressive 6th place. Still, it will make us even keener to do well in the next one.

It was very exciting to see New York on the horizon and to come in past the Statue of Liberty and all the other famous landmarks. Camera shutters were clicking like castanets as we sailed by. We are moored in North Cove, which is right in the financial district of New York, only a few minutes walk away from Ground Zero.

Not having been to New York since I was about 6, I've been running around desperately trying to fit everything in in the short time we have here. In addition to the usual work on the boat I've been to two Broadway shows (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the Blue Man Group - both great fun), a stand-up comedy night (very mixed - ranging from desperately and embarrassingly unfunny to highly entertaining), a movie (the Da Vinci Code) and a night club, I've walked and cycled around Central Park, I've taken one of those get-on, get-off sightseeing bus trips, and I've wandered for miles and miles sightseeing around New York. And I do believe that while writing this I may just have missed Macy's 4th of July spectacular firework display. D'oh once again!

As you can see, things have been pretty hectic here so please forgive me if I haven't been in touch and have not replied to anyone's e-mails on an individual basis. Please, please keep writing them!

Off early tomorrow morning, starting the race to Jersey. Not very long now before I'll be back in England! Wish us luck for this last leg, please.

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