World with Catherine Nurrsaw
June 21, 2006
Well, the big news for anyone who hasn't religiously been checking the
Clipper website on a daily basis (and why haven't you, eh?) is that
Durban Clipper arrived in Jamaica in first place, maintaining and
indeed generally extending our overall lead. Yay!!!!! We're all
trying to be frightfully humble and modest and we are certainly well
aware that a bad race can happen to anyone at any time, and that if we
have (another) one we could fall right back in the ratings, but in the
mean time and in secret - gloat, gloat, gloat......
We had a short but surprisingly enjoyable stay in Colon (so many ways
in which that sounds wrong) - there was nowhere to buy food for miles
around, but a well-stocked honour bar in the marina, which most people
seemed to find an acceptable substitute. The crews drank not wisely
but too well, which might explain why the morning revealed the rather
odd sight of 7 steering wheels at various heights up the mast of one
of the yachts. A small ransom had to be paid for their return.
The next morning I went on a short jungle walk to locate the howler
monkeys that had been making even more noise than the Clipper crews
the previous evening. Found a small family group of the monkeys and
got about 35 mosquito bites in the 5 minutes I was watching and
photographing them. Also saw the hanging nests made by (I think)
weaver birds - extraordinary things.
Anyway, the boats all set off that evening, but once again we were
only motoring as there was absolutely no wind. The next afternoon
there was a bit of a thunderstorm and over on the horizon we could
clearly see a water-spout twisting away. There had been a reasonable
amount of wind for about 2 hours, so it was decided to start the race.
All the boats lined up for a Le Mans start (or possibly I mean a
Lamaze start - lots of deep breathing and tension...) and this one
went amazingly well, with all of us in a more or less straight line at
the start. And off we went!
At which point the wind died again, and the whole fleet was flapping
around going nowhere. There was some (joking) talk about treating that
as a practice start and doing the real thing later on once the wind
picked up, but no, we had to hang around for the next 7 or 8 hours
I was on Mother Watch all day, which meant that I had the whole night
off to sleep. This turned out to be an excellent strategy, as I missed
the hardest night's work of this leg. Suddenly the wind picked up
really strongly and we were rocketing along, and there were headsail
changes and big waves and lifejackets inflating left right and centre
and (minor) injuries and all sorts. Meanwhile, I was snoozing
Speaking of lifejackets, incidentally, a surprising number of you have
been asking after the health of my lifejacket. Indeed, some of you
have expressed far more concern for my jacket than for myself, not
that I'm bitter or anything. Anyway, I feel that I am gaining a
slight advantage in the ongoing war of attrition. I have symbolically
castrated the beastly thing by removing its hood, which had
been viciously poking me in the ear at every opportunity. It has
attempted to retaliate by ensuring that its velcro utterly refuses to
stick together, so that the whole thing just flaps open, but it's a
weak effort - I think it knows I have the upper hand, as I'm tying it
up with so much wool the velcro is irrelevant anyway.
Back to the race. When I finally woke up and came on watch, I
discovered to my surprise that we were in first place - we'd been
about 5th or 6th when I went to bed. Sadly the rest of the crew did
not seem convinced by my argument that they clearly did better when I
was in bed, and rejected my noble offer to go straight back to bed so
that they could continue to do well - and in fact, we did continue to
However, WA in particular were also doing very well, and were only a
few miles behind us and to windward (for non-sailors, the windward
boat has an advantage). During the following night they came down
towrds us - or possibly we came up towards them, there seems to be
some doubt about which - and by the next morning they were just ahead
of us and still to windward, able to cover every move we made. As we
came within sight of Jamaica we had to tack and tack again, and each
time WA covered us.
Once we passed to corner of the island, however, WA for whatever
reason moved further in to shore than us and we were able to gain the
windward advantage and move just ahead of them. It turned into a real
drag race between us, but in the end we were able to fly our spinnaker
at a tighter angle than they could and we were able to maintain our
lead right to the finishing line. WA came in a close second, with New
York not far behind them.
All of the boats arrived in Port Antonio on the evening/night of 17
June, and the celebrations started then and are still in full force.
It's 21 June now and there has been a party every night so far -
there's another one tonight, with a pirate theme, heaven help us.
Last night was the official prize-giving, at which the guest of honour
was the widow of Errol Flynn - she's in her 90s now, but it's obvious
she was absolutely beautiful when she was younger, and she has the
most amazing golden age of Hollywood voice.
As for the prizes....hmmm. How can I explain this. Apparently, when
British ships arrived in Jamaica in the old days there used to be
rowing races between the long boats of the fleet, and the winning team
would be awarded a - let us please call it a rooster (I'm not sure
whether this would be a live one or not) - which would be proudly
displayed up the mast as a sign of triumph. So, the Clipper boats in
third, second and first place were presented with carved wooden - for
heaven's sake let us continue to call them roosters - a fairly small
one for third place, a larger one for second, and a really quite
enormous one for first. And the subtle humour inherent in this is
going to keep some of the crew in stitches to Liverpool and quite
Jamaica is a fantastic place to celebrate and over all a wonderful
place to visit. I definitely want to come back here for a longer
holiday. We're here in the rainy season so there have been some
incredibly heavy rainstorms, with very dramatic thunder and lightning,
but then the sun comes out and it's gloriously hot and sunny again.
Because it gets so much rain everything is very lush and green and
jungly, with bananas, coconuts, mangoes and all sorts of other fruits
growing wild everywhere. Yesterday I spent much of the day at a
beautiful beach called Winifred's Bay, and today I spent the morning
in the torrential rain rafting down the Rio Grande on a bamboo raft.
We had lunch on the riverbank in the rain, attempting to keep the rain
off our jerk chicken with rather dilapidated umbrellas. Got completely
soaked but had a lovely relaxing time.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to fit in a dive as well as having some work to do
on the boat, and then the race starts again on Friday. Wish us luck!
Usual apologies to anyone who has written to me and not had an
individual reply. Please do keep on writing - I love hearing from you
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