Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This Race Is Not on My Bucket List

The Clipper Round the World Race is basically a circumnavigating race lasting about a year, broken up in about a dozen segments or legs. It is raced in ten stripped down 68-foot racing yachts, each sponsored by an international city, region or country. It is unique in that boats and skippers are hired by the crews. That is to say, those who want to crew on boats in this race have to go through an extensive application process to qualify physically, mentally, and psychologically. Once accepted, they then have to pay for their bunk on board.

I don't know how much they have to pay, and I'm not even curious, you couldn't pay me to pull this duty. And I wouldn't qualify besides. Even when I tried to race the current leg in Virtual Regatta which finishes in San Francisco, I managed my wreck my virtual yacht on Moss Beach!

But any of my readers could, would, and should. According to Clipper's promotional literature:
... It is contested and crewed by people like you .... Housewives, taxi drivers, chief executives, lawyers, doctors, carpenters, truck drivers, IT specialists, marketing executives and even members of the clergy have all taken up the Clipper challenge – to race around the world under sail. It is a feat that fewer people have completed than have climbed Mount Everest.
The promotion goes on:
Crew places have sold out for Clipper 11-12 but we are now recruiting crew for Clipper 13-14 and beyond.

It’s not easy and only those with a firm desire to live life to the full apply ..... The sea does not distinguish between Olympians or novices and if the Southern Ocean, the Pacific or the South Atlantic decides to throw down its gauntlet, the Clipper crews need to be ready to face exactly the same challenges as those experienced by the professional racer
That is indeed true as was born out this week. A participating yacht, the Geraldton Western Australia, ran into trouble in dangerous conditions 400 miles off the California coast. Two crew injured members had to be transferred off (rescued) by the US Coast Guard Sunday night. They were:

[] Jane Hitchens, 50, a doctor, has suspected broken ribs and is being treated with oxygen.
[] Nik Brbora, 29, a software engineer who lives in London who has a suspected pelvic strain.

Two other casualties remained on board:

[] Max Wilson, 62, a farmer from Queensland, Australia, who also has suspected broken ribs, but in a more stable condition.
[] Mark Burkes, 47, who was on the helm at the time of the incident, sustained a back injury but is not as badly hurt as originally believed and has been taken off the casualty list.

What happened? Here's one account from the boat's professional skipper Juan Coetzer as released by race organizers:
We were racing along in 40-60 knot gusts. The sea was alive with rage. We were making good speed, sailing with the third reef in the main, surfing at 15 to 20 knots. Then at our watch change, just before the sun came up, a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern.

Mark Burkes was on the helm at the time. The water had so much force in it that it pushed Mark into the helm, snapping the pedestal clean off. We had no steering and crew were falling all over the boat.
Well, even though these were unusual conditions, this kind of event does not really appeal to me. I can have a bad fall when my boat is hardly moving, as was proved last Wednesday. But I would think that any thrill-seeker who races Lasers well into his sixties would leap at a chance for something like this. Or it might even appeal to some Easterners I've encountered who currently reminisce about Scow sailing in their youth. Or any Lido sailors out there?


  1. An around the world race and what spot do they photograph to promote the event?

    I don't need no steenkin' round the world race. I got your adventure right here.

  2. Thanks, Doc. But I'm happy when I get back to the dock in one piece after sailing in 8 feet of water with a 20 knot breeze.

  3. Doesn't appeal to me either. I have never wanted to poop on a boat. And the thought of being cooped up in a plastic box for weeks at a time with "IT specialists, marketing executives and even members of the clergy" horrifies me.

  4. a friend did one leg of the early clipper races, 1996 I think, 10 weeks, a load of money, he had a thoroughly miserable time and they came last!!

    Definitely not on my 60 things to do before I'm 60 list!

    1. Confirms my suspicions. A flight on a glider is moving up on my bucket list. And it's free!

  5. OK, Doc, the real thing is not for you, gotcha. But what about the virtual one, which start tomorrow. We need a leader to follow along California's cost !