Sheila Parsons and Vanessa Morgan, both from Haydon Wick, first contacted each other after Vanessa read in Link magazine about Sheila’s daughter Della being part of the crew of Hull and Humber in the Clipper Round the World yacht race.
“I contacted Sheila, whom I’d never met before, to tell her that my nephew, Brendan Hall, from Brisbane, was also taking part in the race, as skipper of Spirit of Australia,” said Vanessa.
It seemed amazing that there should be such a connection. However, as if that wasn’t coincidence enough, a number of strange quirks of fate have led to the two Haydon Wick ladies being brought even closer together.
At the beginning of March, just after Hull and Humber entered the Pacific Ocean from China, British skipper Piers Dudin was swept across the deck by a wave coming over the boat, and smashed his leg into a stanchion.
“They radioed for help and discovered that there was an A&E consultant aboard Spirit of Australia,” said Sheila.
“Brendan was enjoying an enormous lead at the time, but of course had to turn back to come to the aid of Hull and Humber,” said Vanessa.
Piers sustained an open compound fracture and had to be transferred ashore by the Japanese coastguard. Meanwhile, Brendan was co-opted as skipper of Hull and Humber “which means that Vanessa and I are now literally in the same boat!” said Sheila.
“The British boat has had some rotten luck so far really,” said Sheila. “They had a man over board as they left Rio, and then as they were on the start line at Cape Town the Irish boat collided with them and put a great crack in the side of Hull and Humber, which set them back nine days.”
“It can be worrying, especially thinking that if they are delayed at sea for whatever reason they have to eek out the food and water they have on-board to keep them going,” said Sheila, who flew out to Singapore to greet her daughter after the fourth race leg from Australia in January. “I was the only one dressed entirely in orange on the harbour-side until the Big Orange Boat itself arrived!”
Sheila is in no doubt that Della has loved every minute of her great adventure. “Not even aqua-planing in the rigging or seeing their last rations of stew get catapulted round the galley by a violent sea have put her off!”
The race will depart Jamaica on 22 May and sail via New York, Cape Breton, Cork and Amsterdam before finishing at the host port Hull on 17 July.
On 9 April Sheila wrote ‘Who Ever Named it The Pacific?’
Everyone knew that the leg from Qingdao to California was going to be the longest and the toughest of the whole round-the-world race, but no-one could guess what lay in store for the Clipper fleet as they set sail from Qingdao on Tuesday 2 March!
We last left our heroine – and heroes as they waived goodbye to their injured skipper who was flown back to hospital in Japan. The Spirit of Australia, which had accompanied BOB transferred their skipper, Brendan, to BOB to take over. Spirit had another qualified skipper on board, but he was not a Clipper Skipper, so Brendan had to take over responsibility for both boats, which meant they couldn’t race against each other (much!). Having turned back to retrace their paths to the point at which Piers’ accident happened, they overtook the Edinburgh boat which had lost part of its mast in the waves.
Around 23/24 March the boats were advised that there was an emergency with the California boat, which had been "rolled" by the oceon and had lost it’s entire mast (all but a 10′ stump) and all communications. All boats were asked to divert immediately to the last point of contact for California to offer assistance. Uniquely Singapore had also been rolled, but it’s mast was in tact and they’d sustained deck damage which they were able to patch up.
A helicopter was despatched to drop radio comms to California and a nordic commercial vessel in the vicinity was asked to go to lift off a couple of California’s crew – one of whom had suffered some head injuries during the incident. Uniquely Singapore was the first to arrive, followed by the Nordic vessel. The two crew were safely transferred to the large vessel to be taken to Los Angeles. Jamaica Lightening Bolt were next on the scene. California was suffering in the massive (23ft) waves with no means of progress apart from their small engine. Singapore and Jamaica began the process of transferring containers of fuel and fresh water to California. ‘U’n’U and Australia headed toward them and, after a few days were able to take over from Singapore and Jamaica with escorting California and providing fuel and other supplies. This released Uniquely Singapore and Jamaica to continue racing.
Cape Breton and Qingdao boats had begun diverting to assist California, but were told that the other boats were there, so they could continue racing – they were both now well ahead of the rest. Jamaica were not free of problems – there was an escape of diesel fumes which was making living below decks extremely unpleasant for the crew, which is why they were released from escort duty. U’n’U and Australia had the difficult task of not sailing too fast so that they could keep eye contact with California – more difficult than usual without a sail to spot!
Meanwhile – back in Qingdao – the Finnish boat’s new top mast was fitted and passed as safe and the boat set off to negotiate the obstacle course known as the Yellow Sea. They were just sailing around the south of Japan when their (brand new) fresh water container started to leak! This meant calling in to Japan to have the leak fixed and to take on more fresh water and supplies. Eventually they were able to continue the race and head for the Pacific.
As the boats continued and crossed the International Date Line, there was the peculiar circumstance of the Finnish boat being 2,000nm behind the others – but a day ahead!
About a week ago, the Edinburgh boat caught up with the little trio of boats, and were intended to take over escort duty of California, but, by then they were all so close to the west coast of America that it was decided to continue as a group.
Cape Breton arrived under the Golden Gate Bridge on 31 March, closely followed by Qingdao and, a day later Jamaice Lightening Bolt. BOB, Australia, California and Edinburgh all arrived safely on 5 April – Easter Monday. As for the Finnish boat – well, it crossed the International Date Line on Wednesday and should arrive in San Fransisco in around 10 days’ time.
There have been slightly hair-raising tales from the crews – aquaplaning as the waves swept them off their feet, some being swept off their boat, but with lifelines firmly attached, all hauled back aboard – waves "popping" the life jackets so that they inflated!! There have also been some minor injuries sustained – cuts, bruises and, unfortunately, in the middle of these massive waves, while at the helm, Della dislocated her left shoulder. She has spent the best part of 3 weeks with her arm in a sling as the shoulder didn’t go back fully. This meant that she wasn’t much use on deck – apart from helping with the transfer of fuel canisters to California – so she made a chocolate cake which was sent over to them Because California weren’t receiving e.mails, these were sent to BOB, so Della took on the task of transcribing all of them by hand and sent them in one of the canisters, then, as the replies came back from the California crew, she e.mailed them all out to their friends and families.
Now on dry land Della has been to a physiotherapist and the decision is that she doesn’t need an operation, but with specific exercises to do and resting the shoulder she hopes to be able to continue with the race. The decision is up to the Clipper office, and they are waiting until nearer the start time to decide whether she can continue.
I spoke with Piers last evening – the injured skipper – he is in good spirits and back at home in Salisbury, Wilts. He anticipates being able to rejoin BOB in either New York or Cape Breton. A new skipper has been appointed to the Hull and Humber for the next part of the race, but, clearly, Piers wants to reclaim "his" boat as soon as possible. His view of Della’s chances? " A one-armed Della is much more use that most 2-armed people!" Let’s hope that the Clipper office agree.
This oceon is definitely not Pacific!!