Jo Coomber up on Leader's deck

Tall Ships Challenge — Ups and Downs

Leader’s Race has begun but the weather has been working against them. Here’s how the Tall Ships Challenge team have been making the most of their experience.

Day 9: Slow going.

The site of all these amazing square riggers is something I will never forget. It has been great fun, but sadly the wind has been non existent.

I was fortunate enough to be helming Leader across the start line of the race, which was incredibly cool. Sadly the wind didn’t pick up through the rest of the day. We are still sailing, just really slowly.

Jo, Cool Watch

Day 10: Waves likes skyscrapers.

My day started at 12.00 due to the rotation of the watch as my shift was between 12.00 and 16.00. We came up on deck with a plate of fresh food: Feta cheese, tuna sandwiches, crackers, and fruit.

At this point of the day the sea was fairly calm, with a little wind. About an hour in the wind began to increase so we brought down the topsail, which went well as there were many of us around to help get it down.

As our watch was about to finish Katie brought up an amazing ginger cake, baked by the wonderful Anne. After I inhaled the cake I scurried down to my bunk for some shut eye, which was impossible due to the squeezing and rocking of the boat.

I was awakened suddenly, practically falling out of my bunk, as Leader was heading through a near gale seven. I stumbled in to the galley to find a drenched Colin saying: “Give me a camera those waves are serious.” I grabbed my camera, headed-up on deck and it was seriously scary, stomach tensing stuff. Waves and splashed were covering the deck and everyone up there. Stupidly I wasn’t wearing any oilskins so, thanks to a reminder from Colin, I headed back down below and was delighted to see some food: stew and dumplings, moulded by Ben. This warmed me up nicely and went down a treat. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Ben’s which ended up on the floor as a big wave tilted the boat to port.

I changed in to my wet weather gear and headed back up on deck, where I became part of the “super crew” to reef the main sail (this was very hard!). The wind picked up, with waves like skyscrapers, covering the deck like an ice rink. We were pulling on ropes until our hands were raw. After about 10 to 15 minutes of reefing the sail, is again the turn of Ice Watch to take over, working 11pm to 2am.

I took the helm and then the night sky dropped. The mist picked up and the waves were still humongous. on the deck, and in the sea, were little phosphorescence glowing blue. It was like stars in the sea and on the floor.

We were moving at six knots. For the last 30 minutes of the watch it chucked it down and there were massive flashes of lightning across the sky. It was very cold and this extreme weather showed us how tough we all were.

Stan asked: “What would you normally be doing on a week night?” I said: “Be in bed.”

Reece, Ice Watch

Day 11: It’s not the winning  that counts, it’s the taking part.

After a stormy night, the weather today was amazing with glorious sunshine and light winds. Sadly, after some mathematical calculations the light winds meant we were left with little option but to turn the engine on motor some of the way back to get back in to port on time. It was a similar story for several of the other vessels, the wind was working against us and the distance to cover was too large.

Fear not, our spirits remained high and an amazing tiramisu helped boost morale even more.

Sam, Ice Watch