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Read Tom Taggart’s account of his first day aboard the Old Pulteney yacht in the Clipper Round the World Race.
Our recent on-pack competition offered one lucky thrill-seeker the once in a lifetime chance to take to the high seas and compete in the famous Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The lucky winner, now aboard the Old Pulteney, has hit the high seas joining the crew for Race 14 and gives his account of day one below…
R.E.M.’s ‘Leaving New York Is Never Easy’ is the song that the skipper was playing over the speakers behind the helm as we were getting ready to depart. North Cove Marina was buzzing as all the boats were making ready to go, and in some ways it didn’t feel easy to leave New York. We’d had a week of fabulous weather in the city that never sleeps, and were incredibly well looked after by the generous folk from Old Pulteney’s New York offices who wined and dined and entertained us in cool New York bars and restaurants, which were all the more fun for hanging out in them with our New York friends.
But leave we did, slipping lines at 11.06 am local time. The trip started with our Parade of Sail back past the marina and across the river to Ellis Island for photographs by the Statue of Liberty, then east down the Hudson, eventually under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island, and into the Atlantic, motoring about thirty miles out for some final man overboard drills before the start.
So far the ocean has been incredibly kind to us. The heat we had in New York is still with us, and we’ve had smooth seas and light winds flying the big lightweight spinnaker most of the time, and making speeds between five and ten knots in the varying breeze. We were the windward boat in the Le Mans start, got off really
well, and our position in the fleet so far is pretty good. Our strategy for the race is going to be…. ha ha, that would be telling!
Settling in has been good so far. The established crew are welcoming and supportive, and the experience and knowledge they’ve gained in the race to date in the very capable hands of our skipper Patrick is evident and reassuring. At our lunchtime crew meeting today, Patrick told us his main priority is to get us home safely, and I’m sure that’ll be reassuring for the folks at home as well as for us. Actually, thinking about that I just remembered that the name on the Aer Lingus plane that took me to New York was St Patrick. Visiting St Patrick’s Cathedral in the city this week I noticed a carving of the Saint in a little sailing boat voyaging, presumably, to Ireland, and now we have another Patrick in charge of our ocean crossing; all of which amounts to a curiously comforting set of coincidences for an Irishman (although my mum may consider there’s more design to it than that).
Anyway, day one involved a fair bit of time organising dry bags, gear and clothing, fiddling to find places to put things, then trying to find them again, eventually wondering what made you think that was a good place for them in the first place (my wife Alana,
locator of all things lost, will find that unsurprising). The established crew have been very helpful with suggestions on all sorts of things from sailing tips and helming skills to advice on how to stow gear, what clothes might be best to wear at certain times, and even how to operate the heads! I had a good long spell on the helm this morning in the light winds which was really helpful in getting the feel of the boat before the weather becomes more challenging, and had lots of helpful advice from my watch leader, Kees, and the rest of our watch.
So I’m super excited about the adventure that lies ahead, and really glad to be started. I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to share my experience of the beginning of the trip in this first crew blog. We’ll need a bit more wind if we’re going to make it home before Christmas, but everyone will be very surprised if the Atlantic doesn’t deliver that. Time to go brush my teeth and then try to get some rest before we’re on watch again at 7.00pm.
Leaving New York may not have been easy in some ways, but it does mean that our adventure on the ocean has begun, and of course that also means that we’re on our way home. On behalf of my crewmates and I, warmest wishes to all our friends and loved ones, and we’ll see you soon.
Tom Taggart on board Old Pulteney
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