High up on Watson’s Bay with a blue sea below and a bluer sky above, Sydney did what only Sydney can do – offering  a panoramic view of the start of the 2013 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

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2013 clipper race dec 26 007

 

Below,  the white bright sails glimmered in the water, the two maxi yachts with their black sails already battling it out. But I was rooting for the clipper ship the London Derry Doire, sponsored by Derry City.

 

There are 12 clipper ships on a round the world race with this leg of it taking in the Hobart race.

The previous day, in the bar of the Crusing Club of Australia, in Rushcutters Bay, I chatted with some of the crew including Michelle Porter who had had to lifted off by the South African coastguard when she’s suffered a broken arm during a knockdown in the Indian Ocean. ” But I’m like a magnet,” she told me,” I’m always drawn back ot the boat.”

The knockdown ( it only takes a second or so for the mast to come back up again) left two others of the crew dangling by their harnesses. Funny now, not then. There’s always the memory of the terrible year when a storm claimed the lives of six sailors.

This year, the weather forecast isn’t great: down by the Bass Straits, they’re expecting winds gusting at 60 knots and waves 12 metres high – all part of the expected storm later today.

The big boats will have their storm sails up – made not for raciong but for surviving – while the clippers will plough onwards. As ocean-going yachts, this is what they’re built for.

” We even have our own sewing machine on board specially adapted for asymetrical sails,” Conor O Byrne tells me as we chatted pre race in the floating pontoon by the boat. Conor, now a garda siochana, used to work for the RNLI in Dublin.

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Like all such ventures, there are superstitions attached to sailing. Because the boat is mainly Irish, I’d expected the crew logo to be green but no: ” No,” says Nick Blewer, a financial consultant from Cheltenham, ” green is the colour of land – not a good thing when you’re sailing.”

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As the fleet came out through the heads, the tiny motorised convoy of well wishers buzzed to and fro among the yachts until they turned back to the safety of Sydney Harbour leaving the racing yachts to carry on alone, ready for whatever the seas and winds might throw at them.

When I woke in the middle of the night, I thought of the crew of the Derry. At 1am, they’d be getting ready for their third watch….

 

Stop press: 24 hours into the race, the Derry is holding her own on the top 6.  Derry  Abu!

 

 

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