A little over two years ago, I was invited to come along on a cruise of the Seattle waterfront with an official from the Clipper Round the World Race (see a video of our cruise here). He was in town scouting locations for the 2015 – 2016 edition of the race and I wondered if Seattle would actually get to host the globe girdling event. By all accounts he was impressed at what he saw, because if you fast forward to this month, the Clipper Race is in town.
By the time I’d reached the Clipper Race village at Bell Harbor Marina on Sunday morning, the skies had opened up into an absolute downpour. But flags streamed from the Clipper 70’s masts and I figured that in classic Pacific Northwest style, the sun would probably come out by the time we were done sailing.
After meeting with our skipper Daniel, myself and a small contingent of local journalists headed down to the boat Derry~Londonderry~Doire for a sail on Elliott Bay. The boat was expectedly quite spartan down below and as Daniel ran us through a safety briefing, I pulled on my foulies.
A few crewmembers from the boat were also aboard to assist us in sailing and once clear of the marina we worked together to get the Clipper 70’s huge Dacron mainsail hoisted. Next came the staysail and yankee and before long we were sprinting westward under full sail.
As the boat picked up speed, I chatted with Daniel about sailing the 70-footer on the ocean and he said it handles well and can regularly hit speeds in the mid to upper 20s. In about 10-knots of breeze and flat seas, we were scooting along nicely at about 6 to 7 knots.
The crew ran us through a few tacks towards Elliott Bay Marina and everyone got a chance to trim sheets and use the pedestal grinders. When I got a turn at the helm the breeze kicked up a little bit and the boat had no problem reaching 8 to 10 knots. With dual rudders, she was extremely easy to steer and when a gust hit, we simply leaned with it and turned the extra power into speed.
Steering was a lot of fun, but one of the best parts of the sail was chatting with the crew. A few of them had been on the boat since leaving London last July and I got a sense that they’d been profoundly affected by their time racing around the world. They say the race changes lives, and I could tell pretty quickly that was true.
Ellie, who is an engineer from the UK, said she had never sailed before joining the Clipper Race and after four stages of intense sail training, she was ready to take on the adventure of a lifetime. “This has been an amazing experience,” she said “It’s hard to put it into words.”
Ali, another crewmember from the UK, had signed on to do the first four legs of the race and after returning home she struggled to readjust, so she signed back on to finish the race with her team aboard Derry~Londonderry~Doire. “I couldn’t do anything back home knowing the team was out there. So my family encouraged me to return to the race,” she said with a smile.
They’ve won three legs in a row now, including the Seattle Pacific Challenge, and I got the sense that they all worked quite well as a team. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work and have been sailing the boat well,” Daniel remarked in a thick Scottish accent.
“But I guess we’re just sailing faster than the other boats,” he added with a chuckle.
When it was time to head back to Bell Harbor, Daniel once again had us all involved in flaking and stowing the sails, tying on fenders and preparing dock lines. And sure enough, just as we were heading into the marina, the sun came out.
Here’s an excellent video of footage shot during the Seattle Pacific Challenge: