Race Blog

29 July
Skipper

Race 14 - Day 1

A wonderful stopover. Thank you Den Helder for the warm welcome we received.The sail parade was very nice with the…

A wonderful stopover. Thank you Den Helder for the warm welcome we received.
The sail parade was very nice with the lead of the sailing vessel
And last, but not least a fantastic start to the last race. Getting out of the channel was really challenging, we had a lot of pleasure to do it.

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29 July
Dominique Hausser

Race 14 - Day 1

Je vous avais dit que le précédent était mon dernier. Il se trouve que nous devons passer la nuit à…

Je vous avais dit que le précédent était mon dernier.
Il se trouve que nous devons passer la nuit à Southend Pier avant de pouvoir remonter la Tamise jusqu'à Londres en flotte et surtout réaliser la dernière parade de cette Clipper round the World Yacht Race 2015-2016, ce qui me donne quelques instants pour rédiger ce qui est vraiment le dernier.
Nous terminons 3ème de cette dernière course et assurons ainsi notre première place au classement général.
Une course courte et intense, avec pour moi à peine une heure et demie de sommeil; le reste du temps étant passé dans la "nav station" pour assurer le routage du bateau entre tous les obstacles rencontrés sur le parcours, comme plateformes pétrolières ou gazières, TSS, fermes d'héoliènes, zones interdites diverses, mais aussi dans les chenaux étroits entre les bancs de sables que nous avons du emprunter pour atteindre la ligne d'arrivée.
En passant cette dernière ligne d'arrivée de la dernière course de cette très longue régate autour du monde, mon rêve est devenu réalité :
effectuer le tour du monde à la voile et participant à une régate, la gagner.
C'est juste génial et je ne regrette vraiment pas de m'être engagé sur ce projet.
Comme il est maintenant terminé, je vais retrouver très vite tous mes amis et je me réjouis.
PS. Merci à toutes et tous pour l'accueil chaleureux à Den Helder.
Dominique Hausser sur LMAX Exchange, samedi 30 juillet 2016 0000 TUC :end

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21 July
Skipper

Race 13 - Day 4

The last 24 hours were very tiring and seemed extremely long. Variable winds and a number of squalls imposed a…

The last 24 hours were very tiring and seemed extremely long. Variable winds and a number of squalls imposed a number of evolutions: reefing, un-reefing and headsail changes.
We passed very close to the centre of the depression, a nice circle of blue sky. We are now in the back of this depression with a steadier wind.
We still have about 150NM to go to get closer to the head of the fleet.

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21 July
Leo Meijaard

Race 13 - Day 4

Hully Gully Championship I used to live in Utrecht, a city 35 km below Amsterdam. Once every summer we had an…

Hully Gully Championship
I used to live in Utrecht, a city 35 km below Amsterdam. Once every summer we had an event down town called 'de Piekenkermis.' It was a gathering of all types of merry go rounds like the 'Centrifuge', 'Octopus' and 'Hully Gully'. You could enter all attractions for a Piek (1 Gulden which was the equivalent of 0,25 Pound ca 1995). Together with friends I would spend hours on these machines being turned around and pushed up and down at high speeds. I could live on these thrill machines.
20 years later I step on board a Clipper 70 racing yacht. This Hully Gully may not turn rounds but it certainly goes up, down, left, right, forward and backwards. After all my Hully Gully experience I thought this one was more of the same. So I didn't worry too much about it.
When we turned around Japan to start the Pacific Ocean crossing (Leg 6) and got a high sea state rated as a mere 'moderate,' this Hully Gully knocked my body balance system totally out in a matter of seconds. 1-0 for this new Hully Gully which out of respect I now call 'the Mistress Hully Gully'.
I had to lay flat in order to beat her as every time you stand up it feels like your worst hangovers.
Our medic, Dominique, came by to discuss the game tactics against my Mistress Hully Gully. Eat no matter how you feel or where the food goes. Drink, drink, drink and take medicine. That is what I did.
Fortunately, after a day being bed bound, the next day I woke up feeling hungry and feeling good. It is 1-1 in the Hully Gully championship.
From Leg 7 till the current race to The Netherlands I beat Mistress Hully Gully with the one medicine that helps me, the patch behind my ear. So after another four races the score is 1-5 in favour of me. One more race to go so she can never beat me.
Looking forward to Den Helder the stopover in my homeland. To see my family and friends, to my own bed, to herring, to broodje frikandel met, to bitterballen, to driving my car, to a good barbeque and so on and so on.
Groeten vanaf de Noordzee.
Leo
In OTHER NEWS:
- One of our medics 'Doctor Clare' cured a moth that was stranded on the deck by treating him or her with a mixture of honey and water. After a while he or she flew away.

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20 July
Skipper

Race 13 - Day 3

After finally getting out of Pentland Firth, we had some difficulties in the light wind conditions to find the current…

After finally getting out of Pentland Firth, we had some difficulties in the light wind conditions to find the current pushing us to the south. The other boats did much better.
We then spent the day working hard to catch up the leading boats, as the ones behind us did the same.
This morning, two squalls gave some animation on deck as we tried to cross them without damage and without leaving the best course to the finish line.

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19 July
Skipper

Race 13 - Day 2

For the last 24 hours, we heading on the west side of the Hebrides to the north of Scotland under…

For the last 24 hours, we heading on the west side of the Hebrides to the north of Scotland under spinnaker. Our direct competitor, was following very close, helping us to trim to go as fast as possible.
The visibility was quite poor all day so we could hardly see the other boats, but they finally appeared again at the end of the day. This also allowed us to discover the coast of the Isle of Lewis.
Since midnight, we have been in the tricky passage to round the north-east head of Scotland, sailing in a very light and shifting wind and a quite important current against us. We have plenty of time to appreciate Ushat Head!
After a wonderful sunrise in a blue sky without a cloud, we finally started to move east, entering Pentland Firth, in the direction of the North Sea.
All the crew are working very hard in these quite difficult conditions to try to go in the right direction.

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19 July
Junior Hoorelbeke

Race 13 - Day 2

A new world The race has almost come to its end. For those who did the whole round the world tour,…

A new world
The race has almost come to its end. For those who did the whole round the world tour, this means the end of a remarkable year filled with unforgettable memories and friendships for life. But also a long awaited reunion with friends and family. However, from the leggers who already went home, we hear about their struggle to fit back into normal life. They are already searching for the new challenge as the world around them seems less adventurous as it once did. We RTWers can only imagine how it will be for us. One thing is certain, it will be a new world we enter.
First of all, as for a great number of the RTWers this last year asked for such an immense sacrifice of quitting a job, selling a house, that there is not much to go back to at first sight. Others saw this challenge as a good moment in life to make an evaluation and will use this experience as a boost, both professionally and personally and a step to the next great adventure. We often also ask ourselves the question how this experience has changed us, and our view of the world. Probably only our closest friends will be able to answer this question in a month or two.
However it is not only us that has changed, the last 11 months a number of atrocities have happened. Attacks in Paris (120 deaths), bombing in Brussels (34 deaths), violence in Nice (84 deaths) and a failed coup in Turkey (265 deaths). Bearing in mind that the history of our last stopover, the city of Londonderry, is mainly determined through Bloody Sunday where
14 people were killed in 1972. A day that still defines the life of an entire community. Terrorism is now a reality of our lives and unfortunately will influence our future. A long time ago for us, sailing across oceans was terrifying, but now I would sail into hurricane Colin any day with a smile, but probably think twice when going to public event.
Therefore living towards the end of the race is done with a mixture of feelings such as happiness and satisfaction as well as fear and sadness.
But before we enter this new world, we still have to win this round the world yacht race.

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18 July
Skipper

Race 13 - Day 1

Thank you to the authorities, to the organisers, to the population of the city of Derry-Londonderry and the county of…

Thank you to the authorities, to the organisers, to the population of the city of Derry-Londonderry and the county of Doire for the wonderful welcome, festival and all the other activities during this stopover.
The parade with all the boats illuminated, followed by a great fireworks were enjoyed by the whole crew of
Leaving Foyle Marina with all the crowd along the river was impressive, as was the number of people in Greencastle to follow the start of race 13 to Den Helder, after rounding the north of Scotland.
Our performance at the start of the race was not good at all and we had to battle very hard to finally be in a better position leaving the north Irish coast to the south of Hebrides which we have to leave on starboard.

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18 July
Fred Dankers

Race 13 - Day 1

The sun was out when we said our goodbyes to the friendly people of Derry. Lots of waving and applauding on…

The sun was out when we said our goodbyes to the friendly people of Derry. Lots of waving and applauding on the quay during the Parade of Sail. Afterwards we motored down the Foyle river to Greencastle. There the race committee had prepared a short course for the fleet to show off our fleet race skills before we were to head out to sea for the trip to Den Helder in The Netherlands.
The starting line was made up of two flag poles on both sides of the river. From there we had to sail a short upwind leg to a buoy, keep that to starboard, bear away to a spreader buoy, and proceed downwind past the starting line out to the open sea.
Skipper Olivier had scouted the starting area and concluded that the left side of the line was favoured because of wind and current conditions. He made a cunning plan. We wanted to proceed on starboard tack parallel to the line and tack over to port tack quickly after the starting gun. We expected this action to enable us to cross ahead of the other yachts and give us a clear track towards the upwind mark.
Alas this plan did not work out as expected. On the other (right) side of the starting line both and had very good starts. When we tacked over to port we could not cross ahead of them. We were forced to tack back to starboard, lost our speed because of it, and ended up sailing in the disturbed air of our competitors. From that moment we had lost the battle on the upwind beat. What followed was and to increase their lead and the rest of the fleet manoeuvring in disturbed air, unable to maintain good speed. So we rounded the upwind mark bringing up the rear together with .
The next step was to hoist our spinnaker quickly, gybe to starboard at the spreader mark and proceed as close to shore as we dared to avoid the current that was running against us as we sailed back towards the starting area. This worked wonderfully well. We soon started overtaking other boats that were in the middle of the river. By the starting line we had moved up to third position. And closing the gap with and .
15 minutes later we got lucky. The wind dropped to just a few knots. and got stuck in windholes and we were still moving along the shoreline. We were leading, but by a very small margin. The rest of the fleet was closely following us like a pack of bloodhounds. And they pounced on us when we met a windhole ourselves and tried to gybe away. The gybe failed and we stopped. Ouch, 5 or 6 yachts sailed past when the wind picked up and we were still struggling to get the spinnaker off the forestay.
This Race Start as a good example of how exciting and frustrating regatta style fleet racing can be. From zero to hero and back again in one hour of racing, with numerous tacks, gybes and tactical decisions.

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17 January
David Mercer

The privilege

What was I thinking? ‘Olivier, just treat me like another crew member’. Did I really say that? What a muppet!…

What was I thinking? ‘Olivier, just treat me like another crew member’. Did I really say that? What a muppet! Sponsors on boats; visions of en suite bathrooms, pillows on fluffy sheets and some stage managed ‘city boy’ does sailing photos. Perfect. Port Out, Starboard Home (POSH) for old Sammy Softie here. Breakfast at 8, lunch at 1 and dinner whenever I damn well fee like it. Silver platters, filet steaks rare and an amuse bouche or two all washed down with a glass of chateau fancy dan. Oh yes, that’s sailing sponsor style. Or is it?
Not entirely. Night two, boat lurching, surf and crash, surf and crash, staying upright a feat of mighty achievement and then they ask you do stuff. Grind, trim, ease, sweat and then deep joy of joys. Wool the Spinnaker. All around you people not managing to hold down the delights from dinner and you’re cooped up below deck with 5 others, bouncing off not very bouncy metal boat parts, scrunching 100 square meters of nylon spinnaker into a narrow floppy silky tube, held together by granny’s pink cardigan wool, cut helpfully into lengths about 4 centimetres too short. 20 minutes that feel like 20 hours . Sweaty and nauseating, by far the least volunteered for job on a boat. But it’s ok you won’t have to do it again for at least an hour as skipper changealot up above hoists Yankee, drops Yankee, hoists code 1, drops code 1. Hold on a sec; publicity shot? Make sure you catch Chris puking beside you and Fred, delightfully doing the same into the cereal Tupperware. Pure pleasure and quality PR!
Eight hours on freezing deck, chilled to the bone and wet to the core blessed relief as it’s bedtime. A whole 4 hours of rest in the seclusion of your deluxe bunk. Except, someone beat me too it …. Some hairy being in your spot. Oh hell, you have two choices, collapse on the spot or be launched headfirst in the general direction of the nav station. Collapse it is, onto an array of luggage helpfully stored between the two rows of bunks. All about weight distribution courtesy of our details focussed skipper! Finally I find an unnatural foetus position wedged between hard case and soft something to attempt some shut eye.
I drift off and sometime later wake having being heaved violently into the back of Pascal – the hairy thing from earlier. Ugh….he yelps but wait for it. We’re under attack. Attack from a storm of baked bean cans, who target us indiscriminately fromm their hiding place beneath the coffin bunk. The joy of my privileged position as boat sponsor.
Exhausted, baked beans get brushed aside and deep breaths, grunt, snore. Yup Pascal again enjoying the delights of my VIP salon.
Treat me like anyone else Olivier. Really?!


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06 January
David Mercer

The majesty remains

Tears welled in my eyes. ‘I would have loved to have done that; I just never had the opportunity’ said…

Tears welled in my eyes. ‘I would have loved to have done that; I just never had the opportunity’ said a self confessed home bird who loved her family around her in her nest that she’d spent the best part of fifty years creating. Hunting, gathering, layering with mountains of love, affection, warmth and security. Here I was about to do my first ever mid life crisis adventure and climb Kilimanjaro at the tail end of 2009 and my 74 year old mum was telling me she had that spark too. A love of the majesty of the world; strictly from a creationist perspective; I never said she was perfect!
I think a lot about that conversation and even more today as the Mercers reel from another tragedy in the battlezone that is life. The Arctic ocean and on to the Tasman sea; they’re quite monotonous at times and for people, like me, who are used to taking action, making a difference and exerting control a selfish sense of boredom rises. And then a pod of dolphins, a spout of water from the blowhole of a whale or three; breathtaking, awe inspiring, mind blowing majesty. The complexity of the world and the beauty of our planet comes home to roost. 
Your mind wanders and you feel oh so fickle for being bored and wishing for a club sandwich and a glass of Pinot noir a few minutes before. In modern parlance they say FOMO – fear of missing out – and it might be that or it might just be a natural inquisitiveness that we all share, that we all observe in children but somehow lose and disguise in a blur of total connectivity that is the curse of our modern world.
I realise I am fortunate, very fortunate to have the opportunity to discover and most importantly try to understand this world. Like the rest of us I don’t think I’ve made much progress in understanding but I do my best to appreciate. And I appreciate all the more when I think of Andy Ashman who would have loved to be at the race start in Sydney and cross the line in Hobart. We held him in our hearts as we cruised down Storm bay; an emotive name and an emotional time.
I appreciate it when I think of Kevin and his loved ones, of the pain in the hearts of T and E and C and all of us, his family. I believe there’s a light left on for you Kev, there is a mum or two we know well with their lights on and arms wide open. The majesty remains and the joy was ours. Rest my friend.


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30 December
David Mercer

Hobart – what time is it?

We just passed the Giants causeway by sea although they call it Eaglehawk neck down here in Tasmania. Columnar jointing…


We just passed the Giants causeway by sea although they call it Eaglehawk neck down here in Tasmania. Columnar jointing or tessellated pavements typically caused by volcanic lava cooled rapidly by the ocean or alternatively evidence of Noah’s flood depending on your point of view ;-).
Pods of Dolphins escorted us through and put on quite a show. It has been quite idyllic and a reminder that ocean sailing can be a beautiful, uplifting experience unlike the Spielberg inspired Armageddon nightmare endured just 48 hours earlier.
I could show you the photographic evidence but the skipper was grunting ‘we are not on holiday, we are not tourists….. Ah, oh…. Pretty Dolphins ….. There are a lot of them’ grunt grunt chunder chunder.
The fact that we are talking about the scenery and wildlife obviously means we didn’t get the result we wanted. All credit to Danang and Team GB for sailing a better race and many congratulations to all from a tired LMAX Exchange Team who gave it everything.
I am very proud of the team and feel privileged to have been part of this well oiled unit. Now I need a holiday!
I’ll be back with more refection soon but for now suffice it to say it’s been emotional, magical, horrific and scary all wrapped up in a neat 4 and a half day Sydney-Hobart classic. Is that the time? Yes you guessed it. It’s beer o’clock!


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29 December
David Mercer

A majestic ocean cat

Like a big cat eyeing his prey the French magician prowls the boat. A shake of his mane, a flare…

Like a big cat eyeing his prey the French magician prowls the boat. A shake of his mane, a flare of the nostrils, an immediate spin of 180 degrees, two twitches of his neck left and right.
He studies and searches and peers out to the horizon. A sharp look back and a glare at his tellytubby red suited crew, a flail of his arm ‘get high, get forward, now’. We shuffle off and still he prowls. A sudden feline pounce down to the pedestal, a quarter turn on the staysail, his eyes flick up and down the line of the sail, a loosening of the Yankee, maybe three inches of adjustment. He purveys everything …. Again a nostril shiver. He stands, shoulders back, a proud figure of oceanic majesty. “There is the wind…. Looook”.
He’s lost the plot. There is barely a ripple on the dark misty blue sea. Time for the cat to crawl into his basket for a few hours rest we think. “10 minutes” he utters with a wide eyed look of a lion possessed.
And there it is; the black line in the horizon. By Jove he’s good this fella. “Get ready, keep the couuuuurse”.
And then as if by magic with only a 1 minute misjudgement the sails fill and CV24 gets a kickstart, like the end of an M25 traffic jam without warning. We’re gliding again, we’re back in the game.
The cat strokes his mane, twitches a shoulder and goes to the helm; where will his next prey come from. Come it will.


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28 December
David Mercer

Crash!

Caught, suspended and dumped like a one night stand in Ibiza. The Tasman sea showed me who's boss today. My…

Caught, suspended and dumped like a one night stand in Ibiza. The Tasman sea showed me who's boss today. My first wipeout on deck and not one I particularly look forward to repeating.

Raise the Staysail was the simple instruction and my job was to “sweat” it up; basically pull down on the down rope (halyard) which makes the mid sized sail go up. Pull and feed, pull and feed and keep pulling and feeding till your fingers bleed. Easy enough and surely not a task even this bambi of the seas could fail. But fail I did….

The sweating bit went ok as far as it went but I guess I've omitted to say the wind was gusting between 30-40 knots which was a big drop from the previous 50-60 knots.

We're a racing boat so that drop into an uncomfortable upwind means we need more sail and more boatspeed. Keeping your feet with the added variant of 10 metre waves is tricky but we did ok until the ‘crash'.

I didn't see much; the bow dropped, I had an impression of a frothy white a blueberry slush puppy sea rolling towards me and then it almost helpfully lifted me violently towards the boom. I forlornly tried to grab on to it but it was pointless.

Suspended animation and my initial reaction was “bloody hell David, you are so rubbish – you can't even sweat a staysail”. And then the realisation was there – this is gonna hurt!

It didn't disappoint – dumped unceremoniously in a heap – thrown two metres back from the halyard landing against the mainstay but another metre could have been much worse.

I managed to give the ok gesture within a few seconds and they went on without me and ground it up.

My pride was hurt along with my backside and a few other bits but all in all not too bad. We had the sail up and the boat moving quicker within minutes – that was the important thing!

Crash – I slept well last night!


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28 December
David Mercer

What a difference a day makes

For a start we have the full compliment of 23 crew members – up from yesterday. The rest were laid…

For a start we have the full compliment of 23 crew members – up from yesterday. The rest were laid up with chronic sea sickness; I'm told that's not pleasant but thankfully yours truly seems to have avoided it – hooha!

Why the quick turnaround you ask? Well yesterday was upwind on the nose being battered and beaten by a constant 40-50 knot wind with some gusts maybe up towards 60 knots on top of an inconsistent swelling sea with 6-10 metre waves rolling us around like its plaything.

Well playtime ended abruptly today and the wind stopped. Just like that – suddenly you could walk, you could eat, you could clean and you could live.

But what we couldn't do is make the boat go very fast. Wind speeds down to maybe 4-5 knots and going nowhere very quickly. we're halfway but unless this improves the second half could take three times longer than the first.

We shouldn't complain really because the previous 24 hours was pretty hellish – I wondered why anyone would put themselves through this but like
always – if you're going through hell, just keep on going.

Now we have arrived at a different type of hell – especially for our skipper who is understandably frustrated at the lack of progress. It might be the weather has put paid to our chances in this race but we're still trying, searching for that elusive wind….

Be careful what you wish for.


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25 December
David Mercer

Let’s get busy living

A full Christmas Day platter of anticipation and excitement all smothered in a healthy dose of fear as I sit…


A full Christmas Day platter of anticipation and excitement all smothered in a healthy dose of fear as I sit and wait. I wait with 22 crew members and another 107 crews to start the iconic Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Butterflies a plenty, I’ve just checked my Personal Locator Beacon wondering if it would actually work and whether I’d be able to activate should the situation require it. Let’s hope so and most importantly let’s hope it is not required. To be clear if it’s required it would be my own fault; we’re tethered to our yachts and failing some freak unforecast weather then Mercer being Man Overboard should not happen.
But there’s risk – I contemplate if it’s worth the risk but there’s risk in everything. A wise man once said you only regret the things you didn’t do. So we’ll do this thing.
But I dwell too much on the risk and the fear; it is not just fear of the danger but fear of failure for I am joining a successful race team and we’re racing to win. I want to win. There’d be no point in racing if we didn’t race to win. I look forward to the physical hardship and the mental torment; the human soul can bear a lot and craves the adrenalin these challenges create. I do anyway.
The prize of achievement and the satisfaction of winning, of making it, is a drug. You get your fix in early life from sport, or exams or career success but as life goes on there are bigger challenges and bigger fixes required. For how much longer can we do these things and will we always have the opportunity? I am fortunate to have this opportunity and am determined to make the most of it.
I do not want to let my team down and most of all I don’t want to let me down. I could, as my training skipper Wayne put it, ‘sit in my bunk and suck my thumb’ and it may yet come to that but I’ll give it everything to make sure that’s not the case. Mind you, sitting in your bunk is easier said than done on these floating washing machines colliding with 3-5 metre waves.
The sailing bit, the working on deck is in many ways the easy part. The hard part is living but we’ll get busy living and see how we fare.
15 hours to go and I’ve packed; ok I admit I’ve packed 3 times and I suspect there’s another couple of iterations to go but I just want to get going now. I just want to get busy living.


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24 December
David Mercer

Bah Humbug: change the record

Oh the joy of those Christmas songs that haven’t changed since Noddy Holder screamed out “Merrrrrrry Christmas” in the 70s.…


Oh the joy of those Christmas songs that haven’t changed since Noddy Holder screamed out “Merrrrrrry Christmas” in the 70s. To be fair Mariah Carey’s saccharine “All I want for….” is only two decades old and oh how we enjoy it every time we buy a pack of peppermints in December….. Every time…… Love it.
Shakin Stevens remember him? If you don’t, have another mince pie – you’ve missed 25 years of denim clad Christmas. He’s number 10 in the charts again right now so fear not – Shaky is just a few clicks away. Number 10 ….. Seriously! 
No really, I love a Christmas tune…… George and Last Christmas — what possessed you George? You were cool even with the perm and the rather too tight shorts and we all knew…. We did George….. Honest. Cool and then wham bham….. Bloomin Last Christmas! Have another funny cigarette George …. We’ll forget soon…… Mind you Bing is still going strong 60 years on with White Christmas….. Honest to goodness 1954 he pumped out that all time classic….. The tune that just keeps giving and giving and…..giving me indigestion!
But there are things I do love about Christmas. There’s the office party. Generally the best night of the year and informative too. It should be included in all MBA classes immediately. The things you learn, the things you coulda learned earlier if only you’d thought of asking Jonny from logistics where you’d been going wrong all this time. Chuck in a few glasses of sparkly and it’s there for all to see ….. You’re a donut, you don’t care and you should be selling your widgets in China to the Chinese…… There’s lots of them you know….. A big market allegedly…… Damn Jonny….. You da man……. See ya Monday working on the Macclesfield delivery John …… Skegness here we come….it’s just round the corner from Beijing and there is a market there.
Client lunches times a million …. They’re fun …. and declined dinner invites from your widget supplier – really a discount and enhanced efficiency will do…. You can hold the Harvester set menu….. much as I love an overcooked brussel sprout…..I just can’t fit you in – I’ve got Bing and Mariah and George and Noddy and Elvis and Luther and Cliff …… Oh Cliff do bore off man….. It’s done now. Enough already!
So this year I’m sad I’ve missed all of that. I ran away to a land far away where they’ve never heard of Christmas – well clearly not cos they’ve thrown in sunshine with the shrimps on a barbie but what’s that I hear – oh here comes Bing …. White Christmas….. Are you for real…. There’s no Ozone layer let alone a snowflake.
Have a wonderful Christmas one and all – family time, enjoy, relax, over indulge but do yourselves just one favour – change the record ! 


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23 December
David Mercer

Eat, sleep, gybe, repeat

Ok I admit it the first Mercer blow up on a boat has happened. Training skipper Wayne – a thoroughly…

Ok I admit it the first Mercer blow up on a boat has happened. Training skipper Wayne – a thoroughly good bloke with the patience of a sailing saint – a must if you are coaching Nobby novice here – got it full throttle at 4am!
Nothing is normal on a boat – I got a gentle wake up call at 03:30am. I heard myself say “thanks”. The conversation in my head was ‘are you having a laugh? I’ve had 2 hrs kip, the boat is lurching like a high heeled teenager down high street early Sunday morn after an alcopop soaked Saturday night and its raining cats and dogs – what the hell would you wake me for?’
No coffee, no shower, no checking of emails and no scent of bacon from the toy kitchen three feet from my 1 star salubrious bunk – strap yourself in folks otherwise you’ll wake to a face plant of sail bag and unforgiving metal.
The foulies get dragged on – imagine an astronauts suit except heavier, wetter with way less manoeuvrability – damp boots check✔️, wooly hat check, life jacket, safety harness – ready to go. I jest – I’ll never be ready for what lies above.
And then…… All hell breaks loose!
Head out of hatch, bracing spray hits my face, it’s pitch black, ribs bruise the top of the stairs….. “David clip on” clunk, “David, high side” guess, breathe, “ready to gybe’ ….. Wtf?!! “Dave, get aft…. Now” 

What ? Aft? Ffs….. Where is that high, Aft…. Speak English man!……. I’m thinking and thinking….. Obviously 10 seconds is way too long for boat thinking……. Unclip, clunk, reclip, Breathe. Relax …. “Davo for %€$#^* sake get behind the traveller”. Fumble, slip, slide, panic ….. Unclip Alan who says thanks…… Triffic…….. “Gybe ho”….. Oh sh*t…… “Dave, aft now”……….. More fumbling …….Mercer explodes …….. You can imagine ….. It was something like ‘ok, old chap, just unclipping now, thanks for the warning old bean’….. Something like that! Unclipped, clipped, clunk, heart pounding……anger rising, breathing, still on deck and behind the traveler, the helm and the skipper! It’s 4:01 and I’ve been on deck a whole 45 seconds! I’m not sure if you remember me saying this adventure was like performing open heart surgery after a day in the theatre whilst surfing an ironing board down K2….. Well today we did it blindfold !
Maaaaaaaan ……. I need coffee and more sleep. “Prepare to gybe”…… Now he’s taking the p*ss! 
I think it was a deliberate training exercise but I guess it could happen…. strangely if you stay on your bunk there’s no real feeling of turning (that’s gybing or tacking in sailinglish) and on the whole if you’ve a worked out your pulley system and tied a decent knot you’ll probably stay on your bunk…… Probably! 
But up above its a wee bit tense……..or in my case a lot tense. It’s pretty miserable up here now……. But I kissed and made up with skipper Wayne ……. He got his own back with nominating me as the swimmer for our Man overboard drill later……. Not much swimming just a fully clothed dunk in the ocean strapped onto a couple of halyards (those are upright ropes folks – don’t ask me why they use a made up word) tethered so that you are hanging like a baby in those ridiculous harnesses to a fathers chest. Just while we’re here – how would you like to be dangling by your nether regions with your arms flopping to the sides – if babies could talk they’d be screaming ” the buggy please dad, not the parachute”….. Have a heart pops! 
Anyway, back on deck ….. A few more gybes, a tack here, a drop there, a Yankee 3 hoist,lots of easing, some trimming, plenty of grinding, more rain, some wind and the worst helming you’ve ever seen courtesy of yours truly – apologies to the watch below ….. Hope you’re strapped in well! 
4 hours pass and it’s time to eat, change, sleep, repeat.


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22 December
David Mercer

Nuts whole hazelnuts

They’re all nuts this mob …. Maybe bananas too …. Incidentally they’re the only decent nutrients I’ve consumed so far…


They’re all nuts this mob …. Maybe bananas too …. Incidentally they’re the only decent nutrients I’ve consumed so far – Couscous? …. Quiche? …. Really? Anyway that’s for another day……
“Remember when the mast broke and we had to get Jimmy helicoptered out?” Oh yeah that was scary……..
I’m listening ….. Bewildered
“There were 50 people in hospital after that one leg to New Zealand……. ”
“Well, I was on a race to Bermuda on a 2-hander and the skipper cut his leg, got septicaemia, tried to fight me because he was delirious…..and ….and….. I got it home…. ”
Enough people. Enough. I’m wracking my brain for another hobby where all the participants while away the wee hours recounting how they nearly died.
Maybe golf —- nah ….. The psychopath on the 18th with a putter didn’t happen. Tennis ….. A twisted sock reaching for the Pimms doesn’t cut the mustard ….. Or snooker …… Dead eye Derek losing an eye slipping into the pocket …….. Dull 
But sailors – well, near death is seemingly a constant state….. And they choose this pursuit…. Choose it ….. Yup……. Monkey nuts, bananas the lot …..In all other ways they seem to enjoy life…..they may even pretend to be rational ….but at sea it’s all about the catastrophe round the corner or over the next wave….. 
I’m struggling with the mindset to be honest. People pay for the privilege – their life’s dream …… To be seconds from plankton……some bloomin privilege.
A hobby, a challenge or sheer bloody lunacy but they come back year after year to tell their war stories……. Maybe it’s the quiche or the fluorescent cordial served daily …… Me? I’m sticking to nuts …. Did I ever tell you about the fire in the galley…… It happens ….it DID happen….. Too often ….. Bewilderment endures.


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