Chasing the Albatross

My adventure in search of a bird by David Lawson

  • 0 31 October 2018

    • by David Lawson
    • 31-10-2018

        Well if ever a reminder is needed of how quickly life is passing us by I came face to face with one such reminder today. As I switched on my computer in my office this morning a photo of me in Cape Town popped up on my screen. Wow….12 months ago today I was stepping onto the deck of the Mighty PSP Logistics yacht to start the most incredible journey of my life, across the Southern Ocean from Cape Town to Fremantle. Then I had it all to look forward to, and now I have it all to look back upon. What an amazing experience and one that has definitely changed my life. The Southern Ocean crossing was definitely my favourite passage amongst the many I was to undertake. There were so many firsts to encounter and of course there was the opportunity to achieve my first sighting of an Albatross. With the Albatross in mind, this Sunday Andie and I will visit the Savoy Theatre in Monmouth to see: ALBATROSS: a powerful documentary about birds on Midway island in the pacific whose lives are threatened by plastic. The film takes viewers on a guided tour into the depths of their own spirits, delivering a profound message of reverence and love that is already reaching an audience of millions of people around the world. So one year on the question is…..where to now? Well the Albatross theme has well and truly stayed with me and actually I feel as if it is a part of me now. I have really enjoyed writing this blog; it’s a first for me and whilst this blog has to come to an end, I do want to continue to write. I have penned the start of a children’s book for my granddaughter, Edie. A story about a little ‘sailor girl, her grandad and an Albatross! Watch this space……! For me the ‘Chasing the Albatross’ term has become such a powerful theme and whilst in Sydney, last Christmas, I did decide to create a trademark; ‘Chasing the Albatross’. All of us in some way are other are chasing something in this life….love, happiness, family, peace, self, security. The list is endless or very short, depending upon how you look at it, but most of all it’s very personal. I’ve subsequently used this as a theme in my business, to help clients unlock what they want out of life and how I can best help them to chase their Albatross. Andie and I are forever thinking about ways we can develop the ‘Chasing the Albatross’ brand (how corporate does that sound!). Yet for us it has real meaning and we want to develop it further. Who knows where our journey might take us?? If you have managed to stay the course to read the journey of my last 12 months, well my sincere thanks. It has been most humbling to see the statistics of how far this blog has reached….29 countries, 1,581 views and 157 plays of Peter’s song, written from the content of this blog as I crossed the Southern Ocean. I met with Peter and Jenny last week and his song has so far reached the semi-final of a competition……here’s hoping that Peter’s song will fly that little bit further still. To all of you who donated to my chosen charity, my heartfelt thanks. Your support will really help others in need. So now, as one journey ends, a new one opens up…….I’m off to find a glass of Malbec and write the next chapter of my grand-daughter’s story…………….Cheers to you and I hope that you too will find your Albatross. Good luck and enjoy the journey………….. And just before I go a final picture for you (above)….

  • 0 Saturday 28th July – Clipper Ocean Racing….done!

    • by David Lawson
    • 28-07-2018

      Our final berth….Albert Dock, Liverpool (with Nigel Alexander and David Kemp)   Clipper Racing….done! That’s me 2nd from the bow (courtesy of Tony Hopwood)   PSP in full flight down the Mersey…..that’s me waving at the bow. So after personally sailing a total of 18,000 ocean miles my adventure in search of an bird, ‘Chasing the Albatross’ has finally come to an end. The bubble we have all been living in during our training and racing over the last 2 years has been well and truly burst. We’re ‘done’…and the 2017/18 edition of this race is ‘done’ with us. A few brave souls will help to return the boats from Liverpool back to Gosport and then the dance will start again for the next edition…the 2019/20 race. For me the most thrilling part of this last Leg was the final 2 hours and 20 mile race up the Mersey. It was worth the whole of the cost of this last Leg.With the Skippers helming this really was all about the adrenaline rush and ego needed to be first over the line. We didn’t get the best of the Le Mans start. With a very decent breeze and full mainsail, staysail and Yankee 3 up we were pretty well heeled over to start with. No sail changes were allowed for the first 10 minutes. With all the crew working pre-allocated positions I found myself on the bow helping Fiona to hank on a Yankee 1 for a racing headsail change. Now I’ve been on the bow many times and normally the helm will bear away a little to help those on the bow out. Not today. This was racing at its very best….full on! So with water crashing over the bow I was soon soaked on the outside and inside my foulies. I can only liken it to being drowned…slowly! Between bouts of gasping for air and wiping the salt water out of my eyes, we somehow struggled to get the Yankee 1 hanked on to the forestay. Now that was physical and I certainly felt every one of my 57 years! The it was down with the Yankee 3 and up with the Yankee 1. Pulling a sail down and un-hanking it when the boat is racing and the sail is full of wind is really hard work. Those 57 years really weren’t helping…but somehow we did it. And now the boat is really heeled over. We have water rushing along the side and up into the cockpit area. Other boats are struggling with the wind and sail plan but none of the Skippers are giving an inch. This really is yacht racing at its best….on the edge and extreme. How Matt is holding this on the helm…God only knows. I’m sure none of us could manage to helm at this extreme level. As the race progresses we are slowly reeling in the others….but now all that sail plan is working against us, so it’s down with the Yankee 1. Here we go, another physical fight with a sail in full flight…but it’s done, the sail is finally down, we reduce the heel of the boat in the water and with just the main and the staysail up we’re actually sailing slightly flatter but faster! However, we’re quickly running out of width of river to sail in. Other boats are forced to tack before they run out of room and so do we. That previous tacking practice comes in handy and we do an excellent job. We’re up to 2nd in this final ‘fling’ up the Mersey. And there it is…we finish 2nd. We’re all exhausted and yet very elated and with that we know that PSP Logistics will have an overall finish position of 5th out of the 11 boats who have circumnavigated the globe over the past 11 months. Not quite the podium position we were hoping for, but very respectable nonetheless. That was a great adrenaline rush to finish with and a very fitting end to this adventure. Now it’s time for a race end beer, family, friends and talking about what has been a very special time in my life. How will I capture my final thoughts. Well that might take a few days as I let it all sink in, but I’ll give it my best…stay tuned! If you feel inclined to help me to raise some funds for my chosen charity here is the link:    

  • 0 Friday 27th July

    • by David Lawson
    • 27-07-2018

    Friday 27th July – ‘The end is nigh’ Well the end really and truly is in sight now. I might just have finished my last race helming duties as I think the new watch should complete the remaining miles of the course during their watch. Matt will probably helm through tomorrow’s sprint finish as it’s only a few hrs. So we had drizzly rain this morning when I went on watch at 4am. Cloud cover meant that helming was by compass only to start with. Wales has just come into view through the gloom as I write this. Home is within touching distance now. It’s hard to imagine how much sun you are having when I’m sitting here in full foulies, boots and a hat! Liverpool will be great and especially to see all the family. So we’ve had bacon eggs and beans for breakfast. Delicious. My first cup of tea has just arrived. Wonderful. Friday 27th July – ‘Sitcom Friday’ Well you really couldn’t write this. It has been sitcom Friday here. The Chinese whisper factory at watch change, 4am, left a lot to be misinterpreted and as a result guess what….the instructions were misinterpreted and we didn’t head as far north west as we should have over the last 4 hrs. Skipper came up to ask what course we were steering. He got the misinterpreted course answer and promptly went back to bed…..he didn’t seem impressed. So after 11 months of racing, countless watch changes and many many course instructions later the truth is that communication doesn’t always work. So where does that leave us. Approx 60 miles to go and then all bar a sprint finish up the Mersey tomorrow this sailing edition of Clipper racing will well and truly be over. Our position will be what we deserve based on the decisions and communications made. Add to all of this there was a bit of emotion swirling around the boat, for reasons best left unknown, and this morning has been one of those starts to a day where you could really get uptight or you just had to smile and find the funny side in it all. Me, I chose to ignore a few asides of ‘stating the blindingly obvious’ because they weren’t worth the effort and chose to just see the funny side of what was going on around me. Standing on the helm focussing on doing the job in hand I couldn’t help but laugh inside. I’ve seen similar on previous Legs and learned then to just let it wash over rather than taking it to heart. After all we’re paying for the privilege of doing this and it’s about getting what I personally want out of this venture and letting others get out of it what they want. Sometimes the best policy is to keep your opinions to yourself and just move on. You really couldn’t write this stuff… truly is priceless!

  • 0 Thursday 26th July – update

    • by David Lawson
    • 26-07-2018

    Thursday 26th July – ‘To sleep, perchance to dream….’ So this afternoon I thought I’d try and describe what 6 hrs in a bunk trying to get to sleep sounds like. I can lie in my bunk willing myself to sleep knowing I’m dog tired and need it and yet I can’t switch my head off. Invariably it starts with me having a conversation about something with myself or I’m imagining scenarios being played out. You know, the ones that will never happen in real life. Then a song will start playing around and around and I can’t get rid of it. Then the boat will tack or gybe so it’s a rush to let my bunk down or pull it up. Both of these are achieved on a pulley system whilst lying in my bunk. And then I also need to adjust my lee cloth which is on the open side of my bunk and should stop me falling unexpectedly to the floor of the gangway below and breaking a few bones. My sleeping bag will become uncomfortable and I’ll need to try to rearrange it. The zip might be catching on my back or my feet are getting too hot or there is a bunched up feeling under my shoulder. Then the contents of my pillow will have become bunched up so I need to unzip the outer, take the inner out and reorganize then repack. Then I might need to put a shirt under it to give it just that extra bit of height to ensure my neck angle is right. It might not be possible to get the bunk angle right and I feel as though I’m lying in the v of the wall and the bunk mattress. My solution to put my trousers in the v gap to make it more comfortable. Oh and I’m still having a conversation with myself in my head. Light is streaming in from the porthole glass directly at my bunk height. I need to find my neck warmer which doubles up as an eye mask if I pull it down over my head. Still that song is going around my head. On deck the on watch are using the grinders directly above me or they are walking around above me or their tether clips bang on the deck or the sound of their talking, laughter or shouting instructions to each other pervades below. Oh and when it come to a sail changes or a tack or gybe then all hell breaks loose as all the grinders are put to use and people care shouting insyructions over the noise. A spinnaker might have been replaced and needs to be repacked down below. People are walking around and talking to each other whilst they carry this out. The skipper goes on deck and calls instructions to the helming team. When my bunk is on the low side I can hear the wind and water rushing along the side of the boat. It sounds like a force 8 gale going on out there! That song is still playing……really, I don’t need this. Ok now concentrate….I try to distract my brain. My turn to method is to imagine driving down the farm drive to my Gran’s house. I park the car and walk towards the main door recalling all I remember of her garden as I go. Often I don’t get as far as the doorway and I’m asleep. But not today. That song is still playing in my head! So find a comfortable position, no that’s not working, got it….no that’s not working either! Where is a comfortable position because I’m not finding it. What about reading on my kindle for a while or I could listen to some music maybe??? Sleep…..absolutely no chance!! This is going to be a long off watch. So this afternoon rather than bother with the above it’s been time on deck chatting (quietly) with the on watch, enjoying the sun and listening to music. And the great thing about head phones? Your noise doesn’t disturb any one else. Wonder if I’ll manage a sleep on my next off watch at midnight……well we’ll just have to see! And that is one of the reasons ocean yacht racing won’t be making an appearance again anytime soon. Sleep exhaustion is just so…….exhausting! And yet we put up with it and still manage to do the job we need to do whenever needed at whatever time of day or night and in any type of weather. Madness! Pass me the sleeping pills… Thursday 26th July – update Well as I got up this morning, after a decent sleep at last, guess what….it was a full sail plan and going hell for leather and the lean we had on was incredible. Helming was hard work as I just couldn’t get my feet settled until DK managed to find a wedge to raise the height of an angled board we use to stand on and then hey presto…so much easier. At 11am we rounded our final southerly mark and started to head for home…well Liverpool at least and finally after 3.5 days of bashing, crashing and horrible conditions we are back with a flatter boat state, with the wind behind us and a spinnaker up and life is good again. A quick poll yesterday of ‘would you do this again’ elicited a significant number of votes in the ‘hell no’ column. The key number on our minds yesterday, 4,290, had nothing to do with sailing. These were the number of minutes left before we were off the boat!!! But today after 3 hrs of sun and a flat boat 3.5 days of pain have just been swept away as if they didn’t happen. It’s amazing how quickly the human brain blanks painful memories out! Champagne sailing is an amazing thing or should I say champagne and sailing? Let me think about that one. It’s amazing to think this will all be over in 2 days now and I’ll be back on land with a beaming smile, joking with everyone about what we’ve achieved, with a large glass of something cold and a huge amount of pride in what we’ve done. It’s quite something. I don’t have the words now to sum this up but I’m sure they’ll come to me now that we’re not fighting with the elements and the boat.

  • 0 Wednesday 25th July – update

    • by David Lawson
    • 25-07-2018

    Well it’s still life on the lean here…..aaaargh! Such hard work. But that’s me done with mother duties on a clipper boat forever! All went really well. Despite constantly having to raise or lower my bunk as we tack I’ve managed some sleep so feeling more like me again now. It will be back to helming duties this afternoon as we head down to our most southerly mark then we can finally hang a left and hopefully this will mean the wind moves behind us and the boat will flatten out….well that’s the hope anyway!! It would be so nice to get off this lean. Well at least the sun is out now and it is warming up. Perhaps we’ll see some of your heatwave after all. The hottest summer and I’m missing it!!!

  • 0 Tuesday 24th July – update

    • by David Lawson
    • 24-07-2018

    Well as you will have seen we are moving up that leader board. We’re sailing well and have a few of the other boats around us as I write. With such a short race there is lots to do to keep the boat moving fast. It does mean we are busy with sail changes, tacks and gybes. These are the best tacks I’ve seen us doing on this overall race. Still a long way to go so we’re nicely positioned. Fingers crossed we can keep it up. The coastline of Ireland has been beautiful. Cliffs and bays and mountains to keep us interested so far. Still living life on the lean which makes life hard work down below. Managed some sleep at last but need more. Eating ok now which makes life easier. It’s interesting that as we are coming to the end of this journey how more and more crew members are ready for this to end now. I don’t think life on the lean helps how people feel but I know this discomfort will be forgotten as time passes. I have first hand experience of that and I know coming back for this leg how much of the discomfort I had forgotten myself. Weather is cloudy and damp here….well it is Ireland! So it is Mother Watch for Aly and me today. It’s cheese crackers, pickles fruit and tomatoes for lunch. I’m also having a stab at making cake so we’ll see how that goes. Beef stew and mash for tea and then a whole night in my bunk….no watch duties….sounds like heaven!

  • 0 Monday 23rd July: And we’re off…..

    • by David Lawson
    • 23-07-2018

    Well we had a beautiful last race start point at the mouth of the Foyle. The sun was out, the boats looked superb framed against the backdrop of the Northern Ireland countryside on one-side of the estuary and Southern Ireland on the other. The only missing player from the game was the wind which died completely as we turned West out of the bay. So last night was a long night of bobbing around going nowhere fast and then as we came off watch at midnight the wind made a late entrance and now we are back to life on the lean….what joy!! I won’t be missing race starts, lack of sleep, make that no sleep in the last 30 hrs and a 6 hr watch coming up. Also off my food but should be back to normal by tomorrow… least I know how this works now.

  • 0 Sunday 22nd July: The final act!

    • by David Lawson
    • 22-07-2018

    Well finally after 3 years of planning, looking forward to and taking part in, my adventure to see an Albatross and learn to sail a 70 foot racing yacht is now about to play out its final act. The final race, race 13, sees us depart Derry today for a 830 mile race around Ireland and arrival in Liverpool next Saturday, 28th July. The final arrival in Liverpool will be streamed on the web if you want to watch: (0900hrs – 1530hrs). There should also be some coverage on TV from 9.00am next Saturday. To all my family, friends, clients and fellow crew, thanks for your support in this epic adventure. We’ll be giving this last race all we’ve got. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that the Mighty PSP will be racking up those miles. I don’t think Iceland is going to be on the cards this time, but who knows. I guess it will be a case of watch this space. I’ll keep you up to date and lets see how this last act plays out. Dear Wind Gods……….. You can follow progress on the race viewer at: To donate to my chosen charity:

  • 0 A few photos of the race from New York and during our stay in Derry

    • by David Lawson
    • 10-07-2018

      The 4 David’s – David Greer (DG), me (DL), David Wilson (DW) and David Kemp (DK) Fireworks on the Foyle above PSP Festival night in Derry Surely the unlikeliest winner of the PSP Irish Open Golf challenge! An Irish Bar….well it would be rude not to! The Giant’s Causeway Beautiful Malin Head Me and Mrs L at Malin Head, the most northerly headland in Southern Ireland Trevor Taylor, proving he can sleep anywhere David Kemp (DK)…..catching up on some sleep Red foulies being picked out by the morning sun Nigel Alexander and me. Nigel’s the one with the halo! Sunrise over the Atlantic I’m standing up straight…’s the boat that’s on the lean…welcome to life at 35 degrees ‘Lambo’ using the wall to climb into his bunk Getting ready for the Le Mans start to Derry    

  • 0 Monday 9th July

    • by David Lawson
    • 09-07-2018

    Monday 9th July 8pm And finally the hills of Donegal come into sight off our starboard bow. The most westerly point of Europe. At one time we did think the first land we would see was to be Iceland. We should arrive in the small hours of Tuesday morning and I’ve learned today that now I have crossed the Altlantic I can have a tattoo of an anchor……mmmmm….not sure about that one. I can also have a bluebird as I’ve sailed more than 5,000 miles on my various Legs of this overall race. I’m sure there are a few more but hopefully not too many as I may run out of skin at this rate. So it will be interesting to see what Derry has to offer. I’m sure it will be great. Monday 9th July 2.00pm We’ve just come on deck and as Michael our resident Irishman informs us ‘the weather is out’. I thought the weather had been out all the time on this passage but what he actually means is that the sun is out. In actual fact the sun is high in the sky and foulies have now been predominantly replaced by shorts, shirts and the occasional jacket although DK still has his foulie bottoms on. For some boots have been replaced by deck shoes and trainers. Only Trevor retains his woolly hat and sunglasses are now the norm. The sea is calm with a little swell. As the sun glints off the ripples on the ocean it’s as if lights are doing flashed on an off all along our starboard bow. A thin layer of cloud hugs the horizon all around and the pale blue sky of the horizon deepens to a mid blue the higher I look. The sound of the waterfall behind the boat has now subsided to more like a stream as the rudders create a wake behind. The boat rolls in a gentle motion from side the side and forward and back. Occasionally the breeze picks up and we quickly gather some more speed. As the breeze drops the mainsail flaps occasionally. The talk on board has now turned to Derry and what we will all be doing. On shore duties have been allocated around the boat. Early tomorrow morning should see us arrive in port. The first order of the day will probably be breakfast. Lots of tea, bacon and eggs. I can taste it already. Monday 9th July 4.38am It’s 4.38am and the sun has just risen over the low cloud on the horizon off our port bow. 141 miles to go and that will be a crossing of the Atlantic completed for me. A gannet flies past us on the hunt for breakfast. Long fingers of low broken cloud stretch behind our boat painted in creams and grey with a tinge of pink. The pale sunlight glistens on the surface of the ocean which undulates with a light swell. I’m sitting on the rear port quarter of the deck listening to the waterfall that is the wash created by the twin rudders behind the boat. Manx sheerwaters glide over the surface and above us an arctic tern flits left then right before wheeling away. The early morning sunlight gives our sails a translucent glow. DK sits on the deck in the opposite quarter to me. In full foulies and a black balaclava with only his eyes visible. I imagine an Arab assassin waiting to pounce. Trevor holds the ‘string’ which controls the working sheet to the spinnaker. Unmistakable in his black woolly hat flecked with white and his mittens hanging from his red jacket he is the ‘father’ of the boat. Jerry stands high in the starboard helming station. His hands in Outdoor Research mittens guide the helm and our boat across the sea. Andre sits in the cockpit making some notes to capture his thoughts. Lambo is catching memories on his camera and Michael, Adrian and Colin watch the sun rising. Fiona, in her canary yellow drysuit adds a splash of colour amongst the rest of us in our red foulies. My blue mug of tea, the first if the day, has just been passed back along the boat. These are the images which surround me and from which memories are formed. Another lovely day is on its way. Wonderful.