Chasing the Albatross

My adventure in search of a bird by David Lawson

  • 0 Tuesday 26th June

    • by David Lawson
    • 26-06-2018

      Post on Facebook written by Andie to all of the PSP supporters.   Strictly come dancing has started early. Normally an autumn programme that many of us love to watch, however our wonderful tadpoles have decided to delight us with their sparkling display of moves early! So…are they doing, A group foxtrot to the amazing sounds of Avicci? Are GB dancing the paso doble with the mighty PSP…with the beautiful sails of our red tadpole acting as the cloak for the bull? Has nasdaq decided to dance a solo street dance with some hip hop thrown in? Or are HP and UNICEF doing a good ol jive together….grinding as they go? (Pleased with my boating terminology here!!) Whatever dance they have chosen to do over next few weeks, and whatever line they wish to follow….I wish every boat fair winds and a safe passage. And for us, an old favourite – the Viennese waltz. We go round and round and round….broken sleep, screaming at the race viewer, deciphering the rules, and lots of wine as we sofa-sail around the Atlantic with our loved ones. Enjoy the dance of our lives!   David’s response;   So yesterday afternoon it was clear shortly after the start where the majority of the fleet were going as they put in a quick side step move to grab a glass of Sailor Jerrys being served at the Rhum Line Bar. Oooh it will be cold up there. Plenty of ice in your Rum Skipper? Nasdaq and GB seemed to get themselves tangled in a last waltz. Unsure of what move to make they eventually decided it would be better to taken an American Smooth line up the coast to see if they could catch a last sundowner before the bar closed for the night. A very late move and the leading men might get marked down for being indecisive…..I’m sure Craig will have something to say!! So here on the mighty PSP we knew where we were headed before the music started. For us a more SOUtherly Line as we set off in search of the warmer waters of the gulf stream. No ice in our cocktails required. Never ones to drink with the masses in the bar we prefer to take our drinks alone where out in the ocean we can dance to our own tune out of sight of the judges. With the boat well trimmed and a steady wind it’s smooth jazz fm time here. Now who’s seen the cocktail list………  

  • 0 Saturday 23rd June

    • by David Lawson
    • 23-06-2018

      Well I am well and truly back in the bosom of the PSP Clipper bubble. Our boat is moored at Liberty Landing in New Jersey and we have the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline to frame our view. It was somewhat bizarre flying over the Atlantic and looking down to the ocean below knowing that my next viewpoint would be from a boat making the return trip. When you are 30,000 feet up flying at 500 miles an hour and you know you’re going to be travelling at nothing even close to that on  your way home it did make me question the logic of this endeavour……but then you get back on the boat and the 5 months I’ve been away seems like 5 minutes! So far it’s been about checking in with the race team, handing my passport over, a half day refresher safety brief, a new/re-joiners meet up and seeing some sights. Most of the new or re-joiners are feeling slightly apprehensive at this stage but I’m sure any pre-race nerves will soon disappear as we slip our lines first thing next Monday morning for the first race in this Leg to Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland. So the schedule is departure at 7.30am N.Y. time on Monday 25th. Arrival in Derry-Londonderry between 10th and 14th July. Depart Derry-Londonderry on 22nd July. Race finish in Liverpool on 28th July. My Clipper venture is then over and from then life returns to normality…….well whatever normality means!!! So I did say we’ve seen some sights so here are a few taster pictures of N.Y…. The view from the Freedom Tower.. apparently the tallest tower in the western hemisphere! Liberty Landing marina across the Hudson and North Cove marina below with the Liverpool yacht coming in to berth. Taking a walk over Brooklyn Bridge. The Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge.      

  • 0 Update Tuesday 19th June

    • by David Lawson
    • 19-06-2018

      Me and my younger wife overlooking Verona Well it has been a while and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging it is that it takes some effort to keep it going. The last few months have felt like I’ve been trying to cram home life, family life and work life into a very small space. I remember my school days ( a few years ago now) and specifically the saying: … is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than…. and I must say squeezing all life has to offer through the eye of a needle is quite a feat, but I’m getting quite good at it now. Last week Andie and I had a few days in Verona to celebrate her big 50! We had a lovely time, good food, good wine, lovely sights…….it was almost like being back on the boat, apart from the wine and the food! This weekend was Father’s day and I not only had the joy of a visit from my eldest daughter, Rebecca, but also a visit from my ‘little sailor girl’ grand daughter, Edie. And just to prepare her for her future life I thought it would be great to introduce her to some Clipper kit…. ….and one day it might even fit her!! So with my jacket now safely reclaimed it is now time for me to pack my bags and head off for my forthcoming flight to New York. Tomorrow sees me saying goodbye to Andie for a few weeks and then back into my alter ego life in the ‘Clipper bubble’. The boys and girls on the “mighty PSP’ have had something of a roller coaster ride. After a win sailing into Sanya it has been mid table results up to Qingdao, across to Seattle and down to Panama. But with a win in the latest race to New York we’re back in the mix and lying 4th = in the overall results. With a few more good results (we still have our Joker to play) and a few results going our way, it is still all to play for and an overall podium position is still within our grasp. On that basis I think it’s safe to say the Atlantic Leg is going to be no cruise. It’s going to be hard work, full on, mentally and physically tiring and doing whatever it takes to make the boat go faster…….and to be fair I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll be updating Andie regularly, assuming the boat comms play ball, and hopefully you’ll get a feel for life back on the ocean wave. Here’s hoping for an exciting and fruitful Atlantic crossing, another Ocean to tick off, and I hope you enjoy the journey with me. Cheers for now….. As you may know I’m using the story of chasing my Albatross to raise some money for my chosen charity, the National Kidney Federation. My eldest daughter and recent Mum, Rebecca, has suffered with long term kidney problems and now manages her life with only one kidney. To all those who have donated, my sincere thanks. Any donation you can afford will help to make a real difference in the fight against kidney disease:    

  • 0 Update Tuesday 10th April

    • by David Lawson
    • 10-04-2018

    Well now that Easter is out of the way and the end of the financial tax year has come and gone I can get back to writing a few missives to confirm I’m still here and watching what is going on with the ‘red tadpole’. After a slow start due to lack of wind the race has increased in pace. Most of the teams have picked up problems along the way and especially fishing nets. PSP managed to ‘run over’ one and get it stuck on the keel and most unfortunately the propeller. Now on a race which is powered by wind and sail alone you wouldn’t think the propeller was that important but in the event of a man overboard situation the engine and propeller become vitally important. In these instances once the warning is given one of the first things the crew do is start the engine, reduce the sails and this then enables the skipper to engage the engine to bring the boat alongside the casualty to complete the pick up. So in order to resolve the situation crew have to swim under the boat, attached to lines,  to free the offending items and after an all round team effort PSP managed to undo the offending net. Well done ladies and gents…a stellar effort in difficult conditions. A few days ago the boat was swamped by a huge wave which took out the protective metal and webbing of one the helming stations. It also took one of the compasses too. Fortunately there are two helming stations, one on each side of the boat, and the crew will now be learning improvised helming skills and that is what sailing is all about. When you are so far away from a ‘trip down to the shops’ to buy a part or some kit it becomes about improvisation, improvisation and improvisation and that’s what keeps the boat going. Unfortunately the PSP team have also lost the use of one of their spinnakers as this got wrapped around the forestay and had to be cut down from the top of the mast! Now climbing the mast in the middle of the ocean is not something I’d fancy doing but well done to Stian for venturing 80ft up from the deck to perform the task….definately not for the faint hearted. So after nearly 18 days the boats still have just in excess of 2,200 nautical miles to go   which is the equivalent of driving from Birmingham to Rome and back on land. So back here on land it has been busy at work with the end and start of the tax year coinciding with Easter. Baby Edie made her first long distance trip from Sheffield to Ross on Wye to spend a few days with us…oh and Beccy and Seamus came too! She really is a little beauty, but perhaps I’m just biased!! Prior to the Easter holidays I had a meeting with Peter and Jenny Twitchett. Peter and Jenny have been long standing clients and friends of mine for many years. Both are now retired and Peter has been a long time member of the local folk scene in Suffolk. Not only does Peter sing and play the guitar, but he also writes a few songs, and with an encouraging push from Jenny he has given me a truly special gift….a song he has written based on my story of Chasing the Albatross across the Southern Ocean from Cape Town to Fremantle. Now I can’t imagine there are too many people who have taken part in this amazing adventure who have had their version of events turned into song. It was a very emotional moment to hear Peter play and sing it to me for the first time….and so it is with the greatest pleasure that I have attached the following recording taken on my phone. Peter and I have agreed that he should retain the copyright to his song called…..yes you’ve got it…’Chasing the Albatross’.   As I said at the end of Peter’s wonderful rendition “Absolutely brilliant!”. Thank you Peter, you have created a digital legacy for us both of a wonderful moment in time and I can never thank both you and Jenny enough for this most wonderful gift. As they would say on the radio….’turn it up, turn it up loud!!!”. Enjoy…… Just in case you aren’t aware I’m using the story of chasing my Albatross to raise some money for my chosen charity, the National Kidney Federation. My eldest daughter and recent Mum, Rebecca, has suffered with long term kidney problems and now manages her life with only one kidney. To all those who have donated, my sincere thanks. Any donation you can afford will help to make a real difference in the fight against kidney disease:

  • 0 Update Wednesday 21 March

    • by David Lawson
    • 21-03-2018

    Well the Teams will be gearing up for their departure from China on Friday as they set sail for Seattle on Leg 6 of this race. The mighty Pacific Ocean is lying in wait for them all.  Only 5,524.99 nautical miles to go, which is 6,356 normal miles to us on land or the equivalent of 54.32 times around the whole of the M25. Judging by how slow it is to get around the M25 these days I think the boat would stand a good chance of winning that one. Of course 5,524 nm is the shortest route and we know by now that PSP don’t like taking the direct route when a more interesting longer route is on offer! I’m still waiting for Sir Robin to send me an extra bill for the excess mileage we racked up on Legs 3 & 4. So the Pacific in early Spring, as Spring officially started yesterday, and not a challenge to take lightly. This will be a true adventure for adventurers and will require great courage, great seamanship and above all teamwork. It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be wet but there will be some wonderful moments to enjoy along the way I am sure. Here’s wishing all the team aboard the red tadpole that is PSP a safe and fast crossing. We’ll be following your adventure with great interest. And as for me, well I’m off to defrost the car and then……….tea anyone?? Enjoy your day, wherever you are.

  • 0 Update Friday 16th March

    • by David Lawson
    • 16-03-2018

      4 generations of the Lawson family on 1 sofa The final race of Leg 5 has now reached it’s conclusion and after 10 days of sailing and 8 days of leading PSP managed to perform their favourite manoeuvre and yes, they found a…….. wind hole…..aaargh!! Leading into the closing stages by 25 miles the wind hole struck and Seattle, Sanya and Liverpool all sailed past before PSP managed to limp over the line. The team must have been at their wits end watching everyone pass. It was like the Sydney to Hobart race all over again. As Matt, the skipper commented, ‘5 miles further east and we’d have been ok’. The margins in sailing are that tight. So no Victors banquet for the Mighty PSP team, more the cold plate of what could have been! The result now leaves PSP in 4th position in the overall race and 26 points behind the leader, Sanya, on 98 points and Sanya have now played their Joker (which doubles the points for the race it is used on). We are only 13 points behind Qingdao (who have also played their Joker) in 2nd place and 10 points behind Seattle. So it’s still all to play for and an overall podium position is still on the cards. As they say what doesn’t kill you makes you better! So I’m sure the Team will still be focussed on the overall race challenge and will be pushing hard in the remaining 3 Legs. I must admit watching from the sidelines was excruciating. At least on the boat you can see what’s going on and you can all rally round each other. At home I only had my race viewer and an empty house. You can imagine how quiet it was here!! In fact it’s probably just as well no one could hear me. Bring on Leg 8 when I’ll be back on the boat assuming I can survive the next 2 Legs first. So back at home we visited my new grand-daughter last weekend. Now christened Edie Lawson Harkins, to which I did say to Beccy, that Lawson Harkins does sounds like the name of a firm of solicitors. Thanks Mia, a long standing family friend for that observation! I think I’d better start saving now because those University fees are going to be huge in 18 years time. This week had another milestone as I tried to extend my authorship capabilities. I’ve written the first part of a children’s book starring Edie, Wilbur their dog, an Albatross  and me. Thanks to Andie for suggesting I do it and my clients David and Barbara Hardy for encouraging me. So the first 3 pages, 902 words, have gone very well, in fact they only took 15 minutes to pen, but that was after 2 weeks of consideration. Now I’m stuck with writers block which is a bit like finding a wind hole in sailing! Neatly done…start with sailing and end with sailing. How did I manage that? Oh well I’m off to find some inspiration… how do you get out of a wind hole on land…..easy, you just walk out of it. If only sailing was that easy! Enjoy….wherever you are in the world. Don’t forget, I’m using my story to raise some money for my chosen charity. To all those who have donated, my sincere thanks. Your donation will help to make a real difference in the fight against kidney disease:

  • 0 Update Wednesday 7 March

    • by David Lawson
    • 07-03-2018

      Well it has been a while since I updated my blog and part of the reason is because of this Yes we had quite a dumping of snow over Thursday and Friday of last week. In fact I can’t remember the last time I saw so much snow in such a short period of time in this country. Ross On Wye, pretty much came to a standstill for a couple of days.   Mrs L, decided to make the most of the pristine conditions:     Trust me that’s no Angel!   Not to be outdone, I decided this would be a great time to take up my challenge with Bernie, a fellow crew member from Australia. Now Bernie had the most outrageous flip flops on the boat….a pair of Surfer Joe’s. The challenge we have between each other is to see who can wear their pair out first. So why not get going…..after all this is the ideal time to start….right?     One brand new pair of Surfer Joe’s     Well, not surprisingly, these don’t make great snow shoes!!!!     The snow has nearly gone now and the river Wye, just outside of town, is rising every day as the meltwater runs off the land and into the river. No doubt we’ll have some flooding here by the end of the week.   Getting back to ‘life on land’ has taken a bit longer than I first thought. It has only been in this last week that I feel that I’m now ‘back on my game’ and have settled back into my usual life.   One thing I have noticed is……I need to drink less of this….     ……..and less of this…     ……and definitely a lot more of this…..     ……other brands are available…this one just happened to be handy…….cheers!   I hadn’t realised how dehydrated I became on the boat and how this has stayed with me since I’ve been home. One of the unintended consequences of ocean racing!!   Anyway, back to the race and the final race of Leg 5 is underway from Sanya to Qingdao and as I write the ‘Mighty Team PSP’ are in the lead….brilliant! A great start to the race saw PSP leading out of Sanya. The weather to start with was good but soon deteriorated and with the wind and sea state rising the crew have been busy with sail changes and putting reefs in the mainsail and then shaking these out.   On a heading towards Hong Kong the boat managed to ‘catch’ a fishing net from a nearby  trawler. There are lots of fishing boats/trawlers in this part of the world and navigating at night through these fleets is something of a challenge. The team managed to free the net from the keel without any problem which must have been a huge relief.   The winds are expected to pick as the fleet heads towards Taiwan and this will give the crews a taster of life to come as this race plays out.   Hard on the heels of PSP are the usual suspects….Sanya and Visit Seattle. It’s looking like a replay already of so many other races! We’ll see how things pan out and with 1,177 miles to go, there’s a lot that can happen. A great start for my team and I’m sending all the support I can from here.   Now where’s that bottle of water……cheers guys!!  

  • 0 Update Sunday 25th February

    • by David Lawson
    • 25-02-2018

      Beccy, Seamus and Edie   Well I am very pleased to announce that at 1.21am on Friday 23rd February my grand-daughter (aka ‘my little sailor girl’) decided to make her appearance into the world. Edie Lawson weighed in at 7lbs 6oz. We’ve been up to Sheffield this weekend to meet her and Mum and baby are doing really well. Now released from hospital Seamus and Beccy are getting used to family life at home.   A few bottles of champagne have been opened to celebrate her arrival and I’m hoping that there will be many more opened in the years to come.   Here’s to a wonderful life of happiness and adventures. Who knows how far life will take her………

  • 0 Update Thursday 22nd February – 1.07pm

    • by David Lawson
    • 22-02-2018

    Update Thursday 22nd February – 1.07pm   And there it is. PSP cross the finish line at 12.41pm in that most longed for of positions……1st.   Well done team, what a great effort that has been and very well deserved.   So soon it will be Customs and all the things you have to do when you arrive in a new country but fortunately as they are in first there will be no queuing!   There will be a huge amount of adrenaline flowing on the boat but now whilst they’ll be revelling in the moment the crew will be taking the sails down and there will be some time to go yet before that 1st beer…..but my oh my will it taste good.   Enjoy…..   Well barring a disaster PSP are finally going to get that long awaited first 1st place pennant. As I write they have 31.88 nautical miles to go and are 37 miles ahead of Qingdao. Sanya are sitting in 3rd place but will likely be pushed out to 4th as Dare to Lead are to have redress of 1hr 10mins for helping out one of the other boats. The big question is can Unicef, currently 5th, who are only 5.5 miles behind Sanya, catch them up and bump Sanya down to 5th. It would certainly help PSP in the overall standings of the race.   It has been tense watching as Sanya were only 4 miles ahead of Unicef at 6am this morning but if Unicef can catch a bit of wind then they are in with a shout. So that looks like the big play now as this final part of the race comes to an end.   The boys and girls on PSP will be willing every mile to port away and for the ’round the worlders’ this will be a special moment as they will now have a full set of pennants to adorn their walls at home when this epic adventure finally comes to an end in July…’chapeau’. For the new crew members, well there is nothing like starting off with a win and hopefully this will be the first of a few more. Congratulations.   The PSP Crew WhatsApp has been pinging away on my phone as all of us crew at home, wherever we are in the world, share our encouragement amongst each other. Now I wouldn’t say I’m keen to keep an eye on what’s happening during these last few hours but…..     And who says men can’t do two things at once……watching the market and one eye on the race….   So after 23 days at sea PSP should finally dock at lunchtime UK time which will be approx 9pm in Sanya which means they’ll still be in time to get some very well deserved celebratory beers. I’m sure there will be plenty of glasses raised today in support of their result. I’ll let you know how the celebrations go later…     Update later on Tuesday 20th February   So I’ve been watching some YouTube videos of the Clipper race and found this excerpt from the Sydney to Hobart race. We had a french lady on our boat doing some filming. For the eagle eyed amongst you I am on this video (very briefly) on 3 occasions. You’ll do well to spot the 3rd one but its towards the end and I only know its me by my blue sunglasses. Hopefully it will give a flavour of our race.  I hope you enjoy………..

  • 0 Update Tuesday 20th February

    • by David Lawson
    • 20-02-2018

    There are some days in your life when you think (and I’m sure you’ve been here)… you know what……I’m just going to pack it all in and…….. Today started at 6.30am with a drive over to Suffolk to attend a client’s funeral. Roger, a really lovely man and client for over 10 years, died recently after a short struggle with cancer. He was 57 (the same age as me). Afterwards it was a visit to a care home to visit some clients who had some trust paperwork for me to pick up. Now if ever you want to think about getting on with you life, just visit a local care home. And my clients are in separate rooms too! My final visit of the day….another care home to say hello to a client whose birthday it was recently. I couldn’t catch up with him as, only this morning, he had been rushed into hospital for an operation. As Andie would say…..oh lordie! So my recommendation to you, dear reader is this. Work out what you want to do with your life, work out if you can afford it and if you can, do it. And if you don’t think you can afford it, find someone to help you make it possible. Life is all about ‘Chasing your Albatross’ and whatever your Albatross is, my advice to you is this…make it happen because one day you might not be able to and none of us know when that day might come knocking. Anyway on a more positive, because I need a more positive end to today, I’m pleased to see that PSP are still hanging in there and, whilst they are having to deal with light winds, they are still leading the fleet. With the 3 leading boats all in the same weather system I’m sure they’ll be trying as hard as they can to make use of every breath of air. Sails will be up and down and being changed regularly to make the most of any opportunity. On board the crews will have a constant eye on the horizon to see if they can……a) spot the opposition and if they can then….b) to see if they are doing anything different to give them an advantage. It happened with us in the Southern Ocean between Cape Town and Australia. A few days out from Fremantle the Qingdao boat appeared on the horizon. We were bobbing around without any wind. The sea was mirror flat without a ripple. Somehow Qingdao had wind and over the course of 24 hours they caught us up, gybed behind us and overtook us. I can tell you that was a very frustrating feeling…to put it mildly. Matt was watching them constantly through his telescope to check on their sail plan but it would have made no difference…they had wind and we didn’t. Simple. The really frustrating thing is you can have two boats reasonably close together and even though one has wind it doesn’t follow that the other one will too. So Matt and the crew will be trying everything they can to keep their advantage. As I write they are 27 miles ahead of Qingdao which is an improvement on yesterday evening’s position. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the team can bring their Albatross home….now that’s not too much to wish for is it?? Dear Wind Gods……….