Chasing the Albatross

My adventure in search of a bird by David Lawson

  • 0 Update Saturday 13th January

    • by David Lawson
    • 13-01-2018

      Beautiful view of the gold coast as seen by our friends onboard Sanya Serenity Coast Our daily post from the red tadpole! Enjoy the sunshine in Airlie or the grey drizzle in Blighty! “On watch at midnight last night and the stars were magnificent. They almost came right down to the horizon and there was no cloud to hide them. Went straight to the bow for a sail change. Mike Duffy and I make a great team up there. After the sail change I was lying on my back on deck admiring the stars and I was thinking about my Dad. Dad died in 1994 aged 63. Whilst it’s a long time ago now he’s still ever present in my thoughts. I thanked him for looking after me on this journey and in my head I said to him how proud I thought he would be for what I personally and we as a family have achieved. Within 5 seconds a shooting star burnt a trail in the night sky above me.  A very poignant and moving moment indeed!!! Just come off the 8am to 2pm shift. Sun is hot and the sea is like yesterday except there is more swell and as the wind catches the wave tops it creates white horses. Beautiful! The wind is stronger at 20 – 25 knots and we are making good speed although the downside is that because it’s on the lean it’s all fun down below. Very hot too so sweating buckets!  Getting some sleep and hopefully the end of this upwind leg is in sight. Life is great!

  • 0 Update 2 Friday 12th January

    • by David Lawson
    • 12-01-2018

      So real champagne sailing weather today. Fingers crossed for more wind !!!   It’s just after midday and today the sea is a beautiful mid-blue. There is a little swell and every now and again there is a silvery glint to the backs of the small waves as they rise to catch the sunshine. The sky is light blue and on the horizon all around me there are a few white and occasionally light grey fluffy clouds dotted around. The sun is directly above us and it is generating a beautiful amount of enjoyable heat. The heat is tempered by the breeze we now have as the boat glides beautifully through the ocean.   The water we push aside on our bow sounds like small waves breaking on the sea shore.   I have an unbroken 360 degree view and there is nothing but the open ocean to see. It all creates a feeling of calmness and a remoteness from the day to day bustle of normal life. It really is a privilege to experience the beauty and simplicity of the natural world around me.  The simple beauty of it all is intoxicating and I know how much I am going to miss this unique viewpoint but for now I am just enjoying being in the moment

  • 0 Update Tuesday 9th January

    • by David Lawson
    • 09-01-2018

      Àll good here in my sailing bubble. Some brighter weather today which is great. So today I thought I’d share my morning routine for today with you. No alarm clocks here as we get a personal waking service. A bit late though today at 7.28am. Shorts on and wet sealskin socks. Sounds horrible but they are really good. Swing myself down from my high side bunk. First dangerous manoeuvre of the day and always good when still half asleep. Base layer shirt next and then wet boots. Trip to the heads and hope one is free or have to sit and wait. Once that’s complete rush through a bowl of cereal sitting balanced on the edge of the seating area. Engage core. Second exercise of the day. Can’t sit flat on a heeled over boat so it’s all about balancing in precarious places. Have a few gulps of isotonic drink from my water bottle. Tea, coffee or fresh orange juice not a normal breakfast offering here. Now it’s get my foulies on and a life jacket   and up on deck just before 8am. Today the on watch need some help with a sail change. It’s blowing 25 knots and we have a full main sail up plus 2 headsails, a staysail and a yankee 1. This is our biggest sail plan but with the boat heeled over and the port side in the water this is too much sail for the conditions. The on watch have managed to get a smaller Yankee 2 sail on deck and now it’s a case of taking down the Yankee 1 to put the new sail up. Some crew never go forward of the mast and especially in these conditions. 3 of us go forward and I’m in the pulpit at the bow end. I wedge myself in and put my tether around the pulpit rail so if I do go over I’m still attached to the boat. I sit on top of the pulpit rail and wedge my feet in to try to protect me from going over if a big wave crashes over. With the bow of the boat burying itself into the incoming waves it’s a bit precarious up here but I must admit there is a bit of an adrenaline rush sitting at the very front of the boat and looking back along the deck. So the next part of this morning routine is a shower. Most people get undressed at home to have a shower! Ha….here it’s a fresh salt shower in full gear. You’re still guaranteed to get soaked and this has been the case several times on this leg. Actually the sea is fairly warm which is helpful if you’re going to look like a drowned rat afterwards. The next morning workout is to pull the front Yankee 1 sail down. From the pit area in the boat someone releases the halyards at the top if the sail and I’m able to pull the front of the sail down and unhank the brass clasps holding it to the forestay. There are 3 other people helping drag the sail in as it comes down. They’re all having a morning shower too. It’s a tricky and physical job and even harder in 25 knots of wind with the boat heeled over and bouncing in and out of the waves. I unhank the sail from the forestay and as I’m doing this I attach the hanks to a sail tie we’ve rigged up between the inner and outer forestay.  Once all the hanks are off they are tied together with the sail tie to stop the sail blowing away. The sail is dragged back out of the way. Easy!! Now it’s a case of attaching the new sail. The sail is dragged up to the pulpit area. It is removed from its bag and then it’s a case of physically pulling the sail up to me to hank on and then we’re ready to raise the new sail. Again very physical and in a confined space and difficult conditions. It’s not just physical for me but for for all of us involved and everyone could tell their own story. Back to the pit area of the boat it’s now a question of doing all those things we do all the time to get the boat moving as fast as possible and in the right direction. The off watch go down and for the remaining on watch whilst the new sail is up we still have too much wind so to stabilise the boat we put a reef into the main sail. This reduces the sail area to make the boat manageable to sail. In all we put in three reefs and as the morning progresses and the wind reduces we are able to shake these out to have the full main back up. So lots of grinding on ropes and the sails and lots more physical work. By 11am we’ve done 9 different sail changes in all which is a significant work out for the day. So that’s breakfast, dress, shower and workout all done. As a treat we have some fruit and nut mix on the go. Now we’re not a competitive group….much!! So with a mixture of 3 Australians and several English on my watch the banter turns to England being thrashed at cricket. Our own contest is to see who can get top speed in the helm whilst on course and going in the right direction…..of course!. My initial marker is 8.2 knots and Trevor our competitive Australian knocks out 8.7 knots. We take half hour shifts on the helm and I then manage an 8.5 but I’m convinced Trevor throws my opportunity to beat him by letting the traveller out as I approach his speed. The traveller acts to depower the main sail. Lots of banter and with a ‘traveller gate’ enquiry threatened our watch ends in lots of laughter. These are the moments that help bring us together and unique moments we’ll miss as and when this comes to an end. But importsntlybits the stuff thst brings people together and in this unique environment friendships are firmed which will stand the test of time beyond Clipper. So back to our race.  Well we’re still making progress albeit slower than anticipated and at the mercy of the weather. The weather isn’t delivering what has been expected but as previously said sailing is a fickle friend and whilst we can give it our best we are so dependent upon what the weather delivers. So frustrating!!! Wow, well that’s a bit if a long piece. Hope it gives you a good picture of what life is like on board!  

  • 0 Update Monday 8th January

    • by David Lawson
    • 08-01-2018

      The team ready to depart Hobart for the sunny shores of Airlie Beach Morning! What a night !!! The red tadpole has had a great 24 hours ..come on the mighty PSP you are doing amazingly well!! It looks like spirits are high and the team are working so well! Here is a small extract from life on board our red tadpole! “So this morning. I’ve just got up and nearly finished breakfast and there’s s call from the on watch for some help to drop a spinnaker. I throw on my foulies and my boots. No socks as I hadn’t got that far in getting dressed. Up on deck and it’s raining. Shower time again…..yippee! The funny thing is though as the rain water runs through my hair and down my face it tastes of salt water!!!! On mother watch today and have been hunting for packets of forgotten ice pops to freeze as it’s rather warm below.  Found several bags of chocolate treats and boxes of cereal bars too! Had some great nature sightings recently. Pilot whales close by the boat, no avoiding action necessary! 2 pods of dolphins leaping 2-3 feet clean out of the water.  More dolphins playing under the bow as I was working at the bow end. Several skuas in a group on the hunt for food. At night we can hear the petrels calling to each other whilst roosting on the water. Last night was a clear night, for a change, and the milky way was in full display. Hit a small wind hole this morning for an hour or so but now back on the move. Off to cook up beans and beef burgers for lunch. Cordon bleu or what!!!! Love to all”

  • 0 Here we go again…

    • by David Lawson
    • 04-01-2018

      Today, 4th Jan, we’ve been busy finalising our boat preparations ready for our early departure from Hobart tomorrow and our last leg of this race up to Airlie Beach which is 1,624 nautical miles away. We’re due on board at 7am which will be 8pm today in UK time. I love this disparity of time…it’s bonkers as Andie would say. We slip our lines at 8am and then it’s sails up and a parade of sail in the harbour (I’m not sure who’s going to be watching at that time in the morning here though). Each yacht will then undertake a few man overboard drills and then all 11 yachts will be lining up for a 11am race start, which will be midnight with you. The arrival window in Airlie Beach is due to be between 13th and 15th January but of course this will be heavily influenced by the weather. Our perennial friend ‘the wind hole’ is due to make a few appearances on the way and we’ll be doing our best to miss out on a visit this time! We are due some heavy wind on the nose to start with and this will make life challenging on board for a period of time but the winds will lessen and that should make life a little more comfortable. I’ll try to take a few more photos on this leg of life below deck to give you all a better idea of how this looks. Here’s to a great race and hopefully a podium finish…fingers crossed! And talking of photos I received this great photo of PSP from the media team today.

  • 0 So what’s been going on in Hobart?

    • by David Lawson
    • 02-01-2018

      Since the end of the race last week we’ve had some work to do on the boat to ready it for the next race which starts again on Friday but we’ve also had some time off to explore this part of the world. Andie had a few days here on her own before I arrived and she’s fallen in love with the place. With Christmas and the New Year to celebrate Hobart also has the advantage of having the Sydney to Hobart race too and the town really does come alive to celebrate this time. Tasmania is a very ‘foodie’ place and there is a food festival in the town. The town has a very colonial feel and there are some lovely areas to wander around. Many of the buildings have ironwork verandas and whilst the town is busy it doesn’t feel congested in any way. Everyone is very welcome and people are happy to take some time to chat with you which is so refreshing. Tourism is well catered for and there are boat trips which you can take up the Derwent river or out to the nearby islands. Yesterday morning, Tuesday 2nd January, I took Andie to the airport for her mega trip back to the UK (well someone’s got to pay the mortgage, and I’m a bit busy at the moment!). In the afternoon a dozen of us took a trip up the river to Mona to visit the Museum of Old and New Art. Now I do like a bit of art and whenever we travel to Italy I’m more than happy to have a look around and take in the culture. But this isn’t Italy and to be honest I just don’t get all this modern take on art. To be fair I might be missing something, but if this is art then I’m an artist, because I looked at the stuff they had on display and quite honestly I couldn’t do any worse! Today, Wednesday 3rd January, was a much better day and more my scene as a few of us decided to take a trip up to the top of Mount Wellington, which is directly behind the town. At 4,169 feet above sea level it’s quite a climb and after spending several months at sea level we decided that we’d take the easy option to the top…a taxi! The Three Mountaineers! Me (DL), Mike Duffy (Singapore Mike) and David Kemp (DK)…oh and a few others!! A view of Hobart from the summit. It wasn’t all plain sailing today as we made a tough decision and……decided to walk down from the top. Looking back to the summit…..conquered! Tomorrow is our last full day here before we leave early on Friday morning for Airlie Beach. My washing is all done, Andie has taken all my surplus clothing and accoutrements back to the UK with her and I’ve been drinking plenty of water (well it is in cider and wine so that’s ok) so I’m now ready for my last challenge of this Leg. Let’s go!  

  • 0 Happy New Year

    • by David Lawson
    • 01-01-2018

      Well 2018 has arrived and we celebrated here in Hobart with beers and music on the boat as we watched the fireworks out in the harbour. It was a wonderful end for Andie and me to 2017 and a great start to 2018. Wherever you are I would like to take the opportunity to wish you a happy and healthy 2018  and my sincere thanks for following my journey in 2017. There is still a final race for me to take part in as we leave Hobart on Friday 5th and head up to Airlie Beach for the last race in Leg 4. With the end of Leg 4 in sight it will be time for me to bid goodbye to the Clipper race for several months and I’ll be heading home to the UK to return to life on the flat for a while. Hopefully the technology on the boat will work and I’ll keep you updated as our race progresses but for now here’s a feel for what was happening here as 2017 ended and 2018 started.   0

  • 0 Sydney to Hobart Race. 26th Dec – 29th Dec.

    • by David Lawson
    • 26-12-2017

      The start of the race was quite a spectacle with all the different classes of boats on the water at the same time, along with all the spectator boats and 10 helicopters buzzing overhead. Unfortunately, the Australian summer decided to take a few days off and we had a typically overcast English weather start for the race. Oh well, I suppose you can’t have everything. After we had slipped our lines the Clipper boats proceeded to parade under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House.   Heading up towards our start line we had the main contenders who would be chasing line honours starting ahead of us.   Now if I was ever to undertake the Sydney Hobart race again then this would be the way to do it, aboard one of these Formula 1 boats of the sea! They are amazing machines, built solely for speed and therefore stripped bare of any home comforts, not that you get many of those on a racing boat anyway. As the countdown to the start began we were allocated positions on the boat to ensure we only had to focus on doing one role well and my word did we get a flyer as a result. With Matt, our Skipper, on the helm we exited the mouth to the Sydney harbour bay in 1st place amongst the Clipper yachts. So our first objective had been achieved and  now all we needed to do was ‘not **** it up!’ (our mantra as we went through the race and to be heard regularly at watch changes). As we exited the Sydney Heads and headed out into the Tasman Sea I was first change on the helm after our marvellous start. No pressure then! With Sanya Serenity Coast hard on our heels it really was going to be a case of focussing on sailing well and doing the best we could. The wind conditions were good and after a grey and overcast start the weather improved over the following 24 hours and the sun came out; summer had returned! It really was champagne sailing weather. The dual with Sanya was being closely fought but as the race progressed we slowly managed to pull away.   Now if I was ever to undertake the Sydney Hobart race again then this would be the way to do it, aboard one of these Formula 1 boats of the sea! They are amazing machines, built solely for speed and therefore stripped bare of any home comforts, not that you get many of those on a racing boat anyway. As the countdown to the start began we were allocated positions on the boat to ensure we only had to focus on doing one role well and my word did we get a flyer as a result. With Matt, our Skipper, on the helm we exited the mouth to the Sydney harbour bay in 1st place amongst the Clipper yachts. So our first objective had been achieved and  now all we needed to do was ‘not **** it up!’ (our mantra as we went through the race and to be heard regularly at watch changes). As we exited the Sydney Heads and headed out into the Tasman Sea I was first change on the helm after our marvellous start. No pressure then! With Sanya Serenity Coast hard on our heels it really was going to be a case of focussing on sailing well and doing the best we could. The wind conditions were good and after a grey and overcast start the weather improved over the following 24 hours and the sun came out; summer had returned! It really was champagne sailing weather. The dual with Sanya was being closely fought but as the race progressed we slowly managed to pull away. Pulling away from Sanya who has a spinnaker flying Whilst life on deck was very comfortable it was like a sauna down below. Now back on a top bunk and with the boat heeled over getting in and out of bed became an Olympic sport again and with the heat it was hard to get comfortable and sleeping became very elusive. Fortunately I’d taken one of the fleece layers out of my sleeping bag; just as well as I’ve already lost a trouser size from around my waist. After only a week in Sydney, I was surprised how hard it was to acclimatise back to life on the boat. Sea sickness hit several people and with dehydration and lack of sleep, due to the heat, the first 2 days were hard work. Because this was such a short race we were undertaking regular sail changes to maximise our speed as much as possible and the physical effort pushes the body hard. If you’re not taking on the nutrition you require then this just adds to the exhaustion, but after an initial 36 hours I was back eating properly and getting the fluids I needed. Given that there were over 100 boats in the race it surprised me how quickly we were back on our own in the ocean with no other boats on the horizon. On day 2 of the race we had a little bit of excitement. I was on the helm at the time and suddenly and out of nowhere 2 Humpback whales surfaced immediately in front of our port bow. A close call, but it was great to see these marvellous creatures at such close quarters. I made a slight adjustment to our course in case there were any other whales nearby but fortunately for us there was no recurrence of the whale collision suffered on Leg 2 of the race. As the race progressed the wind strengthened behind us and our spinnaker was flying beautifully and we were making good speed. Skipper Matt was regularly on and off deck to update us on progress and by Thursday afternoon we were ideally placed with us in a good position and most of the rest of the Clipper fleet lined up behind us. We were really confident that a win was in our grasp and there’s nothing like a possible podium position to focus the mind so it was a case of never mind the sleep let’s just do what we have to do to bring this home. On Thursday afternoon we had great sailing conditions and because of the warm weather most of us were in shorts and tee shirts. There was a little high cloud but nothing to threaten or concern us. Suddenly, a few hundred metres ahead Matt spotted a change in the sea state and out of nowhere the weather quickly went from 15 – 20 knots of wind to a complete wind shift and we were up to 30 knots and the wind had moved 90 degrees, from behind us to off our starboard beam. I’ve never seen anything like this and the change in weather and subsequent strength of the wind took us all by surprise. Now it was all hands to the pumps and Matt took the wheel from me and it was a case of getting the spinnaker down and new headsails up. In record time we got the job done and the spinnaker was despatched down below to be repacked. I went down below to help with this and whilst this is being done it is very evident that the wind was getting stronger. So it was a case of reducing the main sail area by putting a reef in the sail and taking down one of the head sails. Still in a tee shirt and shorts I threw on a jacket and went on deck to help out. With the evolutions complete and the boat sailing under more control we spotted that one of the headsails was trying to break free of its lashings. I went up to the bow with Mike and secure the sail and with he boat now crashing into waves and without the appropriate clothing there is only one outcome for me.  Water crashes over me and finds every gap in my clothing. I return to the cockpit area absolutely soaked through and looking like a drowned rat! That’ll teach me. At least the sea was warm though!! With the change in weather we hope that this might work in our favour as we’ve come through it quite unscathed. Just after midnight on Friday morning the sea state and wind has settled and in gloomy inky dark conditions the Skipper takes a turn on the helm for a few hours to help keep us on course as we close in on Tasmania. However, as the sun comes up and as we round the Tasmanian headland to head up towards Hobart we’re joined by an old favourite of ours…..a wind hole! With hardly a breath we’re now bobbing around and the rest of the fleet is taking the opportunity to catch us up. Here we go again and all that hard work we’ve been putting in is disappearing to nought. For several hours the frustration grows as we lose our lead and then half way up Storm Bay we finally pick up wind. At last we’re off again and a quick change of sail plan sees us surging off. However we have 2 boats close on our heels; Liverpool and Unicef. They don’t seem to be ready for the change in wind state and are still flying their spinnakers. We watch as they pick up speed and sure enough after a little while Unicef ‘pop’ their spinnaker and we can see it shred itself. Liverpool get a wrap on their spinnaker and struggle to get it down. So now we’re finally charging up the Derwent river and into Hobart and we’re enjoying the spectacle.   Just ahead of us is one of two of the old Clipper boats which have now been rebranded as Invictus Games boats. We’re chasing the UK boat which has Sir Robin Knox-Johnson on board. Now there is no way we want to finish behind him….we’ll never hear the end of it   With just enough river left before the finish line comes into sight we pass the Invictus boat on the inside. So with the end of the race in sight, once again it’s so close and yet so far for PSP Logistics! Our final position is downgraded to 6th as Hotel Planner get redress for helping with a man overboard recovery earlier in the race. My only consolation….we’ll I’m sitting in the pulpit at the bow end, unhanking a sail, as we cross the finish line and so technically I’m the first on our boat to finish the race…haha!   Crossing the finish line.   The end of the race and still smiling…… where are those beers??   Sydney to Hobart race 2017……..done!   So my thoughts on this iconic race. Well I’m really pleased to have taken part in such a prestigious event. Yes the ultimate result was frustrating but we gave it our best effort and ultimately our efforts were scuppered by our fickle old friend, the weather. My sailing capability is definitely improving and I’m pleased with this. The other teams in the fleet are commenting  that we are real contenders and I think it’s only a matter of time before we gain the results we deserve. There’s still a long way to go in the overall event and so we’ll be starting our campaign again in 2018 with lots of pride with the way we are sailing as a team and expectation for the future. Let’s hope we can continue to keep up the pressure and perhaps that elusive gold pennant will finally end up in our hands. Here’s to a successful campaign in 2018.   Some of the formula 1 boats of the yacht racing world moored up in Hobart harbour.  

  • 0 Happy Christmas

    • by David Lawson
    • 25-12-2017

      Andie and me celebrating Christmas Day on Manly beach with a fish and chip lunch. Note the typically English weather though! If you are following this blog then I’d just like to wish you a very happy Christmas and hope you and your family enjoy a very festive time. As I write it is 7.10am on Boxing Day here in Sydney (8.10pm Christmas Day in the UK). Today is the start of the 73rd edition of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race sponsored by Rolex. There are 104 yachts taking part of which 11 are Clipper race yachts. At 1300hrs local time we will start our race of just over 600 miles to Hobart in Tasmania. It promises to be a wonderful spectacle and we’re hoping for a podium place after a very close finish in the last race from Fremantle to Sydney. I’m hoping the email system on the boat will be working ok and I’ll be able to keep you up to date from the boat. Hopefully we’ll be in Hobart by Friday if the winds are kind and we think they will be as they should be following us from the North East. Here’s to a successful race and I’ll keep you posted. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas. Cheers! With a well earned end of race beer! Crossing the finish line in Sydney harbour Life on the lean in our final push towards Sydney   Sunset over Tasmania Another late afternoon view of Tasmania (so photogenic!)   After a week of grey sky and grey sea it was great to finally meet up with land again….Tasmania: a very welcome sight. Taking a selfie on the helm with Tasmania in the background; don’t tell the skipper! Jonathan Hallam & Nigel Holcombe on Mother duty: home made bread for lunch…what’s not to like?? Making Andie’s roast potatoes whilst on Mother Watch. I made 2 batches of these and they went down a storm!

  • 0 End of race update added 17 December

    • by David Lawson
    • 17-12-2017

    So the story of the final part of the race for the mighty PSP!!! We were powering through on Thursday night in very gloomy conditions. We had  good wind and with a fantastic helming effort from Stian (our resident Norwegian) and David Wilson we made really good ground. On Friday morning we thought we might have a chance. Matt was on deck regularly with 30 min updates. ‘We’ve got wind …they are only doing 5 knots!!! At this rate we could catch them in 5 hours’. So it became a bit of a feeding frenzy and we were pushing the boat hard. I think I only slept for 2 hrs on Thursday night. We all wanted to help where needed for the final push and if that meant foregoing sleep then so be it. By about 8am on Friday we knew the game was up and despite a really valiant effort we weren’t going to be able to pull it off. But for a few hours before, the adrenaline was coursing through our veins and it was great to be part of such a motivated effort. ‘Chapeau ‘ to all the PSP crew and especially Matt for his enthusiasm. I met Al on Qingdao on the pontoon when we got in and he thought we were going to do it and beat them all because we were going so fast. So the final act didn’t quite play out as we’d hoped but we have huge pride on board and we’re well respected by the fleet. So PSP will soon be back and on the prowl again!! Watch out all.. …because we’re coming. Now we have a few days of hard work on the boat and a few days rest. Sunny Sydney beckons and we’ll have a great time here. Thanks for following us. Keep up the support. It means so much and the next instalment will begin again soon.