Derry Clipper crew endure dramatic night’s racing

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The Derry entry in the round the world clipper race is back on course after a 35 knot gust sent the boat spinning out of control in the Pacific Ocean.

“I don’t think any of the fleet will come through racing in the North Pacific Ocean in March without any damage and we are no exception!” laments Mark Light, skipper of Derry-Londonderry.

“Last night we had a near disaster and plenty of drama...

“We were charging along downwind with superb conditions, running before 25 knots of westerly wind with full main and Yankee 2 headsail driving us forward at about 11 knots. At about 0130 local time (these things always happen at night) we were hit by a 35 knot gust, there was a loud crack and the boat spun out of control,” explains Mark.

“We instantly knew that the steering cable had parted and the boat had rounded up into wind flogging the mainsail and headsail wildly. The boom was thrashing about madly, both preventer lines, were trailing and the boat was heeled over at such an angle that the boom itself was banging into the water as we travelled forwards out of control with pace.

“Very quick action was required - importantly a drill we practice many times in our rigorous pre-race training program (nevertheless, when it happens for real the adrenaline starts pumping through your veins and the seriousness of the situation hits home).”

Mark and his crew sprang into action and began to set up the emergency tiller while another team hauled down their Yankee 2 from the foredeck. After securing the tiller which brought the boat under semi control, Mark and crew member, Tom Way, squeezed into the tiny space above the steering quadrant and set about replacing the steering cable.

“After an hour involving hydraulic bolt croppers, hacksaw and plenty of elbow grease we had successfully changed the cable, no mean feat when being constantly thrown around in the conditions like a rag doll!

“We managed to regain full control of the boat, returned to our former heading and hoisted our Yankee again. The whole episode took about two hours in which we lost an estimated 16 miles.

“Once again, no injuries, no lasting damage and we are back racing again. My crew handled the situation impeccably and we did a sterling job. Now in true Derry-Londonderry style we will push on, fully determined to make up the lost ground and get ourselves back up into those precious podium positions,” signs off Mark, with his team currently occupying fourth position in the Race 9 standings.

The clippers are currently en route to San Francisco.