The last race had it all: The heat (again), freezing cold, thousands of fishing boats, nets in our rudders, wind holes, heavy winds, downwind and upwind sailing, sleep deprivation und most important fun.
Keep smiling, or try at least
It was not always fun, especially in the first few days where we were beating upwind from Sanya, Hainan towards the Luzon strait in between Taiwan and the Philippines. In constant high winds our boat heeled massively and moving around and every step costs extra energy. Due to the big amount of spray on deck we took on a lot of water and bailing buckets became an important task in every watch. An absolute joy, especially in 45° and heavy seas; some buckets were empty again before they could have been poured over board.
The current and the winds were moving in opposite directions, hence the waves were short and steep and we crashed from wave to wave. With every dive into another wave crew in their bunks slipped down a bit more and more, sleeping in these conditions is rather impossible. It is a vicious circle, the heavier the sea, the more energy you burn and mentally challenged you are, but the less sleep you get.
All you can fish
However, after around a week and after crossing the Luzon strait the wind changed and we could sail almost the whole rest of the race under spinnaker; opposite to what the forecast says and the common conditions for the east Chinese sea are – lucky us. The sleep quality and consequently the spirit on board increased rapidly. We needed the energy, as another challenge added to the standard were the absolute unbelievable amount of fishing boats crossing our ways.
You would not believe it until you see it with your own eyes; they look like cities appearing on the horizon, light after light, but they are boats, from small until factory size, working closest possible to each other. As a sailing vessel we had to give way to fishing boats, but keeping our race and eventual extra mileage in mind, we often navigated through them. Sometimes they were also just too big to go around. Always hoping not to get stuck in deployed fishing nets. Accidentally we run above 2 several miles long nets and luckily, we were fast enough not to get stuck. Only once in the very end of the race we had a few meters of fishing net in our rudders, but this was rather drifting trash than from an intact net.
I win the litter game 20 to 10
When I’m talking about drifting trash my heart is bleeding. Never I’ve seen such a level of pollution like in the Chinese seas. Knowing that some of the world’s biggest pollutants with the Philippines, Indonesia and China share those waters might explain it. But it also shows that Asia has an issue with pollution. Countless Styrofoam pieces, hundreds of lost buoys, pet bottles, plastic bags – everywhere. On an easy sailing afternoon, I played a game with my team mate Gary: Whoever spots a piece of garbage first gets a point – after not even 10 minutes the score was 20 to 10. No further comment than “We have an issue here…”.
9 to 5 marina
Short before our arrival the weather changed again and we got cold winds from north. Beating again, but only for a few hours. In about 30 to 40 knots of wind we approached Qingdao, wearing all layers available as the winds were freezing cold. The last night we spent in the bay of Qingdao as we were only allowed into the marina between 9 and 5, a bit like the Swiss Airforce works. 😊 This last night was the coldest sailing I’ve ever done, some said it was around minus 10 degrees, without wind chill factor. Without having facts, I just say it was fricking cold and some of us will have to gear up before the north pacific leg.
Anyhow, we were happy when we in port and welcomed with a nice ceremony and loads of food and drinks. We finished the leg on the second last place, but after the race is before the race, it goes on, always.