Full action on the 72-foot steel yachts
Around a week after the start of the fourth stage of the amateur regatt from Sydney to Cape Town, the twelve structurally identical 72-foot steel yachts are engaged in a tough battle for positions. Until Cape Town, however, there are still a good 4800 nautical miles ahead of the crews.
The "BP Explorer" with Thuringian Holger Bindel on board is currently holding the lead. The "Imagine it. Done" is only four nautical miles back. "Me to you" with Birgit Obermüller from Bremerhaven is in fourth position.
She describes a night watch close to the situation, which could not be more strenuous for amateur sailors:
I have just come from the "Nightwatch from Hell". And while the memory is still fresh, I will try to depict our situation here in the Southern Ocean.
We were on watch from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and since the wind was constant between 45 and 53 knots, we decided to take the mainsail down and just continue sailing with Yankee No. 3 and Stormstay. There were only seven people on deck, so there were three left for the mast to pull the sail down: Mark, our biggest and strongest, Robbo, our watchman, and myself. The three of us fought doggedly, bringing down slide after slide, Mark pulled, and Robbo and I took turns holding on. The whole time we were buffeted by gusts and the waves crashed on us, and there was always the risk of losing our grip on the mast. The wind increased to 50 knots!
Birgit Obermüller reports from "Me to you"
I don't know how long I held on, my hands turned to icicles in spite of the gloves, and soon all I felt was pain, but I prayed my creed "I can do it, I will do it, we will do it" to myself in order not to let go of j and ruin all our efforts. But after about 20 minutes we had to give up. It was just not possible with three people. We had to pull the big one up again. The pain was streaming down my tears now, and Mark wasn't much better off. Completely at the end, we fell into the cockpit and only made it below deck after repeated requests.
There we could hardly help each other, just wait until we got a feeling for our arms and hands again. I felt fine after a while, my hands thawed, and my arms weren't too bad, but Mark must have strained his muscles in the shoulder area. I then decided to make some tea first. And everything seemed to calm down. Then the next disaster happened, a crusher hit us across the board, and a box of powdered drink spilled over the saloon seats - a huge mess that I cleaned up in the next hour and a half. At least it made me feel warm, but my mood had sunk to rock bottom
Half an hour before the watch was over, we were all called upstairs to make a turn. I saw the only highlight of the evening: the northern lights. Beautiful. But there was absolutely no time to admire, and I've never seen any before. A mega wave hit us and hurled Kevin, another crew member, out of the cockpit on the "low side" down onto the side deck past the main sheet. I'd just heard the scream "wave" and instinctively crouched and grabbed something to hold onto, but Kevin was thrown over me. Fortunately we were all on a leash. We got him back right away and put him in the cockpit. He seems to have sprained his leg but is otherwise okay.
Well, then the turn, which worked quite well in spite of the 40 knots of wind. I usually go to the stay to trim the sails, but this time I only crawled about ten feet in that direction and caught a glimpse of the sails when two waves washed me back again. I decided this was a mind-boggling endeavor and tried to trim the sails from the snakepit, which is the area behind the mast and actually the safest. But because of the spray, I hardly saw the sails, let alone the trim lines. Gave up after a few tries. We pulled the sails as close as possible and then took care of Kevin.
We helped him below deck, and after our doctor had a look at him, he released him to his hanging bunk. Fortunately, our watch was over. I couldn't have endured any more action. And we already have enough battered crew members for one day. I'm fine except for a few bruises. I'll do everything I can to keep it that way. Fortunately, I don't have to struggle with seasickness. Cold hands and feet are enough for me all the time. I am completely all now and am looking forward to my warm sleeping bag and my bunk. And hopefully a little less wind in the next twelve hours so that we can catch a little breath.
Birgit Obermüller sends greetings from "Me to you" somewhere west of Australia in the Southern Ocean