From Heaven to Hell!

Matt and Jenny - long term sailing friends reunited

Matt and Jenny - long term sailing friends reunited

I was excited to meet our next crew member, Olympic gold medallist Jenny Armstrong! She was joining us for the 2450 nm leg across to Mauritius. Departing Cocos we had a fair lack of wind and slow start - but that was soon to change!

We were told we would get trade winds the whole way which we did, but we didn’t expect gales on eight of the 12 days with waves up to 15 meters and wind gusting well over 50 knots. This was no fun at all!

It wasn’t the wind strength that was the issue but the diabolical sea conditions with ground swell from the Southern Ocean mixed in with trade wind swell and waves, and, often a northwesterly swell from a weather event in the higher latitudes, meaning a very confused seaway.

Easy departure from Cocos….

Easy departure from Cocos….

For days I was as sick as is possible - I vomited more than you can imagine, and once all the bile had gone it was unbelievably horrendous. I swore that this was it; no more legs of this journey at sea for me - I was taking a plane out of Mauritius! I remember lying, more than once, thinking that if I was given the choice of a pleasant death right now I’d probably take it. Then the little voice in my head would say, ‘but what about your kids,’ and even though they would be left without any parents if I did die, I was still thinking death was a good option!

Day by day we ticked off the days to arrival. Jenny and Matt were nothing short of amazing - both experienced in high seas as well as the Olympics, and both incredible to watch at the helm from what felt like my deathbed. (I really did think we were going to die a nasty death at times - they thought this was funny when I told them once landed safely in Mauritius.)

Starting to rough up

Starting to rough up

Each day we radioed on the net to the other ARC yachts to ensure all was well. It was from this we heard that one of the crew, Karren, on another yacht had had an accident hitting her head leaving her almost unconscious, certainly not terribly conscious, and unable to do anything other than lie with her eyes closed. We did not think this was going to end well, but there was nothing anyone could do with a long way to go and seas far too rough to try and move crew from one yacht to another. Radio support was provided by medics on one of the yachts and the Mauritius Coast Guard was contacted. They duly sent a vessel to medivac Karren but it was four days before they could reach her and when they did the seas were still too rough to evacuate her from the yacht until the following day. She was taken to the hospital in Rodrigues Island, where she was well cared for by the wonderful local people. Although it’s impossible to describe the conditions, you can see a (dramatic) video made by the Mauritius Police Force National Coast Guard here.
(Update: Fortunately, after a stint in hospital and recovery time back in the UK, Karren made a full recovery and was back sailing in the new year!)

No pics from when it really got going - I was laid flat!

I’ve never been so glad to see land in my life - our first sight of the islands off Mauritius was, I thought at the time, the best moment of my life.

I’ll also never forget the deliciously spicy smell and the sound of drums as we came along the coast in the dark. Greeted by the Coast Guard checking who we were near the harbour entrance, we were soon happily berthed at the marina - and I got to step foot on land again!!!

Nothing could have made me happier than that - although it was pretty good to know we were the first ARC boat to arrive as well!

First sight of Mauritius as the sun sets, and the crew arrive safely on land!