Our capsize took place just after midnight in the early hours of Thursday morning. James and I had just taken over on shift. The wind had been changing direction over the last 24 hours and the swell was now coming from 2 different directions. This presents you with a problem, especially when you have 30 ft rolling swells - waves were rolling at each other and crashing into each other. James was hand-steering due to continued problems with the auto-steering. It was difficult to see the waves but you could certainly feel them.
At 16 minutes past midnight we were hit from our right. And then a second wave came from our left. The boat felt like it was pretty much vertical in the air with the stern high out of the water I could see James way above me. It reminded me of a poster I used to have at home of one of those surf rowing boats being turned over by a wave, the slogan said … “don’t scream, you’ll need the air”. That was my last thought before I went under.
As soon as we were over it was like being in a washing machine. I hit something with my face and was ripped out of my seat. I swam to the surface and saw items floating in the water that had been ripped form the boat. I swam to retrieve them and then we quickly realised that we should focus on ‘retrieving’ ourselves! Before I got out of the water I saw that some other kit was hanging over the side. I pushed it back in first and then got myself back in. Scott and Jenks tried to help and we told them to get back in their cabins in case we got rolled again.
A pleasant experience
Capsize was far more pleasant than I expected. The first thought I had when I hit the water was, “oh good, it’s nice and warm”. I’m actually quite pleased that the incident took place because it proved that the boat's self righting design worked. It was upright before I had even got my own head above water! A combination of the team effort, James’s skippering and great equipment has meant that all of our safety on board has been fantastic.
As soon as we were upright, James was all over it. We reported the situation immediately to the race duty officer, then we quickly checked all the kit and got rowing again straightaway. It wasn’t panic stations. Immediately after the incident we had a chuckle about it. The only real downer for a South African like me it so have lost our snack packs overboard. I wouldn’t have minded too much but we had 50 packets of Biltong in there!
We were very fortunate that the boat hadn’t been damaged but I did discover the cause of the cut on my face – I had snapped an oar with my head.
It doesn’t feel very Christmassy at all because you are so disconnected out here. But we have got presents and treats for us to eat and drink on the day and while we aren’t missing Christmas itself I think we are all missing our families.
The technical challenges continue as ever and the boat has been listing to one side due to an incursion of water in the hatches. Another project to keep us occupied. The good news is growing though; the auto-helm has been working for 24 hours non-stop now. This is the first time we have had that kind of reliability for about 12 days. Finally we are out of our foul weather gear too. This Monday is the first day since we started that we have been out of foul weather gear and into shorts and T-shirt. The weather is great (at last) and we are making 3 + knots. We have also rowed through 30 deg West so we are now in a new time zone. I bet you haven’t rowed into another time zone before!
I am still fantasising about food. Thanks to calmer weather we have finally been able to have our first hot drinks and meals for a long time. We can see that we are losing weight and I am dreaming about bacon and egg sandwiches on a regular basis.