Crew diary – Race across the South Atlantic Ocean – day 18

8th November 2019 – Race day 18 – Land ho! 

This is the first-time sinks in.
We have crossed an Ocean!
The last land we saw behind us was the beautiful Punta del Este in Uruguay.
Now looming on the horizon is the impressive plateaued peak of Table Mountain and below it, Cape Town, South Africa!  

We’ve almost done it and we are Currently 2nd with team UNICEF about half a day behind us.  

As my Wife instructed/demanded, we are arriving on the 8th and should be in port before dinner.
However, the crew seem more interested in a cold pint, G&T or glass of wine.
These are mentioned allot more than steak dinners.  

I can’t wait to see my Wife and family on the quay side.
My Dad and Step Mum have flown out from the UK and my Cousin Rachel all backed up by our awesome and loud South African family.
It will be a hell of a greeting and even bigger party!  

First, we have to get there…  

Diego spotted land at dawn and we think we are between 5 and 7 hours away if the weather stays constant.
We are the on watch but with the excitement of land and something other than the sea to look at most of the crew are up and awake.
This is great for morale but makes it pretty crowded above and below decks.  

We all make our personal preparations and Esteban produces some amazing devilled eggs form our remaining ingredients. Excellent work mate.  

As we get into the shadow of Table Mountain, we can see the finish line, but we can also see the famous “tablecloth” Ryan warned us about spilling off the top of the mountain and cascading down its face.  

Then nothing. We hit a wind hole. We are going nowhere. It is so frustrating! Then we spot UNICEF on the horizon which adds to the tension.  

We are so close to Port that the media Rib boat has come out to interview us as we sit still in the water barely moving. 
Time passes and the other watch are now officially on duty.
Andreas instructs his team to rig and hoist the aptly named “Wind-seeker” in front of our new audience who is live streaming this back to all our supporters.
No pressure guys.  

The Wind-seeker sort of does its job and we start creeping forward, but Ryan is looking the other way at the Table Mountain and the cascading tablecloth.  

He shouts for the crew to blow the tack of the Wind-seeker to drop it and get the Yankee back up! 

The tablecloth starts to slip down the side of table mountain

In less than 10-minutes we go from 0 knots of breeze to 40 knots of wind.
The media boat gets to see our full repertoire of sail hoists and drops in less than 15-minutes.
The wind is crazy and Jeronimo is fighting to keep us on the same tack so that we can aim directly at the line and not lose any more time.
The boat is shaking under the power as it does not want to be going in this direction.
We are heeled over more than 40 degrees more than we have been for the whole race.
All crew are finding ways to hang on and stop themselves from falling.
A great show for the media no doubt.  

Finally, we cross the line and claim 2nd place.
The claxon sounds from the Rib boat and Jeronimo can heave to, balance the boat and we can begin enjoying the moment.
Huge chants of “Punta del Este…Vamos”!
From all the crew ring out across the water and reach the supporters on the quay side who repeat it back to us.  

Ale looks and says, “there are so many people in yellow”.
I take a closer look and realise it is my 11 strong welcoming including my Wife shouting “Jim Leafe! Where have you been! You’re in big trouble”! 😊 
I shout back “I love you”! and wave my South African flag so they can see which one of the yellow crew mates I am.  

We pack away the sails and start the engine for the first time since we slipped lines in Punta del Este.
I prepare the mooring lines ready to affix lines to the pontoon.
The figures of my supporters get larger and I can make out each of them and see their faces for the first time.
They are cheering and so are we. The party has started! 

Once the boat is secured the Clipper team bring us a chest of cold beers.
As a crew we pose for photographs, say cheers and chant Punta del Este…Vamos! as loud as we can with the supporters joining in.  

I am itching to get off the boat and hug my wife.
Once we are cleared to leave, I stash a couple of beers in my foulies and step down from the boat on to the pontoon.
That’s it we have actually done it!  

My legs feel a bit wobbly and my brain can’t yet figure out why this surface I am standing on is not moving.
As a result, I am walking like a drunk person trying to regain my balance.  

We were not supposed to be able to make contact with our loved ones before clearing customs but Nige’s wife broke ranks and pounced on him for a kiss creating the best reunion photograph I have ever seen.  
Seeing this my wife took her opportunity and ran forward to give me a big hug and kiss saying in my ear “you’re a bit salty”! 😊  

Hugging my wife for the first time in nearly a month after saying goodbye at our front door in Derby
The whole crew on the bus to clear customs
Hugging my dad with a beer in Cape Town 3 weeks after he dropped me off at Heathrow to fly to Uruguay

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