Australian cruise

Gipsy Moth IV slipped gracefully through Sydney Heads on Sunday escorted by a flotilla of yachts, water taxis and TV news channel helicopters to resume her round the world voyage.

Skipper, Simon Hay from UKSA, said the yacht’s visit to Sydney had demonstrated how much she and Sir Francis had touched the hearts of so many people. Throughout the week, visitors to the yacht shared photographs and stories from their parents and themselves when Sir Francis stopped in Sydney back in 1967.

The city was no less welcoming to the re-born Gipsy Moth IV, with a series of high profile events, culminating in HRH The Princess Royal going sailing on the iconic ketch in Sydney Harbour.

Now the yacht is heading up the east coast of Australia to eventually re-join the Blue Water Round the World Rally in Cairns.

The crew onboard for this leg 15 to Brisbane and Mooloolaba include three young people from Sydney: crew leader Chris Bray, writing for Yachting Monthly, Nicola Starling and David Thackray, plus Elaine Caldwell, from Scotland, who sailed on GMIV for the first leg of the voyage from Plymouth to Gibraltar. The first mate is Gordon Berry a Yachtmaster Instructor from UKSA.

Chris Bray writes: Huddled in the cockpit beneath our heavy oilskins, Nicola and I watched the moon’s silver reflections dance over the gently rolling ocean towards us. Midnight last night I was off-watch, lying pinned against what should have been the back of the saloon seat, trying to ignore the rising feeling of dread within me – unfortunately my being physically seasick was no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Time ticked past, marked by the incessant rising and plunging of the bow as GMIV pounded to windward on Port tack up the Australian coastline.
Although I grew up sailing around the world with my family, that was many years ago – and as for Nicola, this was her first night-sail, and first time outside the harbour – so neither of us, nor the other crew members David or Elaine, were appreciating this messy swell. As Hugo Vihlen once commented, “I don’t know who named them swells. There’s nothing swell about them. They should have been named awfuls.”

Later, I relieved Nicola of the helm. “Steer her 030” skipper, Simon, cheerily nodded at the newly-installed bulkhead-mount compass – just one of the new additions to GMIV after its recent mishap in the Pacific. It was great to finally have her, at last, voyaging again, and back on track. We have about six days to get to Brisbane – plenty of time. Time enough even, to avoid using the engine when the wind and waves mercifully slackened right off in the wee hours of the morning.

Simon checked the weather chart on the laptop computer and told us: “There is a 35 knot southerly chasing us, with seas expected to rise to up to four metres.” There is quite a current that runs down the East coast of Australia if you’re offshore. We have to be out offshore here though, as in closer is a tangled minefield of crab-pots waiting to snare the prop. This means wind-against-current, which unfortunately translates to exceptionally messy waves. Great. “It should hit us about 23:00 tonight I’d say?” Simon shuts the laptop. And so the waiting begins.

Peering around the deceptively flat ocean, Nicola spotted the dorsal fin of a large shark slicing through the water, followed alarmingly far away by its tail fin. A shower of little bait fish boiled from the surface in front of him as he cruised along. Yes, definitely not a good idea to be inshore around those crab-pots, I for one wouldn’t be volunteering to leap overboard to cut us free.

As dusk gave way to night, the stars punctuated the sky above us, burning surprisingly brilliantly out here away from the light-pollution of civilisation. “But where is this so called gale?” was the question on all our lips. There is scarcely a cloud in sight.

Just between you and me, I’d be quite happy to wake for my next watch in four hours and find things just as they are now thank you very much? Here’s hoping?.

FOOTNOTE: For updates on the daily log and further details of the voyage, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Chichester’s epic voyage and Yachting Monthly’s 100th birthday, log onto the official website;

PHOTO: © Mark Lamble