03 Aug The start of the race
The start of the race
3 August 2017
“The day started with a life jacket drill and general safety instructions. Then we got the boat ready, the trash was taken ashore and the harbour pilot came aboard. We started putting the sails up just after 10am in readiness for the parade of sail at 10.20. The lines were released which provided a little drama as one got snagged on a clamp on the pontoon as the boat was pulling away. It was eventually released with the efforts of the first mate Jan Schaeffer just as a running RDV official got to it, which was greeted with applause and laughter.
As the sails were being hoisted, we motored down past the lighthouse on McNabs Island where we turned round and headed back past George’s Island close to the Dartmouth shore, lined with waving spectators as we headed towards MacDonald bridge. Many small craft were milling around all the tall ships and there was a water cannon salute from the fireboat.
We continued down the Halifax side of the harbour, fairly close to the wharfs and the famous boardwalk, with repeats of ‘Farewell to Nova Scotia’ blaring from the boat speaker as we danced on deck, and with occasional firing of the Oosterschelde’s cannon. This was returned with much waving and cheering from the huge crowds, a naval hand salute from the General Commander, and a gun salute from the Citadel’s military guards. Finally we passed Mt Pleasant Park and the islands, and motored eastwards towards the horizon beyond which Le Havre is waiting for us with more celebrations.
Lunch was provided on deck as we continued out to sea, where there was the possibility of a delayed start due to light winds. However, the winds picked up and we sailed over the start line around 20.05 GMT about 25 miles offshore which we crossed 2nd just after the ‘Gouden Leeuw’ with ‘Alexander von Humboldt II’ behind us; THE RACE HAD BEGUN!
Before dinner, whales were spotted fairly close by and after dinner there was a celebration of the 70th birthday of Swiss national Ernst Steingruber where he was presented with a large chocolate cake and the singing of Happy Birthday. It was a double celebration for him as it was also Switzerland’s anniversary.
The watch system had started in the afternoon, and we gradually headed towards midnight with continued light winds, a waxing moon and shooting stars in the sky.
Before the trip, my wife Johanne, who is also on the ship, asked me if I would climb up to the mast. My answer was: “No way”, being 105 kg do not give me an obvious head start to dance on rather looking small rope. Anyhow, after exactly 24 hours of sailing, when our mate aske who in the red watch want to go an tie up the top square sails, I said ok!! The view was splendid and the work carried out as required. Tomorrow morning I will be good for some painful, long time forgotten muscles but it was worth.”