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Harken Clipper interview with PSP Logistics and Derry~Londonderry~Doire skippers Chris Hollis and Sean McCarter.


Harken Clipper interview with PSP Logistics and Derry~Londonderry~Doire skippers Chris Hollis and Sean McCarter. 

(To view the video of the interview click here)

Chris Hollis (CH): PSP Logistics and
Sean McCarter (SC)
: Derry~Londonderry~Doire

Chris and Sean welcome to Jamaica, the second stop in this penultimate leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race! You have been racing around the world for nine months, as skippers how has your perspective on the race changed since leaving London last September?

SC:Nine months it’s a long time, you could have a baby in that time! It’s getting to the point where it actually feels longer than that. In the beginning we always picked San Francisco as the turning point and thought it would get easier from there. But actually I find it’s getting tougher because we keep getting closer and closer to home but it still seems pretty far off. So I mean it’s a long hard race thinking your almost there but still having quite a way to go.

CH:I think with myself and our crew we’ve talked about this as well and like Sean said the run into San Francisco was the big one and everyone was really tired after that. Now when we look at the rest of the race in terms of the physical time there’s still quite a long way to go. But then when we’ve counted the sailing days we get more days in port than we actually do sailing now. But every time you go to sea, like the last time it was three days, but that did feel like six days at sea. So it’s definitely taking its toll but you’ve  just got to support each other in the end and we’ll get there.

The new Clipper 70’s were introduced for the first time last year, how have you found the performance of these new boats, have they met your expectations?

SC:We first started sailing the Clipper 70’s back in May properly I think. There’s always a worry with new boats but I think they quickly proved themselves to be pretty reliable, sturdy and quick off the wind. I think most skippers would tell you they struggle upwind a little bit but all in all they’re robust, safe and generally quick boats. All in all people are very pleased with them.

CH:Yeah likewise early on we had a couple of big storms and that was the testing ground and I know for my boat (PSP Logistics) we came through with flying colours, and you guys had a fairly big knock down (looking at Sean) and bounced back straight away. So in terms of the safety of the boat I think they are perfectly fine and they’ve proved themselves to be quicker off the wind. Being new boats and also us trying to learn how to sail them, I think it really took us half the race for us to start getting the most out of the boats. With any boat it always takes when you join about a year to get comfortable with it so by the time we’ve finished we’ll be semi-experts on these boats!

We have seen a number of incidents throughout the race; man overboard situations, broken water makers and even shark attacks to the rudder! How comforting is it to know the other skippers and crews are out there with you and how has the relationship between skippers grown as the race has progressed?

SC:I think the skippers came together properly for the first time last April so it’s been well over nine months with just the twelve skippers or so now, so we’ve been a pretty close knit bunch since back then. It’s quite funny in stopovers because different skippers have different programmes, some are busier on some stopovers, some on others. So even though we all know each other well you get to spend different time with different people in the stopovers.

Certainly at sea I think it was probably most apparent for us during our man overboard incident in the north pacific, having eleven other boats relatively close by is very comforting. Luckily we were able to find and recover our casualty before we needed Olly Cotterell on OneDLL to assist, but he was making his way which in the back of your mind at the time is hugely comforting.

I think there are several other examples of everything from water maker breakdowns to medic transfers – certainly having other boats nearby is a godsend at times!

CH:Yeah likewise for us, although we’ve spent time by ourselves on two of the bigger ocean crossings we didn’t have that comfort factor, but when you are with the fleet it is very reassuring. The camaraderie between the skippers, like we email each other with a bit of banter and take the micky out of each other and support each other at the same time when we’re at sea as well so it’s pretty cool.

Tactically do you both differ in your strategies and how do they change between longer ocean-going legs verses shorter in-shore legs?

CH:That’s a tough question because I know we all want to do the same thing to get the same result but we all take different little ways to get there. I think with the long ones you’ve just got to break it down into chunks. If you look at a six thousand mile race and go, “I’m going to win it!” it’s pretty unrealistic. You need to set yourself little goals and try and achieve them along the way, which then makes a big race into four small races. It’s just having the stamina to keep running those four small ones together.

SC:Tactically it’s much harder as all the boats are up to speed now. At the beginning there were differences in boat speed and you could more or less do rhumb line tactics and if you were one of the quicker boats you could do very well. But it doesn’t really work like that anymore because everybody is up to speed now so on the other hand you’ve got to look for an advantage with your strategy or tactics but you don’t want to go too far or you’ll get left behind. It’s definitely become tougher as the race has gone on.

The Clipper 70’s are kitted out with Harken hardware. Have you had experience using Harken gear before and how critical is it to develop a hardware maintenance strategy throughout the race?

SC:I’ve used Harken on boats from dinghies up to superyachts and never really had a problem. The package has been really good on the Clipper 70’s. I know we’ve got a guy who specialises on the winch, we’ve trained him up, and he keeps an eye on all that. I don’t think we’ve really had any problems whatsoever which is pretty amazing that they can take that sort of punishment over the last nine months and still, more or less, be in top working order. So I’m pretty pleased.

CH:I guess the hard thing to explain to novice crews is that things do break at sea and it’s all about the maintenance. If you take these winches, even the ones that have had barely any maintenance on them, for them still to be in the condition that they’re working is a huge testament to Harken, they’re building a good product!


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