Barkingside gran battling Antarctic storms in yacht race

A grandmother is battling ice, hail and 80mph winds as she crosses the Southern Ocean on a round-the-world yacht race.

Catherine Draper, 60, of Hamilton Avenue, Barkingside, is 1,500 miles from land as her 68ft Clipper yacht is hit by storm after storm in the most ferocious ocean in the world.

Her boat, Qindao, and its 18 crew are 15 days from their last port, Cape Town and at the weekend were lying fourth out of the 10 boats.

In emails sent to her husband Ian, Mrs Draper wrote: “One hell of a night. Been a storm for a number of hours, now being thrown all over the place, even out of my bunk. Fortunately I was on the bottom bunk and landed on a sail.”

A few days later she wrote: “Everything is getting soaked and had to sleep in wet sleeping bag last night so very uncomfortable.

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“Dried off in generator now and using bin bags to try and keep the bed dry.”

Team Qindao has also had to dodge fishing boats trawling nets “miles long” and giant blue whales, while snatching irregular sleep between watches.

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Skipper Ian Conchie said last week: “Each time I think of increasing sail either the wind picks up or we hear of more breakages in the fleet, so caution and looking after the boat are definitely the order of play today.

“Finally we have seen the power of the Southern Ocean and even now we know she has more to give.

“The sea takes on an amazing beauty at times like these and shows us just what Mother Nature can do when she simply flexes her muscles.”

Mr Draper travelled to Cape Town last month to deliver treats on his wife’s brief stopover there. She is due back in the UK in June.

The adventure will raise money for charity Kids Alive, which provides education, food and clothes for children in Africa.

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