Well I write the start of this blog after 7 days at sea, this is tough stuff. After an emotional farewell to Airlie Beach I spent the first 2 days being seasick, once this had abated it was time for race start Le Mans style outside the Great Barrier Reef , and we were off. A good start has kept us in the lead and we are still here a week in. Our big rivals LMax and DLD continue to chase us down so there is no rest from thinking about racing. We continue north to the next way point, the scoring gate and hopefully 3 points. We are passing close to beautiful tropical, lush islands. So near and yet so far!
The heat down below is almost intolerable - 40 degrees and on deck in the heat of the day probabably more. We are all sweating like crazy and trying to keep up our water intake. We briefly went on to rations when the water maker failed, we were on the verge of turning back to RV with Icorcoal for spare parts when the guys got it working. We only have enough water onboard for just over a day in these conditions so this could have had huge ramifications for our race.Water never tasted so good! So we race on towards the scoring gate and then the equator. Hot,hot,hot. Highlights this week have been going for a swim while becalmed. First rule of boat - don't get off- broken! So we all went for a refreshing dip in the South Pacific. Much fun was had by all, jumping in from all sides of the boat. A shark was spotted the following day! Today has seen us cross a whale motorway- 10/12 humpbacks within a couple of hours, trucking along with the occasional glipse of a tail fluke.
The mothers are doing a great job with the food in the inferno conditions. Bread and cakes are baked daily with lots of nutritious food to keep us going.Tinned fruit salad with condensed milk is a favourite.
Night skies have been spectacular. Shooting stars abound. I can see the Southern Cross and various other constellations including Orion which I can see at home. See, we are all under the same sky. Miss all of you guys loads but have now settled in to the routine. Believe me the 1st few were the hardest and I had proper homesickness for the 1st time in 25 years. Leaving you guys is tough! I miss rain, showers and proper cups of tea. Something I can put right when I get home. So I'm Ok, if a little damp. Glad to be here but thankful for all I have at home. We will see what the future brings, one watch at a time.
We are in the Doldrums and it's HJ Redders. 2-3 knots means slow progress, but at least we are making progress. However that said conditions are variable so we can sometimes be moving at 18-20 knots. 1st broach today ,where the boat goes right over. Not good news for the spinnaker which is now ripped to shreds (we have 3 of different weights of which this was the mid weight one which gets used the most.) Derry are still ahead of us and Lmax are gaining, so not a great day. We did see Minky whales along side us the other day. 2 black torpedoes about 20ft in lenght keeping pace with us for 10 minutes. Beautiful.
I am tired, wet all of the time and have managed to get sunburn blisters the size of golf balls on both legs plus sweat rash. We all have it. I can't wait for a hotel room in Danang. I was 'mother' yesterday which means cooking and cleaning for the boat. No complaints and the pineapple sponge cake went down well! I am just so hot, loosing weight and fluids all the time, it's a constant battle to stay hydrated.
We are into Feb! Today we were visited by Neptune and his court, their visit being delayed by previous bad weather as we crossed the equator. Pollywogs were duly rounded up (those who had not crossed before) and made to face judgement before being punished for thier crimes- such as breaking items or being late on watch- (a liberal dousing of a porrige,tomato, shampoo and dish water mix!),they were then accepted into Neptune's realm and under his protection as new shellbacks. I got to play the part of Chief bear, responsible for rounding up the victims!
Our race route has been extended by some 1000nm as we were getting there too soon. Although annoying as we really eant to get to Danang we have all accepted it now and chase on to catch Derry who are around 25 miles in frount of us. Garmin are 3rd, Lmax is 4th, having gone to the assistance of a dismasted yacht only to find it's solo skipper dead. There is often a reminder that the sea is a dangerous place and you have to be constantly vigilant. Everything is trying to kill you here, the ropes, balancing at 45 degrees, the harsh environment on your body, the sun...everything. Rowan got a nice smack in the face from a yankee sheet(rope) and has a cracking bruise to show for it. However we will overcome.
A few boat repairs this morning in preparation for more head in to wind action soon but for the time being we are making the most of pretty calm, dry conditions, a nice respite.
With wind unfortunately comes rain so we have all been soaked through again. We are off the coast of the Philippines and have passed some very tropical looking islands as we now head east for Danang. My legs are feeling better and I'm finally getting my hearing back after 2 weeks of blocked ears.
Derry continue to lead but we will do our best to chase them down. Feeling positive today.
Still in the frigging South China Sea. Everyone is desperate to get along side but we are being kept out until the 17th. We all have salt water rashes and it's hotter than hell still. Lighter winds have made sailing a bit more comfortable with less water over the decks so we can have the hatches open, not so good for the race plan. All boats are due to be in on the 17th so they will have to end it soon so the tail enders can get back. We believe a big welcome is planned for us when we finally get to Danang. Personally I've had a hard couple of days. Boat time gives you a lot of thinking time -sometimes good,sometimes bad. I miss home and my boys in particular and of course a decent cup of tea. 2 of my crew mates have done the nicest thing and got me some sat phone time,so hope to catch the boys over the weekend. Meanwhile the daily routine carries on with somd sail repair thrown in. Night watches have been star filled with planet spotting and dolphin watch in place to pass the time. Last night I had a perfect night as we played music on deck with John Denver making me feel content at last. The last few days of racing in lighter winds and slightly cooler temperatures have been happy times. All the crew have been amazingly supportive as we help each other over tough days. Still chasing Derry as Garmin are chasng us and winds lighten. We better hold on to our podium place after all this!
Day 28 and the race has finally been called. We are currently 3rd and need to hold off Lmax for another 14 hours. Trying hard. We all want that podium after all the hard work. We are all knackered, hot and sore. 14 hours to go. 2 days to port. Missing you guys.
Ice poles are our salvation, a daily treat now there is room in the freezer for them. A quick sat phone call home let me hear my boys voices for the first time in a month.
Now we are nearer port we can be a little more liberal with the fresh water so I had a wash of sorts today and washed a couple of items out. A hair wash will follow tomorrow. Everthing is so salty - me and my clothes! A proper shower is the thing of dreams, that and a cold beer and hearty meal. I shall be writing to Henri Lloyd when I get back about my disappointment in their kit. Only now am I dry despite foul weather gear.
6250 miles later and we have finished the race. Provisionally we are 3rd. There is a sense of relief all round as we turn west and head for Danang. It's been gruelling at times, beautiful, poignant, fun, surreal and tough all rolled into one. The crew have kept me sane with friendly support, encouragement and compassion. A short celebration at 4am with a rendition of 'Show me the way to go home' started our journey towards the delights of Danang.
More news to come from the stop over...........