It’s business as usual here on board. Christmas has yet to make an impact. The weather is still overcast but finally its warm enough on deck for shorts. We have recovered well from a difficult week and we are making great progress. But you cannot underestimate the challenge for a second out here – you have to be switched on all the time. We have been in contact with other members of the fleet and continually hear of others challenges, ranging from faulty steering to broken water-makers. It’s serious stuff. As for our challenges with the auto-helm we have finally, after about 10 attempts, managed to patch it up. It has been working reliably for about 2 days now.
We had bad weather for a number of days prior to capsize. With that came a number of close calls but the hand steering had helped us keep out of trouble. We had also been lucky. That night was a big one and I half expected it to happen. I had phoned Tony (our weather router) to ask about weather updates. On the night it happened we had 60ft swells and confused seas. The wave that caught us was a side swipe – like 2 sides of a zip being drawn together with us in the middle. We tried to hold on but almost immediately I was under water. The steering lines were ripped for my hands. I felt the tow of the boat against my lifejacket safety line.
The first thing I did when I surfaced was to check that Cayle was attached and ok. The ambient light was sufficient to scan around the waves and we were close enough together that I could see roughly what was going on. The challenge was distinguishing between Cayle’s head and other random bits of kit that had been ejected from the boat and were now floating in the briny deep. Once we were out and safe I got straight back on the steering. Now that we have been rolled we know what to expect and that knowledge dispels fear. All in all this event has only added to our confidence. Having said the conditions are still serious. I’ve sailed the atlantic twice and never seen it like this. When I rowed the Indian Ocean I saw waves the height of 2 double decker buses. Out here they seem to be as high as 3 or 4.
The guys have done really well. Cayle had a good understanding of what to expect up front, but Scott and Jenks did not really know what they were letting themselves in for when we started this. Up until the roll I had never admitted that the waves were big – I was trying to play things down. But when I admitted that the seas were really big they actually seemed relieved to hear that they weren’t being soft!
I couldn’t really ask for any more of my team mates. No one has been sick and I have been really impressed how they have adapted to a hugely challenging task. Being able to trust in each other and share the work-load has been important. This has been a battle of attrition – of boat and of body. We are finally finding a more sustainable level routine and that’s a great place to be. I’m finding it hard not to think about Antigua but we still have a hell of a long way to go. We have discussed Christmas plans and Scott was talking about having a day off. I have told him we are still in a race and will be having a crew lunch but then we are getting straight back into it.