The following day was much the same; lots of sails changes, man over board drills, and mew instruction.

We learned about mayday calls (how to make them and when to make them). There is a very specific format required, so even if the person picking up the message speaks another language the required help can still be summoned.

We learned more about sail trimming - each sail has a number of "telltales", little ribbons that let you know whether the sail needs to be taken in or let out to provide the optimum sail shape and we anchored up again over night. During my night shift my companion, who was an experienced sailor decided to teach me plotting positions based on surrounding objects.

The following morning we arranged to challenge "Ariel", the other training yacht to a set of challenges, or as we called it, the sailing olympics. We were convinced we would win, as they seemed a joyless lot, who were always yelling at each other, whereas we had bonded into a pretty good team.

We decided on a number of tasks (which with hindsight were probably identical each "olympics", but at the time we were convinced we would have an advantage from the choice. We decided to go for the heavy work....hoisting the full main sail, changing the yankee 2 to a yankee 1, as well as dropping the stay sail and re-hoisting it.

We lost the main sail challenge fractionally but won replacing the stay sail convincingly.

However we came a cropper with the changing the yankees, as we had a malfunctioning clip on the yankee 2- we hoisted the new sail in record time with some superb sweating (if I must say so), but we were two down. We did another sail change which they won, leaving us well behind.

We won the MOB race (even though we had to send someone overboard in a sling for the first time (we found out later every member of the other boat had been winched overboard previously) by about two seconds, and the final race was an emergency steering race (replacing the steering wheel for an emergency tiller)-they had trouble removing the housing and so had trouble getting the tiller in place. As such even though they cheated with additional revs (we had agreed an upper limit for use) we still won convincingly.

Final score 4-3. We decided they must have spent all their time practicing drills rather than sailing as we had (which turned out to be spot on).

We pulled into port saturday lunchtime, and then had to sit our exam: this part of our course could lead to earning our YHA competent crew certificate. The exam was two hours long and basically covered everything we had learned through the week.

We had the chance for a quick shower (well not so quick really, after four days without one) before getting together for drinks and some food-try booking a table for 19 on valentines night....thank god that Portsmouth is used to swingers parties!

The following morning (with plenty of hangovers all round) we started the deep clean of the boat, and had one on one debriefs with the skipper.

My debrief basically pointed out my areas of strength (team spirit, eagerness to help, willingness to listen and learn) as well as highlighting weaknesses that needed more work (knot craft) and set my a number of things I could do to improve.

Apart from improve upper body strength and fitness (which was given to all members of the crew) I was also recommended to join a sailing club and get on the water as often as possible.

Saying goodbye was quite sad, as we had become a really good team in a very short time, though a number of us were booked on the same part B training course so we would meet up soon enough. We swapped emails and determined to keep in touch.

Then for the long drive back to London - though not as long as all those heading back to Hull (five hours of joy!)