On Tuesday we had the race director Joff on board – this meant that we had the chance to pick his brains not only on racing but also on the logistics of the race.
I was most keen to learn about possible ports for leg 4 – all I knew was that it would start from Western Australia to Singapore and then to Quindao. We learnt that two contracts were out for WA (so potentially two stopovers could be fitted in) as well as a possibility that Hong Kong could become an additional stopover – that excited all the people who were either doing the round the world trip or just my leg…I must say I started to really hope it would be possible – the idea of sailing into Hong Kong Harbour alongside the Star Ferry was one I really hoped could happen.
I even promised to take Simon (one of the police officers who was doing the round the world) to a bar I had visited previously where we would end up drinking warm snake’s blood or some other such exotic concoction.
Once again we did plenty of evolutions – On our Main sail hoist Abdul and I were determined to get the whole sail sweated, but despite our best intentions struggled to get the sail much above the third spreader. Our Le Mans start was slower than the day before – we got a few things wrong but we were also all in different positions, so were not playing to our strengths – we were in about 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Every evolution we moved around the boat one place, so one moment we may be controlling the main sheet, the next the stay sail sheer, and the next the topping lift. It was a very effective method of training, although it did lead to quite a few errors being made, as we were not always completely sure as to what we needed to do in each position.
We had another evening lecture (on EPIRBS and SARTS – safety equipment) which we managed to finish by 10.20pm, so we could rush off to the Clarence to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – and more importantly the anniversary of Raeann’s divorce.
The following day was my “Mother Watch” – I was paired with Ali and it meant that we had to prepare all the meals throughout the day for everyone. On the real race you get to have a shower and a full nights sleep if you are on mother watch, but during training these benefits are less important.
From a personal perspective I found it quite isolating being on mother watch, as I felt less part of the team – I invariably managed to get up on deck in the middle of an evolution and found that I was unable to find a task that needed doing.
We had Lizzie on board, the assistant race director – and she was extremely helpful in passing on practical advice for all of us…as had been the case with Joff, she was constantly bombarded with questions regarding kit, leg conditions or things we should look to do.
I had a quick experience of what sea sickness might be like – so far, touch wood I have been extremely lucky and have not suffered from the curse.
However when I went down to make lunch (cheese and ham sandwiches) the wind was blowing (a force 5) and we were sailing into the wind close hauled, which meant we were leant right over. For some reason I suddenly became extremely hot, and felt as though I could be sick at any time – it passed after about five minutes and having something to do really helped me take my mind off it – however I was relieved to be able to take the sandwiches up on deck for everyone and to get some fresh air.
We also got to “unleash the kite” for the first time – I had heard lots about flying a spinnaker but had no real idea what it would be like. We hoisted the pole (which involved a lot of manoeuvring with something referred to as “the donkey dick) and then let it fly. The spinnaker is the largest sail on board and certainly looked extremely impressive – and the speed went up to 9 knots from 7.2 knots so we could really see the effect that this “evolution” had had on our speed.”
We got back into harbour slightly earlier than before, as a number of the potential race skippers were being required to give lectures on a variety of subjects as part of their assessment and we were offered the chance to attend.
By the time our meal had finished (probably the best Sausage casserole and mash potatoes we had all week, even if I say so myself!) we were running slightly late and we missed the first lecture which was on “high line rescue”. We came in just as the lecturer was describing what they would do with the “dope on a rope” and the for questions – I was tempted to ask him one “could you repeat what you have just said” but I figured that would be considered poor form. The next lecture was on EPIRBs and SARTS and I felt (after the previous evenings lecture from our Skipper) that I knew more than the lecturer did.
The third lecture was on the Azores High – at the end of this I knew there was something called the Azores High (which is an area of high pressure) but I thought the lecture was aimed at people who already knew what it was all about. I certainly did not know whether it was a good of bad thing at the end of the lecture.
The fourth lecture was on race tactics and a potential skipper from Northern Ireland started his lecture to some uncalled for abuse. First he was asked if he could speak in English and was then asked to stand up (he was quite small in stature) – I think this got everyone in the audience on side with him and it was by far the best and most interesting lecture of the three we heard.
That said I am not convinced everything he said was strictly “cricket” as he outlined one or two sharp practices, and how to not get caught putting them into practice.