Things that go bump in the night (Leg 2 – Rio to Cape Town)

For leg 2 I have continued writing up my diary as I recorded it at sea. Leg 2 was tougher than expected and I think the emotional rollercoaster comes through a bit in this.

Friday 9th October – The big green sea sickness monster

You will observe a gap since my last entry. This is because the start of the race has been a bit of a blur of sea sickness that I would rather forget.

Sir Robin set the mood in the crew briefing with tales of climbing the mast to avoid 80ft waves in “the most dangerous ocean on the planet”. Thanks Sir Robin, just the reassurance we needed.

Winds at the start have been higher than expected. Over 35kts. Just before the start we changed to the Yankee 2 headsail and snuck over the line in first place. A couple of boats were too early and had to restart. A combination of excitement, fear and nervous anticipation plus the upwind sailing and gulpfuls of sea water means that I have not been able to keep any food down for about 1.5 days. I was also on mother duty which I had to keep bowing out of because any physical exertion made me puke. I feel horribly guilty about abandoning Ali to this. Have said I will buy her dinner in Cape Town.

I am also still slightly shaken because a massive wave pushed me against a stanchion just before I went off watch. I say massive, it is nothing compared to what we will see and this scares the willies out of me. The wind has been noisy and people have been seasick so overall it has felt quite a lonely experience compared with Leg 1. Overall not having so much fun 😦

Race start

Saturday 10th October – Gratuitous bruise photos

What a difference 24 hrs can make. Feeling much better, although not quite 100%. Weather is also better. Code 3 spinnaker (Doris) is fixed. Other are also emerging from sea sickness and the mood is once again jovial.

Think I have avoided being in any camera shots so far except maybe one today where I was helping Dan bend a stanchion back into shape using various unorthodox methods.

Was reflecting on my bruising today and although in different locations it is similar to regular roller derby bruising. What do you think? The photo doesn’t really do it justice. Was about the size of my outstretched hand and did go some more spectacular colours before fading.


Today I am on cleaning the toilet duty. The glamorous life of the sea 🙂

Sunday 11th October – Real eggs for breakfast!

A rainy day in the South Atlantic. Wind has dropped but we are potentially in a good position for the scoring gate which is possibly 300nm further south than we thought due to a slight misread – oops!

Good food on board in the past 24 hrs, in particular the wheaten bread and then the filet mignon stir fry cooked by Ian and Mike plus this morning’s eggs (real eggs from chickens as opposed to the dubiously titled “powdered hen’s eggs” from leg 1) and bacon, lovely crispy bacon cooked by Sascha and Diarmuid.

Some amazing whales swam past the boat but I missed out because I was trimming the spinnaker. They really pick their moments! We are not sure what kind of whales they were because we are missing Jen and her font of whale based knowledge.

My hair is mad so I look a bit like a child found in the woods that was raised by wolves.

Missed Scary last night. It is damp and chilly and it would be nice to have a nice furry cat to cuddle with.

Monday 12th October – That’s more comfortable??!!

The South Atlantic is windy, cold and wet.

There I was in the cockpit, tidying ropes as we were bashing into waves. BANG. BANG. BANG. A breaking wave fills the cockpit so it becomes like a paddling pool of snakes. “That’s a lot more comfortable isn’t folks?” said Dan. “Yes!” we all agreed with genuine sincerity. We had just taken down the yankee 1 so, although we were still beating into the wind, we were doing so at a slightly less jaunty angle.

All our clothes are wet and we have bruises on bruises. Quite a few life-jackets have gone off as waves break over the boat.

We wait with decreasing optimism for the wind to change direction. Scheds show in 6th but hopefully 1st through the scoring gate.

Tuesday 13th October – 1st past the scoring gate, energy boosting snacks

We made it 1st past the scoring gate and the wind did come round so we have the spinnaker up once again. Had a long and tiring night watch. Shook out a reef, raised a yankee and lowered another one, packed that away, raised a spinnaker and lowered a staysail. Absolutely exhausted.

Have an issue with the gas regulator we were given in Brazil so it looked for a time like we would only be able to eat cold things and stuff from a kettle when the generator is on. But Dan has “fixed” it.

Opened Rebecca’s present today which cheered us up. We are in 7th place but sailing fast, staying south in better winds.

God I need some Camembert!
God I need some Camembert!
Wow I have so much more energy!
Wow I have so much more energy!

Wednesday 14th October – Let’s eat our cucumber sandwiches in the car today

Sometimes when it is a bit fruity I wonder about getting off in Cape Town and then, when it calms down a bit, I cannot imagine that. Sailing frightens me. I love the sea, somehow a sailing boat is able to make it a bit too scary. I guess if this bag of nerves can do it, anyone can! Keeping the wise words of Hayao Miyazaki in my head…


Flying in 20-30kts under spinnaker. The new trimming beanbag aka the “baboon’s bottom”, is doing well. Still has its beans.

Today is Michael’s birthday so Ruth has made another “M” cake. I will miss Michael when he leaves us in Cape Town, his observations are hilarious.

Weather is drizzly and cloudy – “I think we’ll eat our cucumber sandwiches in the car today” weather, as Michael aptly described it.

We time travelled again last night so now we are on UTC.

Changed the watermaker filter last night. Smelled like a tank all the fish had died in. Might have left it a little too long.

We are in 5th position, did 300 miles in 24 hrs and I believe we are the fastest boat right now.

Thursday 15th October – Things that go bump in the night

Last night was somewhat traumatic. For some reason we struggled  to fly the spinnaker and spent a LOT of time smacking the boom into the water. BANG. BANG. BANG. I was on the vang. In these conditions loosening the vang depowers the mainsail and you do this if the boom is in the water. Once its off that’s it. We would sometimes be on our side for over a minute, boom in the water, “Ellie is the vang off?” Rob would call from the helm, “No shit! It came off quite a while ago!” Anyway, Doris the spinnaker amazingly survived this ordeal but other components have not been so lucky. It transpired afterwards that the wind was probably slightly more than the 20kts our dodgy wind instruments had been indicating, likely closer to 40kt.

A stupid bird flew into the sail last night. Quite a few birds seem to cluster round us. Most are not so stupid.

Today I feel tired and sick and really wondering whether to do Leg 3. I will definitely get some more clothes for Leg 3 I think.

Friday 16th October – Tristan da Cunha

On mother watch today so was able to do some physical and mental recovery of sorts. Reading the other crew blogs helped since it reassured me that I am not the only one who has been feeling run down by this experience.

As I write this Ali and I are shortly going to prepare soup and bread for lunch. There are big waves breaking over the boat periodically drenching everyone. The Henry Lloyd foulies are pretty good when a massive wave dunks on you but appalling if you are sat of a damp deck. Where is the logic? Wish I had brought more than 12kg of kit. Another set of Immersion Research thermals and my Weezle at the very least.

We have headed south to get more favourable winds so it is pretty chilly. Nights are cold – my hands get horribly wet and cold. Wore some gloves last night, they were effective for about half an hour.

Brushed my hair today. Could knit a jumper from all that I shedded!

Right now I am ok but each time I am on deck I really am thinking about not doing Leg 3. Will be like this but worse and longer. This scares me.

We passed Tristan da Cunha yesterday. Must look it up on Wikipedia when we are in Cape Town. Kristie spoke to their radio operator who has been on the island since 1976 and has helped out with races past such as one where a boat demasted. :-/

Saturday 17th October

Feeling a lot better today after last night’s wobble. A full night’s rest  has done me the world of good (plus conditions have calmed down a bit). I was reflecting if my upset was because I can’t wait to see Paul in Cape Town so I am not living in the moment as much as I did in Leg 1. Perhaps in that respect Cape Town to Albany will be better.

My back is a little sore and all the crew are tired and snappy. We are currently under spinnaker heading across the ocean sprint. Unfortunately Qingdao have taken our 3pts for the scoring gate so everyone is pissed off about that. Not having LMAX and Qingdao directly racing us has not been so good and a source of frustration because it doesn’t feel like a fair race. But hey, what can you do? Only your own thing.

Sunday 18th October – I’m on “dick”

Some nice sailing today. Nice sunshine, still good speed, no rain. But it is still cold with the occasional splashing wave. At the moment we are fastest through the ocean sprint although I think only 4 boats have completed it and we still have the always speedy Qingdao and LMAX to go through. We are catching the 3 boats ahead and (meanly) hoping they get caught in the windhole where the weather file shows we should get better wind where we are positioned.

Enjoyed a super tasty stew last night. Like scouse but with lentils.

Poor Stefan has a bug and isn’t well. Stefan is our Swiss/Kiwi crew member on board who has us all now saying “dick” instead of “deck” e.g. “switch on the dick light”, “I just got washed down the dick”, etc. Wonder how long that will last.

Monday 19th October – Albagulls and ghosts

Getting closer to land (well 500-600nm or so) and the number of birds is increasing. Thought I saw an albatross but apparently not. It is an “albagull”. Still – it was huge and had a wingspan the size of my outstretched arms. Much bigger than the seagulls in Bristol that steal your chips.

Last night, whilst untangling the anti-wrap net, we started to share some ghost stories. Have a good nautical one now. Maybe I will post it once perfected.

Gone past Mission, GB and Garmin are ahead. Hoping boats behind will be stuck in light winds.

Tuesday 20th October – Soak it up and crack one off

For the benefit of new crew joining we have some unofficial language used on the boat to describe various ways of grinding and easing sheets and halyards.

“Let’s just let it soak a bit, then crack her off in a while if need be,” said Rob last night. “I don’t know what’s worse,” commented Mike G., “the fact you just said that or that we understood every word!” The main culprit for the new language (pinch, squeeze, crack it off, put manners on it, etc) is Rob. But don’t worry, it is quite an easy language to learn.

Winds were light overnight and we have come out of stealth mode in 1st place (excepting GB – we were slightly ahead of them but they have just gone into stealth mode). When we were told we were pleased but nervous. We seem better and more relaxed in pursuit mode and there are still over 300nm to Cape Town. Hopefully we’ll have luck on our side this time.

Although the weather is now lovely and warm I am looking forward to Cape Town. The boat stinks. There was a particularly upsetting moment last night involving Ian’s laundry bag. Plus some of my stuff is missing as is other people’s. It has probably grown legs and walked away.

Wednesday 21st October – Lola goes swimming

High intensity as we approach the finish. Garmin are a few miles ahead, GB (yet again) are close by and Mission aren’t far behind. If only Qingdao and LMAX weren’t potentially in the mix we’d be in a good line up for a podium place.

Last night we ripped poor Lola. We were pootling along in no wind although you could see from the clouds above that it was going to pick up. When it did, very suddenly, pick up we started zipping along at 12-13 kts. Then “BANG” a lightweight spinnaker sheet broke. Dan was trying to re-run it using the lazy sheet and it all went a bit wrong. Lola decided to rip and go for a swim instead. We got her back on board but obviously this is upsetting.

My back hurts, have horrible period pain and no Feminax left. Hope we make it to Cape Town without further drama. I accidentally whistled on board earlier so I hope this hasn’t cursed us.

A podium for DLD 😀

Update – As you will have seen we claimed our podium place. The final hours into Cape Town were stressful. The wind went from nothing to very strong (exactly how strong we don’t know given we lost our wind instruments some time ago). GB pipped us to the post once again. We had to get the sails down in very blustery winds whilst not hitting the breakwater or any buoys. All in all we were in manic mode when we got ashore and got  our beer and Stormhoek wine. Ate pot noodles at 2am for dinner because we had been sailing the boat towards the finish when we usually eat our tea.

We did it! 2nd place in the Stormhoek Race to the Cape of Storms (Leg 2).
We did it! 2nd place in the Stormhoek Race to the Cape of Storms (Leg 2).

A taste of leg 2


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