The first six days of our sail to San Francisco have seen variable conditions...to put it lightly! Sometimes in life, you look back 5, 10 years and laugh at your younger self and your silly notions. Well I'm looking back five days and laughing at that enthusiastic sailor eager for 'more wind'. Now to be fair, we'd had to motor for a day to get to wind and out of fog just to start the race. Then the first couple of days had fairly light to reasonable wind.
We spent one night drifting around in fog with about 50 little sparrow like birds clogging up every line of rigging. They were so tame, one landed in a Kirsty's hand and one on Squirrel (Paul Hardy)'s head! That, paired with cracks of lightning and bone shaking rolls of thunder (observed from a watery deck with a giant metal stick on top) made for a surreal experience. But oh no, I wanted more.
And I got it. I came on deck to the windiest conditions I've ever seen...and we've not even reached the Pacific. It was blowing so hard we were barely able to keep the boom from dragging in the water with just the smallest of sails. To provide some context for the stark contrast in conditions, the day before, I'd been leisurely observing the bio luminescence in the water by hanging my head over the side of the deck in a quiet, windless moment. Tonight, the sea was so churned up in the 60 knot gusts that the bio luminescence was flying across the deck like a parade of our own tiny shooting stars. And this was 'leisurely' observed while tethered to the boat, clinging to a winch, with feet up against a grinder to keep from falling off the boat.
We then had a squall come through that literally blew up our wind instruments when it went over 90 knots. It was so windy, we were screaming at each other to be heard, and barely able to tell what the person standing next to us was saying in the pitch black. Grind in?! What?! Grind in?! Okay, I'm grinding in!
And then you do that until enough people start screaming at you to stop. Communication is an art in the best of circumstances, and when the wind is stealing the voice out of your mouth and blowing it out into the night... well you scream and hope for the best.
Then we had to get the head sail down to reduce sail; it was so wet on the foredeck, I was actually floating in water a few times. No, no, boat, that is YOUR job, not mine! My water proof boots don't work so well when water is pouring in through the top as I paddle around the deck trying to lash a sail down.
Tempers can flare and 'I'm trying to (fill in the blank)!' gets shouted a lot in frustration as you battle with wind, waves, darkness, and the awkwardness of being tethered to the boat while balancing on a 45+ degree angle. You work until you're desperately tired, then you must work some more. There's no one else to do it if you don't. You might lose a sail and tear it to tatters if you don't give it all you've got. And then the next task must be done. No time to catch your breath. I've never been so tired and so satisfied in all my life. And when the sun rose, and we made it through the night...two 4 hour shifts of insane up and down weather, we got the news that we'd pulled into the lead...a very welcome piece of good news on our way to bed. And all the screaming? Forgotten over a laugh and a well-earned cup of tea with your fellow warriors.