We are now on day 13 and have just passed the half way mark of our 4097 mile South Indian Ocean race from Cape Town to Albany, Western Australia.
Yesterday we were expecting a big weather front to hit us so we prepared the yacht for the storm that was forecast. This entailed making sure everything was tied down, 'baton down the hatches', and our sails for heavy weather were easy to access. Preparation and safety being imperative to ocean racing.
The storm never appeared until the night - the Barometer dropped by 4 points in one hour - alarm bells - a huge low was imminent causing anxiety amongst the crew.
As I write this note we are being hit by Mother Nature at its most impressive - constant force 10 winds with gusts between 70 to 120 miles per hour loudly whistling through the yachts rigging. The sea state is tremendously confused with waves over 10 metres in height topped by white horses being aggressively sprayed across one another.
Our 70-foot race yacht Old Pulteney seems very small and vulnerable in this harsh environment. Earlier in our night watch we changed our sail plan for heavy weather decreasing the amount of canvass to a fully reefed main sail together with a storm jib (head sail) which are forcing us eastwards surfing down the waves at around 10-15 knots. Waves are crushing over the deck.
Keeping dry and warm is impossible - we are fully kitted up with heavyweight foulies, (waterproofs) and numerous base and mid layers - even with the latest clothing technology we get wet and cold - water gets everywhere out here with no place to dry off. Already today we have had three lifejackets inflate on crew being swept and crushed by huge waves indicating how wet we are getting - they are designed to inflate in overboard situations. In these conditions we use harnesses, (lifelines) attaching us to the deck to stop us going overboard.
Being below deck is no quieter place - I am writing this in the saloon in view of the two 'mothers', crew working in the galley, who are busy cooking our dinner juggling with pots on the swaying stove, a massive challenge being banged around on a constantly changing angle.
It is difficult to imagine a more inhospitable environment but it is one we are fast adapting to.
Back on deck for me.
P.S Uncle Simon wishes Jemima a very Happy Birthday.
CHARLES SLATER ON BOARD OLD PULTENEY