The sound of the spinnaker fabric clapping against itself breaks the zoned out crew from a chilled out break for happy hour. Attention needs to be paid at all times we simply cannot afford to loose the speed.
The sky is dotted with fluffy white clouds, behind which the bluest of blue backgrounds. Above the bow, tonight's entertainment looms, the sights of big black ugly squalls ready to either steal or enrich our sails with wind. The Doldrums is the most bizarre place I have ever sailed during my limited career.
In the space of minutes, you can go from 3 knots of breeze to 20. The rain and the wind can be either hot or cold with you never knowing which you will get until it is on you. One minute you can be in full waterproofs and mid-layers, thirty minutes later, shorts and a t-shirt. The day is calm and peaceful and the night is to be feared like a back street in the roughest neighborhood with squalls that can hide from the radar then jump on you when you least expect it. It is the most frustrating, but also the most rewarding place when you get it right.
After the skipper announced our first place position, the mood on board is high. We have been here before though and we all know how easy it is to fall into a wind hole and end up at the back of the pack like in Race 1. It's harder to keep an A than get an A, to quote the 80's film. At present we have a breeze; however my last three watches have all been chasing 1.5 knots over accepting 1.3. This is the difference between casual racing and racing for the podium. With around 170 miles before we exit the Doldrum area, we know it's all to play for with 2nd place only a few miles behind.
As a team we are building stronger and stronger with each day. The Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing rituals happen, but it's only to be expected on the confines of the 70-foot GREAT Britain yacht. We adapt, talk over issues and accept the pressure with the end result being a team that works hard and has all the fun and banter you would want.
"Nick Names" are staring to form, with one of the best being Geoff Bunney now being called Hitch Rider. Geoff, from deepest darkest Yorkshire has the driest of senses of humour. He is a real grafter and strong as an ox. After causing a few riding turns on a winch, he got the first part of his name, then after pulling off a "proper" rolling hitch on the Yankee sheet so we could move winches, his "slick rick" 80's name emerged. Currently he is sat with blue feet after the rain this morning, which make it even more amusing.
Along with Hitch, we have Boom Dip Steve, for his ability to skim the surface of the water with the boom when pasting along at 20 plus knots. The resident camera man on board, Dan, is now "Dan the Cat" for his run of sleeping through watches when he first joined the boat. Now when he is asked to do something, or we are just in the mood for laughs, the sound of cat cries ring out above the wind which always results in a smile.
So there we have it; another day on board going along nicely. Working hard, keeping the spirits high, maintaining pace. Wish us luck, there is still 2100 miles to go.
Ben Pate, RTW, GREAT Britain