Friday 11th October:
OK. So Gareth has rotated his watch leaders, and asked me to lead a watch on the race to Cape Town. I'm chuffed to be asked as a 'legger', but thinking to myself, blimey, the guys on Race 1 were awesome. More to the point, I only started sailing 'properly' with Clipper Race...so I'm a bit apprehensive too!
Saturday 12th October:
Race start, and it's a straight into leading sail evolutions after a week's R&R (ok, Beers and Caprinhas!!) in Rio. All a bit of a shock to the system as 12 boats jostle for position and beat out of Rio. I try to not resemble a cat in the headlights, and we just about get the job done. Yankee 1 to Yankee 2. First one reef then another. I start to notice the teamwork around me, and willing help from the experienced sailors on my watch, and I breathe a little more easily.
Early Sunday 13th October:
A couple of the new joiners for Leg 2 are struggling a bit with the heel/motion of the boat; time to make sure they are as comfortable as can be, and a grateful couple of smiles makes me hope for their sake that the seasickness will soon pass. It does. More to the point we manage to navigate the oil and gas installations and various fishing vessels over the night watches, I'm glad to crash into my bunk without crashing Qingdao!
Week of Monday 14th:
What a blur! Watches come and go; days and night pass. And my 'starboard' watch group becomes a team around me - everyone doing their bit, jumping into the murk of the lazarette one minute, then helming, then checking trim on the foredeck and getting soaked in the process. My tactic of hot drinks and chocolate biscuits as the core of my motivation seems to work! I know things are going well when a returning mother remarks with a chuckle that he could hear everyone's banter and laughter at 1-30am in the morning as people jumped back into their foulies...
Fast forward...Sunday 20th:
We are fighting hard in the race and with the winds changing we are now ready to hoist our spinnakers. Again I'm a little anxious but we come through well, clocking some decent mileage flying our kite whilst enjoying a great view of Tristan da Cunha island. We know we face a challenge to again finish in the top 3 given how fast some of the other boats are racing, but everyone's spirits here are high.
So here's to both the starboard - and port - watches on Qingdao - one great team under Gareth. We will battle on til Cape Town and beyond, and we won't stop smiling. And to whomever is watch leader on the next leg...don't worry, our guys & girls will do you proud!