From being helm-shy after training to now as we approach Cape Town, I am a different person. It’s definitely my favourite aspect of sailing so far, the constant wrestling with the wind and the swell. White knuckle terror and confusion initially, have been replaced with what seems more like heightened concentration and occasional ‘tricky’ bits (for this read terror again but mostly now without the panic). As I write 52 days at sea have given me around 150 hours at the helm, up to 50 at night. A quarter of the way round my race and I’m hoping to remove my ‘L’ plates before returning to Gunwharf Quays.
Everyone’s experience is different, but the most common analogy seems to be that it’s like driving a lorry down a steep slope without brakes. It’s probably the only way to describe those periods when the boat is swinging back and forth between port and starboard, the helm rising and dropping 4-5 meters with the swell while the bow does the opposite … and the sail is doing its own thing by the wind. It often feels as though I have no control at all. Exhilarating!
So far this leg I have helmed at 1 1/2 knots in wind holes as the breeze backs and veers all over the compass with little or no force (once at night in the fog as we passed through a pod of whales, we could hear their blowing and moaning all around us but not see a thing), then surfed at 17/18 knots boat speed keeping a spinnaker flying as we sped downwind, carried by waves lifting us from behind, and of course beaten and slammed upwind for days, once in gusts of up to 45 knots which caused my first round-up with the handrail and boom in the water for what seemed like an eternity. It’s been cold and damp, there’s been freezing fog and driving rain and a very occasionally hot afternoon in the sun allowing a little drying out time.
All in all, the whole helm spectrum has been here on Leg 2.
Love from DBUS x