Race 1 - Day 26
Crew Diary - London, UK to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We crossed the Equator yesterday; another milestone in our transatlantic journey, and a personal first. The very words 'Equator crossing' conjure up images of adventure and romance, somewhat as the idea of doing a Clipper Race leg did when I first heard of it, and although we still have over 1,000 nautical miles and several days of sailing before we reach Rio, it seems an appropriate moment to stop and take stock.
Everyone embarks on this sort of voyage with a different set of hopes and expectations, and varied motivations. I wanted to compete in a race across the Atlantic, to improve my sailing skills, to see how I would cope in the confines of a boat with 22 strangers, and to experience being 'away' from my normal routine for a while with no access to email, telephone or Facebook. I was expecting it to be challenging, but wasn't really sure quite how.
Looking back over the past weeks, I think dealing with being towards the back of the fleet has been one of the most demanding aspects for the crew. Fickle GRIB weather files which have affected our routing decisions, turning back because of the problem with the water maker, wind holes and a northerly Doldrums all had an effect on our ranking. For me this was disappointing, but part and parcel in a way - sailing is unpredictable. For many however, being placed in the top half was their main if not only aim, and some took it hard.
A little light relief through this period was essential, and one of the unexpected positives. The individuals on my watch have each revealed their quirky and idiosyncratic senses of humour. To name just a few amongst many - I will ever be grateful for Vin's acute sense of the ridiculous which had me in stitches over stitches and her perfectly timed subtle sarcasms, Gordon's endless generosity of spirit and buoyant encouragement, and Brian's constant cultural references and wealth of party games. These things will stay with me far beyond the trip itself, and hopefully the resulting friendships will too.
The physical side has been less demanding than anticipated, and I haven't missed being connected to what is going on in the world as much as I had thought I would. There are some stupid things I thought I would be happy to leave behind, but am surprised to miss manicures, for example. The glory of helming at night guided by stars and accompanied by unidentified birds is truly memorable, but I got used to the sea as a constant background feature surprisingly quickly. Some aspects of the journey have been wonderful, some have been tough, but it would have been impossible to guess beforehand which was which.
This adventure has not been life-changing, I am not a better or wiser person because of it. Maybe the round-the-world crew members, after a year, will notice a more profound affect. As a legger, it is just an interlude, time out from the day-to-day. But it does confirm that if you want adventure, all you need to do is set out. What seems exotic and beyond reach one moment, is simply daily life the next, and you can't predict in advance what will have an impact and how.
Now we are well underway, racing the Ocean Sprint, and very appreciative of the constant and consistent winds taking us south. The mood on board is high. Rio is in our thoughts, no longer just a Shangri-La of good food and drink, and mythical freshwater showers, but a concrete reality which requires hotel bookings and postal addresses and onward travel arrangements - and most importantly holds the prospect of happy reunions with friends and loved ones.
PS. Anna would like to wish her father happy birthday, and Alex says hi to Monica.