We are now well into Leg 2 on our way to Cape Town, South Africa. A city I hear is beautiful and have always wanted to visit.
After such a long passage on Race 2, I must admit to some trepidation on leaving Uruguay; a country that was so welcoming to us in our stopover.
Our stop in Punta del Este saw our first crew handover, with six of the team stepping off the boat and five new crew members joining us. It has been great getting to know our Leg 1 crew and they will be sorely missed. At the same time our new crew members are a welcome addition – bringing fresh energy and ideas – as is our on board reporter, Tiger, who is helping capture the highs and lows of life on board Qingdao, as well as jumping in to lend a hand where needed.
The small adjustments and lessons learned from Leg 1 needed to be passed on to our new teammates, as well as being open to some of the ideas they brought on how to help improve our efficiency and comfort both above and below deck.
To add to the mix was a stand in Skipper – Deputy Race Director Dale Smyth. It has been great to have him onboard and leading the team, as well as sharing his own experiences from skippering a yacht in a previous race. We are hugely grateful to him for giving up time with his family to support us on this leg.
Change, like many other things in life, is inevitable, and the strength we built into the team on Leg 1 has stood us in good stead with a solid base on which to build and adapt. The return to the daily rhythm of life on board has been quick for those of us who were on Leg 1, with some adjustments needed for the move to a two-watch system. After some initial teething troubles, we have found a good balance that ensures all tasks are completed and the bread, yoghurt and (most importantly) cakes are back to normal production levels.
With regard to the race itself, we all had a slow start with light winds. Whilst this was frustrating, we have managed to maintain a good position in the fleet and follow our intended course well. I personally found the lack of milestones in the first part of the race difficult. The days just merge into each other, and it is difficult to measure progress. There is only so much introspection you can do as you look out on a grey sea and sky; and cloudy nights have obscured the stars and moon which normally provide such a beautiful backdrop.
The angle of the boat has paid its usual toll on energy levels, and in recent days I was feeling quite run down – with a number of crew coming down with sore throats and stuffy heads. A day of being on cooking duty was a welcome break and the return for ensuring the crew are fed and watered is a long overnight rest period, which has helped recharge the batteries.
We are now coming up to a series of markers in the remainder of our journey. The first is Gough Island (a volcanic island rising some 900m out of the sea) followed by the start and finish of the Ocean Sprint section, before the final run into Cape Town.
Spirits are high, and we are looking forward to a warm welcome into South Africa.