Race 2 - Day 20
Crew Diary - Race 2 Day 20
05 October

Elisa Reiterer
Elisa Reiterer
Team Unicef
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A few days ago, a momentous occasion took place. This ragtag band of Pollywogs, yet unseasoned by the high seas, crossed the equator. Shortly after, King Neptune’s very own representative awaited us on deck, accompanied by the goddess Aphrodite, born from the sea foam, and a future Viking warrior, the people of the northern seas. After confessing our sins and accepting our distasteful but rightful punishment, we were cleansed of our pasts and baptized as Shellbacks. The honorable trio vanished as quickly as they had appeared, leaving behind them a dripping but proud crew, freshly initiated into the ancient Order of the Deep.

There are many things ancient about the essence of sailing, and probably few as old as the night sky compass. The firmament spreads above us like a black satin tapestry, covered in thousands of glistening diamonds. To the experienced stargazer, they hold almost as many stories. Stories I was told and taught as a kid, and finally dug out again as soon as we left behind the last lights of land.

There are the familiar constellations of the northern hemisphere, Big and Small Dipper with Polaris, the North Star, always firmly at our backs. The love story of Cassiopeia and Cepheus right next to them, with Draco, the dragon, winding its way across the sky between the four. Heroes, seven brothers, and mythical beings, forever pinned to the skies, are slowly dropping down behind the horizon one by one as we make our way further south, Sagittarius and Scorpio straight ahead. While only just visible above the horizon at the height of European summer, they inch their way to the zenith with every gained latitude. The North Star will vanish soon, and its southern equivalent rise – but for now, the Southern Cross still waits behind the waves. Orion, the Hunter, remains, for now, the only constant on both hemispheres in these in-between seasons, the closest red giant to Earth, Betelgeuze, glittering at his right shoulder.

Every night watch, we follow the planets as they travel across the sky, with Saturn shining high above, his rings almost visible, and Venus burning unusually bright at dawn, straight to the east, foreboding the sunrise. We find constellation after constellation, the ancient names of their primary stars rolling off the tongue like gemstones: Altair, in the Eagle, arabic in origin, Vega, in the Lyre, named by the Greek, Sirius, the eye of the Dog. We observe showers of shooting stars, making silent wishes in the small hours of the night.

For me, it feels like coming home to all those late-night stories told over and over again high up on a mountain; for some of my crewmembers, it is a whole new world unfolding.

And thus, this ragtag crew of freshly baptised Shellbacks continues to make its way further South, spinnaker flying, further South than many of us have ever been. The sky turns unfamiliar, the breeze cool, and the swells rise again. Everything slowly grows colder, bigger, wilder, as we inch towards Punta del Este. Not long now.