Today was the day I was to face my Nemesis! I was going on an adventure to see if I could make friends with another Hollywood blockbuster star – Jaws! I was also hoping that like his fellow thespians last night, he might be conscious that the camera puts 10 pounds on you and therefore also on a strict diet!

The mini-bus that was to take myself and other prospective 'bait' down to Gaansbai was due to arrive at 7.30am – which of course meant 7.50am in South African time. We had a long 2 hour drive out across Cape Town, through the Somerset West area, down through Hermanus to the far side of False Bay where the sharks were known to frequent as they passed through.

The day was another scorcher and as I slowly roasted in our baking tin on wheels, I observed with shock the mile upon mile of shanty-town shacks that lined the main route out of Cape Town. These were dwellings no bigger than your average garden shed constructed with any combination of bits of wood, corrugated iron, cardboard boxes and flattened tins. It was horrific to see row upon row of these 'things' that most people back home probably wouldn't even want to leave their pushbike in overnight. Yet here it was accepted. Here it was so accepted as a housing solution, that electricity installations rose out of the centre of these areas, distributing light and power. There were even street lamps dotted along the “estates” and I was shocked at the thought that there may even be street names and addresses to what I couldn't believe could be classed as permanent accommodation. It was a level of poverty I hadn't witnessed first hand for many years and my comprehension of it was rocked even further when I realised that sporadically dotted around were TV satellite dishes! This was a life I was not going to be able to gain an understanding of while I zipped through in a mini-bus on my way to a day of Shark Diving. I suddenly felt a pang of great guilt at spending so much money on something so comparatively meaningless. I distracted myself by striking up a conversation with Caroline from Dublin – who as it turns out had just been working on a housing scheme for a week. She had helped build a proper house - a '4 walled brick construction with a proper roof' for a woman who had been waiting for a house for twenty years! The woman had been overjoyed - as you might expect and extremely grateful. But apparently others, once they receive their houses, choose to rent them out and get the income from them, staying put in the dwelling that has become part of their life.

As we drove further south we passed through more magnificent mountains and then through the cheery town of Hermanus. The town centre was bustling and inviting and I would have loved to have stopped and explored part of 'normal' South African life – or at least the part that looked more normal (and acceptable) to me. As we drove out through the suburbs I thought of Lou – who is an architect. It would surely be an architects dream here. There didn't appear to be any town planning restrictions at all as a complete pick and mix stall of modern bungalows, traditional cottages, smart town houses, and ultra-cubist concrete-block monstrosities, nestled side by side along the main road – a random selection of which had thatched roofs - modern and traditional alike! The overall impact though was that Humanoswas a town of great character and possibility and I couldn't help feeling it would be a very pleasant place to live.

We finally arrived at our destination, were given a large and very welcome breakfast (I was trusting that the food hadn't been injected with Shark attraction pheromones!) and after a short briefing where we were assured that the company were keen on shark conservation, never fed the sharks and certainly never antagonised them either to create dramatic effect for customers we donned our life-jackets, grabbed some waterproof coats as it “might be a bit wet and windy out there” and set off to join the boat.
The trip out across the bay was to be a short 15 minute ride as this was the only place in the world that you could witness sharks so close in to the land. I, along with 5 other clambered straight onto the top viewing level of this two storey boat, making the most of not having to climb a mast in order to get more of a birds-eye view!
As the boat sped off a great speed straight into the buffeting south easterly winds I mused at how the briefing which had warned of the wind and of the resulting spray had failed to warn that the ride out would be a 'boneshaker' and that any loose fillings – or teeth – would almost certainly break free. Not forgetting – of course - that if you were on the top deck nothing other than a vice-like grip of the quite low railing would keep you united with the boat and out of the shark infested waters! The violent slamming of the boat almost made me feel quite at home but I smugly noted the pale green complexion of one chap who had left his family on the lower level to brave the upper himself. And the wild-eyed look of terror as the girl next to me tried to shout to her macho boyfriend, who was trying to conceal his own wide-eyed look of terror while he clutched at his waterproof and the railing with equal desperation! I tried to reassure them that the return trip – with the wind behind us – would be much smoother!

Soon we arrived at our viewing point. The fish oil bait was thrown out to try and attract the sharks in, the 5 man viewing-cage was lowered into the water alongside the boat and we all we called in groups of 5 to get into the supplied wet suits ready for when sharky-shark made an appearance!
Having attracted them to the rough area with the fish oil – appealing to the shark's strongest sense – smell, there were then two methods of trying to get the sharks to come close to the boat and the cage to allow for close-up viewing. One was a large fish-head on a line and the other was a board decoy – apparently shaped like a baby-seal (shark version of chocolate!) which would encourage them to come up from the depths to the surface. During the briefing they had made it clear that there were no guarantees that we would see any so I was somewhat dubious about our chances but after only about 15 minutes of amusing myself by taking pictures of the gulls that came to hover directly over our heads, (and yes they did poop all over the guy standing next to me) the lucky bird-shit worked and our first Great White Shark appeared!

For the next 3 hours or so we seemed to see shark after shark. The decoy worked and many of them appeared out of the water after the fake baby seal. Others were drawn close to the cage by the promise of the fish head only to realise once close that there was no food to be had there. I was in the second group of 5 to enter the cage which was just long of us to house us all safely (we hoped) in row – I noted wearily that we looked a bit like a tin of sardines! We were given masks and once in the cage our heads hovered just above the water. We then had to wait for the 'spotters' above to se any approaching sharks and try to encourage them in close for us. The call was 'Down Divers down' followed by either left, right or straight ahead, at which point we took a deep breath and sent ourselves down to the bottom of the cage to witness the shark below the water. Weirdly I never felt frightened or unsafe despite the fact that the bars of the cage were quite far apart and one would have thought if the shark wanted to at least a tooth or two could have made it's way in! However seeing an enormous Great white swimming straight towards you showing his pearly whites was just simply magnificent. They were simply majestic, handsome creatures below the water. Awe-inspiring yes, but terrifying certainly not. I couldn't help feeling that they'd suffered from some bad press and ought to seek a better agent! I guess that's what the main part of this trip was all about. It certainly worked for me!

All too soon the trip was over and it was back to the white-house (via a much smoother return ride), a cup of tea and a viewing of the video shot by the on-board cameraman of the day – which despite my initial resolve not to, I ended up buying to make-up for the pretty poor set of pictures I'd captured myself.
En route on our return we made a slight detour to a viewing point over a bay where we could see a mother and baby Wright Whale, basking in the shallow waters. I borrowed the drivers binoculars to get a better look ad was staggered by the huge size of these creatures. The mother must have been over 20 metres long! They were covered in barnacles and by no means the most attractive whales but striking in their own right and I hoped that we would have the chance of seeing many more as we rounded the Cape on our way to Oz on the next leg of the race.

A near perfect day was rounded off by the Race 3 prize-giving back at the marina. Arthur got a special prize from the club for having survived his dip in the South Atlantic and the Californian team also got a special mention for having arrived (last again) but having managed to sail the last 1,000 miles under their emergency tiller – because their wheel had fallen off!Once again we were just short of the podium but after the adventures of the race we were happy with fourth place – which now put us in third in the overall race standings. We knew we were a stronger team already and that we had every chance of improving our position again on the next leg.