Leg 4, Race 5 - 9th January

Having gone to bed at about 10pm last night for my full night's sleep treat after mother-watch, I then found I couldn't. Sleep that is. So after an hour and a half of trying every lying position imaginable and some you probably can't imagine I stuck my head on deck to see what was going on, got involved in an evolution and stayed up til 2am for the rest of the watch.
Was woken at 7am by Big Mike to tell me they were about to do a Spinnaker peel and did I want to film it! Quite frankly 'No' was my answer on the inside but I duly struggled out of my bunk and shuffled to the heads, blinking like a wombat – as anyone who knows me will know I do when I've woken up and haven't had my full half hour to “come round”.
By the time I got on deck the peel was mid-action and on turning on the video cam I discovered a flat battery – so a complete waste of 20 minutes when I could have been in bed! The up-side was I was on the early end of the queue for tea and breakfast – so all was not lost!

Having slipped down a few race positions already today we took positive action as a team and started actively trimming the spinnakers.  This is a complex process involving trimmer (who calls the trim and eases the sheet), grinder (who mans the coffee grinder and grinds in all the slack on the sheet that the trimmer has just eased – and may also call the breeze – ie looks out to sea in the direction the wind is coming from to spot the next gust) and helmsman who is control of course and needs to keep feeding info about course, point of sail, boat speed, wind speed and what they are either about to do or need to do next! It involves all 3 roles working together in perfect harmony, understanding exactly what each are doing and reacting to any calls for an ease, grind, head up or bear away instantaneously. If that happens the gains on overall boat speed and VMG (velocity made good – ie going at good speed and in the right direction!), can be great – but get it wrong and you can not only lose ground but end up with 3 crew members who are no longer talking to each other!!!  Having decided to work the sail like this you also have to do it continuously – all day and all night – otherwise there's no point. Piers was a tad dubious about our commitment to the cause at this stage but he agreed to try us out at it and we were determined not to let him down.  Our secret weapon in the team is Jo, who joined us on this leg and is staying with H&H til the end. She races a yacht back home and her role is “down-wind trimmer” so we had an expert on hand to coach us all through the process. By the end of the day, one watch was making fairly good progress and the other watch featured a lot of scowling faces, knitted brows, thunderous looks and more than a few words of abuse mattered under breath and several out loud! However we were determined to keep going with this and felt certain we'd see the fruits of our labour.