Leg 4 Race 6 - Day 13 14th February

1.30am came round far too quickly. Especially as sleep was being unfashionably late and still hadn't bothered to show until well after midnight! I started off grumpy and was even grumpier within 10 minutes as someone had taken my Oilie jacket from the wet locker and after rifling through the entire space for 15 minutes, I had to borrow a spare just to get myself on deck – late! Grrrrrrr! This was the first time since leaving the Southern Ocean in leg 3 that I had my full foulies and sailing boots on. It was by no means cold but the wind was getting a chilly edge to it and the water, even though it was still warm, was nonetheless very, very wet! After hitting our landmark "half-way round the world" (time-wise) at midnight last night, I am pleased to announce that I have finally learned that a few minutes spent tightly doing up all the Velcro neck, wrist and ankle straps on my foulies, is time well spent. It doesn't guarantee dryness, but it certainly helps delay the inevitable!

On deck we were all huddled in the cockpit. The night, which started off with a smattering of stars quickly drew it's quilt of cloud over and the only light visible came from distant ships and a vague glow from the far-off shores of Taiwan. Helming was challenging but great fun too. It takes all your concentration to try and keep steering to the same angle to the wind when the winds is constantly gusting up and down and the huge waves take you in a different direction altogether. We are all honing our skills and improving all the time and confidence is growing. The challenge last night was to try and feel the huge "slammer waves" before you fell off the backside of them, rattling the bones of everyone on board. If you catch them quick enough, by steering away from the wind you can slide down them, avoiding the horrendous noise and saving several nervous breakdowns!

As the night went on the waves became more rolling and the wind steadied – enough for us to 'shake out' a reef, then get the yankee 2 on deck and hanked on ready for a hoist. Bow work at night is always exciting. Bow work at night when the boat is climbing up and down big waves is exciting and wet! No matter how well your cuffs and ankles are done up the water is getting inside. The second you bend down to grab the sail, a wave is guaranteed to come over and hit you full on in the face and then will find it's way inside your hood and downwards. If you're sitting with your feet facing forward or standing right at the bow the second the boat dips into a wave, water is coming up the bottom of your trousers (even if you have gaiters on too) and will end up in your boots, making the half hour you spent water-proofing and protecting the outer of your boots completely pointless!

Strange as it may seem this is actually fun! The more drenched I get the funnier it seems and the more I have to laugh. I think there will be an awful lot of laughter over the next week! Being busy also helps the watch go faster too and before we knew it 7am arrived, the day’s mothers were in the galley with the kettle on and soon the next watch would be getting up on deck.

Over the last 12 hours we had slipped to 7th place but now we are slowly picking our way back up again. We were promised a lull in the wind today (no real sign of it so far) so were hoping we'd have a short breather before the onslaught of more wind and colder weather. Mike and I had moved from mother to Engineering watch today so had the bilges to empty of water, engine checks and cleaning to do. Piers received an updated weather report saying that the winds may pick up again in a few hours so we were advised to get most of our jobs done by lunchtime. We were expecting there to be a huge amount of water in the bilges with the amount of water flying over the deck in the last 24 hours, but we were pleasantly surprised. No more than 5 buckets were fished out. We either had a bilge pump fairy on board or all the maintenance jobs we had done in port, sealing and resealing around everything had actually paid off!

The afternoon turned out to be sunny and hot and the deck looked like it had spat out the contents of it's below deck stomach. We all had our foulies, boots and anything else that was sodden, spread out across the boat in a final attempt to dry our kit before the push to Qingdao. Today would be the lull before the storm. As the afternoon wore on we were 6th in the scheds but could see Team Finland on our bow, California off our starboard beam and later on, 12 miles directly ahead was Cape Breton. Having steamed ahead of us through the gate, the fleet were now bunching up again. The race is back on and we are right in the mix.