Leg 4 Race 6, Day 14 15th February

I slept well last night – for a good 2 hours and was dreaming about sailing. I'd been sailing along nicely when suddenly the wind picked up and stormy weather started bouncing the boat around. It seems this was an omen, as just before we were due to go on watch, things started getting lively! We were straight up on deck putting in the first reef and then taking down the yankee 2 and hanking on the yankee 3. Back on the bow, the waves were crashing over us once more. Even though we were secured on with our safety lines the big waves regularly lifted us clean off our feet depositing us with a thud a few feet further down the deck! My watery rides were always accompanied by a shriek followed by a peel of laughter. Ridiculous situations require ridiculous behaviour and you don't get more ridiculous than this! I reminded myself that I'd paid huge amounts of my hard-earned cash to experience this. It made me laugh even harder – although that was possibly verging on hysteria! The temperature is definitely dropping. Admittedly I only had shorts on underneath my oilie trousers but a thermal t-shirt, thin long-sleeved thermal top, thin jacket and oilie jacket were only just enough to get me through the 6 hours on deck When you're busy it's fine but as soon as you sit huddled in the cockpit for any length of time the wet starts to seep in and with it the cold. I'll have to seriously review my outfit for night-watch tonight! Once again we were faced by a pitch black sky – I was half relieved that I couldn't see the 8 metre high waves as they loomed in front and to the side of us and half disappointed that I couldn't witness the enormous energy that the sea was producing and that we were harnessing and riding – albeit still with regular "slamming"! It was impossible to avoid falling off the back of some and even more impossible to tell that you were about to plough straight through the top of an enormous wave until, when on the helm, you saw a wall of water come rushing towards you down the deck past the mast. Then the dilemma – do you call the 'wave' and warn your crew mates that they are about to be engulfed but at the same time risk getting a mouth full of water – or do you keep your mouth shut (after all they are already drenched anyway) and your eyes(!) and wincing afterwards say a sheepish "sorry"?!

The scenario sounds pretty scary – and if you'd told me 2 years ago I'd be sailing through this I may have been a tad apprehensive. However there isn't much that we have done or experienced thus far that I haven't just got on and dealt with – although the Man-overboard in leg 2 and the crash with Cork at the start of leg 3 were both quite testing! We did have an issue with our mainsail last night, which made me think for a split second "I can't do this". Our main was fully reefed and all the sail area that is no longer flying is normally gathered up on the boom by the reefing lines that have been pulled tight. Last night our main slipped out of these so we had a lot of reefed sail flogging mercilessly around in the 44 knots of apparent wind that was tossing us

around like a pancake on Shrove Tuesday. Having watched it for a while knowing that it wouldn't be doing the sail any good at all but at the same time, with the boom hanging out over the edge of the boat, not believing it was possible to do anything, we then decided we should try! This consisted of lashing a spare line around the boom and the end of the flogging sail then passing it forward and through a loop half way along our boom to gather the whole sail area up and together. I found myself being handed the end of the line which needed to go through the loop on the boom. However in order to do this I needed to stand on tiptoe towards the edge of the deck on the low side and stretch to the ends of my reach with not much to hang onto other than a flogging line and a wildly bouncing boom! I made 3 attempts just to try and locate the loop – which was still a metre away from me out along the boom. It was then that I thought "nope, not gonna happen". Yes I had my safety line on but it wasn't going to keep me on my feet or my mind from wondering "what if" followed by all sorts of dramatic scenarios?! However the second I thought "no" was the second I got up grabbed the line, clung on to whatever I could find on the boom and made a reach for the loop – at the same time shouting "will someone hang on to me for God's sake"!!! The line was rigged, the sail made safe and mission accomplished. My heart was still pounding a good 15 minutes afterwards. To some of the other guys on the boat that would have been nothing. And others just wouldn't have done it, full stop. It was the first time on this trip that I really felt like I may have reached my limit but then I went on and pushed past it all the same. I signed up for this race and was told it would test my limits. Last night it did that. I suspect it won't be the last time on this 'Challenge of Lifetime' malarky!

Meanwhile my personal little test is very obviously insignificant compared to the night the crew of Team Finland must have had. We heard this morning that at some point in the early hours their mast snapped. In this much wind all the boats would have been under a lot of stress – but then again they are designed to withstand all kinds of beatings from the elements. I don't know the details of what happened but I know it would have been pretty scary initially for the crew and then very tough work to get the boat stable and sorted once they realised what had happened. This will be a night they all will remember for a long time too.

Two boats were dis-masted in the last race so the Clipper Race team will be well on the case with sorting a repair or replacement. We will wait to see if this will mean a delayed start to the next race or not.