Leg 4 Race 6 Day 16 17th February

I have a new best friend as of last night. He's called Henri (Henri Lloyd) and he's my brand new, worn for the first time, mid-layer Salopettes! That, along with my thickest base layer, fleece and mid-layer jacket meant that I was toasty warm all night on night-watch. Although in fairness I couldn't compare to the previous night as we did split watches last night. One thing I can crow about – and that's that I finished a watch without being soaked through to my pants for the first time in 5 days!  Now there's something to celebrate!!! So...it's now deemed too cold to sit on deck at night for the full 6 hours so the 6 of us on starboard watch split ourselves into 2 groups of 3. Each group spent an hour on deck followed by an hour below, to warm up and have a hot drink and rotated that system 3 times. The on-deck group did 20 minute helming sessions each. It's all you can manage before your fingers start to get painfully cold – and yes, by the third session on deck I'd rifled out my skiing mittens and was delighted that I could helm successfully in them. They are useless for anything else but it certainly took the pain out of the driving last night. I'd had to do a thorough check of my fingertips for frostbite earlier!

The temperature below deck is now pretty cold. It feels lovely and warm when you come down from being on deck but it doesn't take long for you to get chilly and although we always take our wet oilies off once we are below, on the whole the mid-layers and numerous fleecy tops stay on. The only time I'll wear less now, is when inside my sleeping bag – which I added the third layer to last night and is now officially the best place to be in the world.

Actually it is a godsend. It's now not only wet on deck but horribly wet below deck too. There is condensation literally dripping and running off every surface of the boat below deck. Anything that is not shut tightly in a wet bag is wet through. The bunks are wet through and nothing is going to get dry. I invested in an Ocean Sleepwear Sleeping bag on the recommendation of previous Clipper Race crew and have to say it's been one of the best purchases. I found the multiple layers great during previous legs but now the fact that it has a strong waterproof outer shell is a life-saver. A few of the other guys have just got normal sleeping bags – which are now completely sodden and making their lives a misery.

The other issue is what to do with the wet clothes that you take off that you need to put back on again. You can't put them back in a dry bag – they'll get everything else wet. There's no point trying to hang them up – they won't get dry and leaving them out anywhere will mean they'll just get wetter from the condensation! It's a quandary I don't really have the solution to yet – none of us do! It's just as well we now only have a few days before we'll be into Qingdao. We do need to use this as a lesson learner for our next leg up to San Francisco though. The first two weeks will be just as cold if not colder - and wetter - and then we'll have another 3 weeks to go when although the temperature will improve, it will never really get warm. The condensation issue will be with us all the way!

Our scheds have continued to be good. We've gone from 5th to 4th and now we're in 2nd behind Spirit of Australia. At the last sched the Aussie boat was 18 miles in front of us. They are a good target to aim for. It's watch-changeover today so I move from Starboard back to Port watch – which means I should be trying to get some sleep now 4pm – 8pm instead of writing this! I also take over as watch-leader for the next few days until we're into Qingdao. I've done the role a couple of times before and have a mixture of enjoyment and torture at the same time. You do learn a lot, as it forces you to think about absolutely everything – running the evolutions, course, shipping awareness, race and route tactics – however as a relative ‘newbie’ to sailing I'm painfully aware of how much I don't know and certainly don't want to be responsible for us losing race positions through a bad decision or because I've not spotted something. So the next few days are hanging over me a little like a dark cloud. I'm sure I'll enjoy them really – but it may only be in retrospect! One thing is for sure - I'll give it my all and do my best for our 'Umba, Piers, the crew and the huge number of people who we know are following and supporting us back home.