Leg 5, Race 7 – Day 21, 21st March

It's a grey, rainy day today - still wild although promising to ease but is still gusting up to the late 30s and low 40knots. Last night our highest gust was 63 knots of true wind – that's pretty wild! The programme of heavy weather helmers continues and the saloon looks a bit like a doctor's waiting room as the helms with their wing-men, wait expectantly, oilies half on, for their next session to commence. I dose in and out of sleep perched in amongst them – reluctant to go to my bunk knowing that lying down in any position will not be comfortable. We then get the news that California's EPIRB has been set off. We have no other news and the fact that their EPIRB has been activated without any other comms from the boat is a good indication they are really in trouble. We spend several hours not really knowing what to think but starting to imagine the worst. We eventually hear that the US Coastguard, having despatched a spotter plane, had located the boat and dropped a watertight canister into the sea, containing a hand-held VHF radio. The only further information we got was that the boat had suffered damage and that there were injuries on board. We had already been told to divert and head straight for their position to offer what assistance we could. We were several days away but without knowing the extent of damage to boat or crew we had no idea what we might find on arrival. Both Jamaica and Singapore were closer and would be there before us, so we knew we'd get news before arriving on  the scene. This was a black day indeed and the mood on the boat was sombre as we thought of our fellow Californian crew and tired to prepare ourselves for the fact that we could well be facing the race's first loss of life. In the absence of any further information we had to accept that that was a very real possibility.