Leg 6 Race 8 Day 6, Sun April 25th

Night watch 2300 – 0300. I got up hoping to get a great night sky having started to study my Night Sky book yesterday afternoon – I was fired up and ready to learn! But it was mainly cloudy and very bright, as a huge, not quite full moon was out. We're still flying the mid-weight spinnaker with winds ranging from 7 knots up to 14 knots. I mainly observed again – with a bit of sporadic grinding  – and tried to get my Night Sky book out and make sense of it.  The sky was too bright to see many stars but not quite bright enough to read my book by!!!! I aborted, pledging to study the book in daylight hours and hope for a brighter sky and more stars tonight.

Albert was soon shaking me awake at 6.30am – having been trying to wake me for a good 5 minutes! I woke up from a deep, deep sleep thinking that I was over an hour late for watch. Then having leapt out of bed in mega quick time I was up and ready on deck far too early!!! The sun was already warming the day and while the breeze still had a chilly edge, the boots shorts and several tops, that had been hastily donned were soon peeled off to shorts, T-shirt and bare feet. We were finally getting into warmer climes and it felt grand! The lightweight spinnaker was now up and flying – the previous watch leaving us a 'special gift' of the mid-weight spinnaker to pack! It's the biggest and the hardest to pack – there is literally a whole tennis court of material that has to be rolled up from outer edges in, into a tight sausage and tied up with wool so it can be hoisted safely and “popped” open only once all the lines are properly in place. The packing team – normally of 6 – 2 teams of 2 starting rolling in each bottom corner and the other 2 starting from the head (top) of the sail - are all trying to work towards each other in a space of about 9 feet by 6 feet making sure not to rip the fairly fragile material and most of all being certain there are no twists in it. Except today there was a twist in it, so the whole of one bottom corner had to be pulled apart, untwisted and re-rolled! It's not a difficult job but there is definitely an art to it and one that as a team this morning, we were far from mastering! Justin asked me if it would be ok to hoist -”Yes” was my unequivocal reply, but I couldn't help adding “but it won't be pretty”!!!

The rest of our long morning watch passed very pleasantly – I took to the coffee grinder now feeling more confident about my shoulder and also ken to build my strength back up. We were actively trimming the spinnakers all the time both from the helm – either coming up into the wind or by bearing away from it and also by trimming the sheets (the lines that tension it) tighter or by easing them. So I was part of a duo – Kevlar easing the sheet out to get the maximum speed from it and then once it was on the point of collapse he'd have me grind it back in again. The grinders role varied depending on who was trimming. Kev was a very active trimmer – constantly looking to improve the boat speed, while someone like Brett likes to take it right to where he believed it to be performing at it's best and leave it there. He worked very much on a “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” policy! If you were looking to burn off a few calories, Kev is the ideal trimming partner, whereas if you just want to stand, admire the view and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of whales and dolphins then Brett was ideal!!!

Highlight of the day has been Sue's cheese scones. A real treat which we had hot out of the oven as a mid-morning snack. We bought minimal cheese and butter and now the weather is hotting up it all has to be used up quickly before it either goes off or turns to liquid! We are not complaining one bit!

Our first of 2 night watches (7-11pm) provided me with another special gift – an almost clear sky! The over-eager moon did it's best to outshine many stars but there were enough of them for me to test out my new found knowledge, gleaned from the first chapter of my Night Sky book. I confess I was pretty surprised that I was able to identify and name all of the stars in Orion  and the Great Bear, also find Polaris, Sirius, Capella in Auriga, Castor and Pollux of Gemini. Aldabaran (although the rest of Taurus was not visible) and Althan. If I could learn all this from one chapter I would surely be giving Patrick Moore a run for his money by the end of the week!!!