Race 6 Day 8 9th February

Today we have all started to focus a few days further ahead. We think we have a couple more days of good weather, the winds are due to go lighter before we could be set for a strong blow either just before or just after the scoring gate. The temperature over the last two nights has dropped slightly and we are all wearing light jackets at night now. Piers reminded us that while it's still relatively calm, now is a good time to sort through our kit, get our thermals and warm layers ready and make sure everything is organised for easy access but also done up tightly in waterproof bags so it all stays dry. So on this advice I spent an hour and half of my off-watch time rifling through my belongings trying to imagine being tossed around like a pancake in sub zero temperatures and contemplating whether it's best to have outside layers in one bag and thermals and thin tops in another or should all tops be in one and all bottoms in another? The other consideration is should I pack away everything I'm definitely NOT going to need over the next two weeks in another bag so that it can stay dry and will be less confusing. Having decided 'yes' to that, the next big dilemma is whether to keep out just enough clean knickers to get me to Qingdao or should I keep them all to hand. Albert (Alison) passed by just as I was mulling this over and pointed out that we may well be getting wet through twice a day when the weather is at its worst. Decision made. Every knicker available was duly looked out, filed into a large resealable sandwich bag ready to go into a dry bag. Technically they should go in with the 'bottoms bag' (I'd decided to go down that route) but my 'tops bag' is bigger and with a high knicker requirement, the tops bag it was.

Once all those life decisions had been made, the rest was easy. However I stumbled when I came across the one bar of Fruit and Nut I'd squirreled away for when conditions get really bad. It was surprisingly firm considering the heat and when on closer inspection I found that a couple of blocks had come loose, thought I'd better check to make sure it was ok and hadn't gone 'funny'. Having established it was indeed more than fine (delicious in fact) I then thought it would be neater if it was packed away with an entire row gone – less likely for anymore sticky-up bits to break-off... so I broke them off and ate them! The rest of the 'organise' went very well. It's a great feeling when you have a good sort out. I always feel like I've had a good therapy session when I have a clear out of rubbish at home. Organising my kit was just as satisfying. In fact I'd done such a good job I rewarded myself with another row of my emergency Fruit and Nut. I then had the thought that, as it was for emergencies, it ought to be easily accessible and so should live in the pocket at the head end of my bunk where I keep my head torch, alarm clock, watch, lipsalve etc. Big mistake. I now have half a bar of emergency chocolate left – which I really AM going to keep for emergencies... possibly.

We've been on the same tack now for several days, so when on watch we are just helming, trimming or working on good weight distribution (sitting on the high or low side!). It's all quite tense being in the lead and desperately trying to hold on to your position while all the other boats are just as desperately trying to chase you down. Cape Breton are never more than 8 miles away. Jamaica is also flying along now and very gradually closing the gap.  When there is little else to do I tend to spend a lot of time in the Nav station looking at the charts and the numbers, willing our lead to increase. We get the race schedules (scheds) in every six hours with the longitude and latitude positions of all the boats taken at six and twelve, am and pm, UTC. We then enter those into a spreadsheet which tells us who has the fastest average speed, how many miles in front or behind us the other boats are. If we have taken miles out of another boat the figure is highlighted green. If they have made ground on us there is no highlight. We can tell a good 'sched' instantly as there is a whole row of green shining back at us from the computer screen!

The wind forecasts are also added to the electronic charts so we can easily see our position and what the predicted wind strength and direction is around and ahead of us. If someone is closing on us the first thing I do is look to see what wind we have and what wind they have. If it appears to be the same then we need to pull our socks up and work harder!!!

It was while I was doing exactly this that I happened to notice a reminder of home on the chart. We may well be in the middle of the South China Sea but we were passing close to Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Reef and Lincoln Island.  I'm suddenly thinking of fish and chips and Lincolnshire Sausages and the tinned chicken curry on the menu tonight suddenly doesn't seem nearly as appealing!