Tuesday 27th

Leg 2 – Race 3 start Day

The day arrived and so with it a covering of dull, grey cloud and only the faintest whisper of wind. My fellow round-the-worlders and I looked edgily at each other.  We'd already had one Race start with no wind – we really didn't want the anti-climax of another one. We didn't need to worry too much though.  By the time we'd been through our official send off with speeches from the great and the good from the local yacht club and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the yachts slipped their mooring lines at midday, one by one to the accompaniment of their boat songs, into a slowly building wind.

I'd been very reluctant to leave Rio.  It had taken me a couple of days to adjust to leaving the yacht  and moving round the city, exploring.  But now I really wished I'd had a few more days to really see all the sights and feel like I'd had a proper taste of Brazil. Our departure felt premature and I wasn't at all in the mood to start racing.

The horn blared out over the comms system to sound the minute warning to race start and soon the blood was pumping and the excitement built. The opposite watch were on for the start so I was behind the video camera to try and capture the action. The signal came for the start and we were going the opposite direction to most of the boats having mis-timed our run-in slightly.  We were quick to gybe though and were soon chasing the others down around the initial markers that set out our course out of the bay. It turned out to be very different to our La Rochelle departure.  There was plenty of action, a few narrow misses as yachts jostled for position around the buoys and the lead boats changing every few minutes as angles closed in and some of the boats hit a wind hole by some islands.  We moved from the back of the fleet into fifth, then first, then fourth which is where we stayed as the yachts gradually spread out, each skipper choosing a slightly different course and bearing towards our next destination, Cape Town.  I filmed some reaction with a few of the new crew – who all said they were looking forward to some great sailing – big seas and big waves. For all of them this would be their first big Ocean crossing. Now we were off, I shared their excitement and also their desire to do well – better than the last race. 

As we headed south, the winds picked up more, the boat heeled over and started slamming as it bounced off extra big waves and we were reminded once more of the motto 'one hand for the boat, one hand for yourself' (ie HOLD ON!).  We were now the on-watch and Piers had us moving sails around onto the high side to try and flatten the boat more and keep her more efficient.  His jaw was firmly set, his tactics clear and you could tell he also felt he had something to prove on this leg.

Despite our swift progress our first set of 'scheds' were emailed in and showed us to be in tenth (last) place.  We were immediately disappointed but Piers explained that this was because we were heading south and the other boats were heading more east. The placings were done on distance to the finish line overall and he was sure that our position was good and we would pick up better winds this way.

The wind certainly did continue to pick up, as did the angle of the boat and the magnitude of motion. Everything became ten times harder, standing, walking (staggering), going to the loo, getting dressed and undressed, eating drinking and particularly sleeping. As each wave got bigger so many of the crew got greener and then the inevitable vomiting relay began.  It only takes one person to start and that then sets off anyone else who is feeling slightly unstable. The next biggest task after sailing the boat became grabbing hold of people who had rushed up on deck without a life-jacket on, to be sick over the side, or trying not to step on (or get thrown on) to people who were lying flaked out on the floor below decks, arms wrapped around a bucket. One of these people was poor Ian, who only a few hours earlier had looked straight down the lens of the boat video camera and declared with passion “I love rough seas”. I didn't have the nerve to video him being sick!