You are reading it right, it really did take us 31 days to get down to Rio, mainly due to being stuck in the Doldrums for a week and then a painful 48 hours near Rio as the wind came and went. The race started in testing weather, reminding us all how hard it is to live at 45 degrees angle. Day 3 and 4 reminded us all of just how frightening it can get. First Janet (one of the leggers) was hit in the face by a rope. She is the bravest person I know, on deck less than 24 hours after the incident with two black eyes. Fortunately a full bill of health was announced in Rio. The second incident involved a crash gybe by one of our less experienced helms, leading to a number of breakages (fortunately all fixable).
Some interesting decision making lead to 18 hours heading in the wrong direction and with hindsight probably a contributing factor into our overall position for the race. Ocean racing is quite lonely as we only had one encounter with another from the fleet other than where we had a prearranged rendezvous.
As we all settled into the routine of racing onboard, there were a few highlights on the trip. – Swimming near the equator as we drifted in the Doldrums, obviously completing rudder checks and not just going in for a cool down!
– The big skies, you never tire of seeing a sunset or sunrise and the stars. The milky way is a amazing sight, reminding me of how vast it is out there and a horizontal half moon which caused a debate on whether it was caused by cloud cover or real (It is real!).
– Although the wildlife has been more sparse than I expected, the visitors we have seen have been greeted with great excitement by the crew from huge pods of dolphins playing under the bowsprit, flying fish taking leap onto deck (reminding me of The Life of Pi), to the glimpse of Orcas and a lone Swallow hitching a ride for a rest.
– the encounter with Switzerland to hand over some water as their water maker failed which resulted in receiving some lovely Clarins goodies (Thanks Alyson).
– Birthdays prompt the baking of chocolate cake which lifts everyones spirits but none more so than the skipper’s.
– The introduction of India names for each member of the crew by Carter. Mine is Eagle Flower!
Life on board is a lot different to training, holding the same tack (same direction) for a number of days. Watches (shifts) seem to blur the days, with only mealtimes to remind you that you might be on a different day. Getting into bunks at a 45 degree angle becomes an acrobatic art form and washing takes place every 9 days at the back of the boat – a real treat with fresh water for yourself, hair and clothes. Freeze dried food became a bone of contention as a number of us couldn’t physically force ourselves to eat the tasteless, smooth mix. The saving grace was the smell and promise of fresh cooked bread up until the last few days when we ran out of flour. Needless to say we all look a bit different than when we left and were looking forward to reaching Rio to get some tasty food and maybe the odd refreshing glass of the local cocktail.
We arrived tired in the early hours on day 31 to a lovely welcoming party in 9th position, with the knowledge that at least we weren’t the last in and had 3 days to turn the boat around.