Surviving the night + finishing the race

It is Sunday morning + we have had 24 hours of wind ranging from 24 to 40
knots. That is a lot of wind – in fact more than we can handle – especially
when sailing close hauled. Shame we got all this wind only right at the end
of the race. So note to the wind gods – quantity great, distribution rubbish
– but thanks anyway. Oh and we’ve finished racing now so could you turn the
wind down so we can just have a gentle sail into New York? Ta.

Sailing has been nothing short of exciting – exhilarating sometimes,
terrifying others – and always physically exhausting. I just hope that my
core + abs muscles appreciate the work-out they have been just through –
there are parts of my body that have never had such a workout + have never
been so fit.

Saturday morning I came on watch to discover that somebody had scribbled a
massive squall across the horizon in 9B pencil – dark, heavy + thick.
Dawn was in monochrome. With gusting winds from all directions + driving icy
rain we were taking no chances + sailing with 3 reefs in + the yankie stowed
on the deck to reduce the sail area to a controllable minimum. Life verges on
the terrifying in these condition – there is no time to think and
communication is all but drowned out by the wind. In the midst of a squall –
even though you are sitting + suffering with the rest of the watch –
existence can seem extremely lonely + dire. And then it’s all over. Or at
least the squall bit is but there is no letting up on the excruciating angle
of heel – all day just fighting gravity to keep going with 3 hour chunks of
bunk occupation/sleep thrown in for a bit of R&R.

We kept that up all Saturday. There is no ‘why I am doing this?’ just
concentrating on clinging to the precarious hand/foot-holds + trying to
minimise the movements round the boat – although as a point of honour I
always offered to make a hot drink for the watch an hour into our night-time
ordeals (something that required quite some summoning of courage I have to
confess). Enjoyable? Well not exactly but I am proud of myself that I did my
bit + was there to be counted + the mountainous sea + boiling spume + spray
from the boat were nothing if not impressive.

Then it was Sunday morning + at 6am (or there abouts) we crossed the finish
line in hard-fought 6th place + Jelte who was helming smiled for the first
time in days + we all cheered. And then we carried on sailing on the same
course + in the same direction + at the same tilt because after all we still
need to get to New York. The only difference – our mood + the sunrise
reflected this + had a dash of colour.

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