Leg 4, Race 5 -13th January

At 2am I arrived on deck to find we'd also arrived at the straits – the previous watch had tacked several times – we could all tell as we'd gone from lying on our lee-cloths to having noses pressed against the side of the boat and then back to cuddling the lee-cloth again!.
We now had Singapore and Qingdao Clippers within spitting distance as we sailed up through the narrow part of the straits – while keeping a beady eye out for pirates! This area was renowned for pirate movement as we'd been briefed before we left Geraldton and Piers had briefed us all again on how we should act should we find ourselves approached by any 'suspicious' looking craft!
Once again the cloud started to gather, the rain came and the heavens opened and dumped their entire contents on us – I'd just taken the helm when the wind really picked up and I found I needed my whole body weight and every ounce of strength to keep control at the helm. The others – led by Mike as there was no time to change round, had to swiftly put a reef in the main. The visibility was such that you couldn't see one end of the boat from the other and the boom was banging up and down so violently in the wind that I felt sure it would break clean away from the mast. It never ceases to amaze me how sturdy these yachts are and once again Umba came through it all, looking like it was a Sunday sail through the park – shame you couldn't say the same about the crew!
By now everyone on my watch were raving about how exciting my watches were. I must admit it did seem that every time we started a watch that promised to be straight-forward and uneventful – we always ended up having some “excitement” (challenge) or other to deal with. As watchleader I was pretty exhausted, on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck and counting down the number of 'sleeps' until my W/L stint was over and I could pass the responsibility on!  On the other hand I was learning a huge amount – which I knew was good for me and would stand me in good stead in the long-run. However... I went to bed thinking it would be nice to have maybe just one simple watch – without windholes or squalls...and pirates! 

So much for that wish! Up for our midday watch start - which normally starts with lunch.  Oh No! Before we had time to even pick up our sporks we are hoisting the heavy-weight spinnaker! We then settled into to trying to trim it – which is pretty difficult when the waves are bouncing the boat around wildly. The conditions on deck   today are nice in that the breeze is helping us all to keep cool in this otherwise scorching heat. However the conditions below deck are pretty bad. It's hot, but because we how have stronger winds and choppier seas, there is quite a lot of water coming over the boat.  This means the hatches have to be closed – which means no air-flow through the cabins. It means anything below deck, mother-watch, engineering just sitting in the nav station or trying to sleep is very hot, sticky, unpleasant and almost unbearable. These are things that are hardest to cope with – much more so than battling with sailing through squalls on deck, then trimming the heavy but in increasingly bouncy seas – difficult, nice breeze on deck helped keep the scorching day a bit bearable- but horrible below decks especially as because of the waves and spray coming over we couldn't always have the hatches open. Held the heavy spinnaker until just before 6 when other watch did take-down – we packed it – wringing wet with sweat, had supper and helmed through decent winds – managing to get off watch just before some more rain and foul weather came in. - reef in main and yankee 3 on deck!  Final night watch as watch-leader later – have found it a bit stressful although good learning experience. Will be glad to hand over to someone else though!