Leg 4, Race 5 -15th January

So we're racing up to Singapore – or Batam Island to be correct – except none of us really know if we are racing or not. It really doesn't feel like it at all. We are all still in shock at Cork's exit from the race and we spend a lot of time speculating about what Clipper will do – whether they'll try and salvage the boat, repair it and even if it will be able to rejoin the race at a later stage. I can't begin to imagine how I would feel if I was a crew member on board Cork. Firstly the whole incident must have been pretty terrifying. It's also quite something to have to leave your boat and then to commit yourself to your life-rafts - even if you can already see the yachts you are transferring to!

Still – racing or not we still have around 350 miles to go to Batam – and while that doesn't sound too much, with it all being beating into the wind our progress will be slow. To try and keep the interest in speed going, a few bets on our arrival day are made between us and then finally JR gets a boat sweep stake going to name our exact arrival day, hour and minute. The only thing at stake being pride – but on the Hull & Humber Yacht that counts for a lot!
Last night we went through some almighty squalls – it's amazing how quickly they build out of almost nowhere and then, just when you think you should be coming out the other side of it, you check your radar and the storm seems to have doubled in size with you right in the middle of it. I was down in the galley making bread for the next day, so had been keeping my eye on the radar. The guys on deck had just shaken a reef out of the mainsail as the winds had eased a touch when I pointed out to Piers I thought we had some serious “weather” coming in. Once again he was optimistic that we'd outrun it but 10 minutes later I was on deck at the helm desperately trying to hold the boat on course while the others battled to go straight to the third reef in the main and then immediately go on to drop the yankee. I moved into the snakepit for the drop as the boat plunged in and out of waves. I couldn't hear what Piers was shouting from the helm and the guys on the bow couldn't hear instructions from mid-ships! While I kept my eyes glued on the descending sail I also made sure that I counted the same number of bodies surface from under a wave that had previously disappeared under it, as the bow of the boat plunged head first into the squall like a knight of old in a jousting tournament!  Wet was not the word! If we'd all dived in for a swim we couldn't have been any wetter! Piers cracked up as once the sail was down, I struggled back to the cockpit and announced I was “just nipping below decks to check on my bread!” All in a watches work for an Ocean racing sailor you know!
The squall eventually subsided and we were left with hard driving rain – Brett, who was then on the helm, asked someone to email his hotel in Batam and cancel his exfoliation treatment – which made us all giggle! It sounds horrendous conditions but we were all now used to the fact that both the boat and we, could handle it and also the temperature was still very mild so the water was still like luke-warm bath water. The only thing that made us shiver was the thought that we could have wettings like this around Qingdao. The temperature there could be minus five – or worse. Now that was something to be apprehensive about!