Leg 4, Race 5 - 5th January

Last night we took the heavy weight spinnaker down and sailed night-watch with a poled-out yankee 2 sail and the main.  The seas are still quite rough and confused and this is by far the safer option – especially with everyone finding their feet and their helming heads again – and for some of the leggers it will be the first time they've helmed at night with the spinnaker. As night fell we could still see the lights of the other 7 Clipper yachts around us. It was a game of cat and mouse but we weren't sure who was chasing whom!  As it got light – and having had Team Finland pass us with their Spinnaker flying, we hoisted ours and felt like we were back in the game.  Anyone questioning Piers's decision not to fly the kite would have had been silenced as we passed Qingdao during the course of the morning – obviously struggling with a bad spinnaker wrap.  IT took them ages to sort; and via radio conversation with them as we left them melting into the horizon behind us, we heard they they'd had to cut a “sky-light” in their spinnaker and cut through both staysail halyards and a yankee halyard in order to get the sail down!  Ouch!

As the sea state settled we were all chomping at the bit to move back up the fleet, so we changed up to the Medium-weight spinnaker – a Hoooge Sail (!) and started to heat up the pace.  Helming now required far more concentration – we would get faster speeds but it was also possible for this sail to get out of control.  Flying it required one to have a healthy respect for it and the boat and each time the helm changed over there was a certain amount of nervousness around. I was no different but at the same time I'm keen to race and do well, so once settled into the helm after 5 minutes or so, am one of the few who are happy to heat up the sail and turn the pace on. - Adrenaline city here he come!

As night fell, the pace was still on and the lack of stars and moon – all tucked up under a thick duvet of cloud – made flying a spinnaker pretty challenging.  We posted a spinny watch further up the deck to call any potential collapses and were down to doing short 20 minute stints on the helm, as that was just about as much as your brain and arms could take.  We had a few incidents where the boat people had heated up the pace too much and had to fight really hard to get control of the helm back. It shook a couple of people up – which then made them more conservative on their next stint – which made people like me feel the need for speed even more!!!