Leg 5, Race 7 – Day 8, 9th March

Our night watch last night was more of the same. We expected the winds to die off a bit and although they did occasionally dip down as far as the early 20's, gusts of 28, 29 knots kept coming every few minutes – just enough to keep us from shaking a reef out.

By our midday watch start the winds were up again and it wasn't long before we dropped the staysail and then later swapped out the Yankee 3 for the storm jib. The sea state had picked up again and seemed to change character every hour or so – partly due to us crossing various shallow areas of ocean and partly due to wind and current shifts. I took over the helm to be immediately faced in quick succession by two enormous walls of water (you can't call them waves they were too big!). Umba seemed to climb and climb and climb as we went up and up and up – just like a skier shooting up the side wall of a half-pipe – I almost expected her to do a little side kick before flipping completely over. Instead she just ploughed on, riding the water with style and exiting with a huge belly-flop and slam, while I kept an iron like grip on the helm, grimaced and hoped to god I came out the other side of the wave in one piece and still attached to the boat! Which of course I did, spluttering a little and soaked through from head to foot, but then ready to take on the next wave!

I thought I'd done ok in the circumstances but skipper Piers's face appeared at the cockpit entrance with a disapproving look that very obviously said 'get it right next time'!!!