Race 6 Day 5 7th February

Today was a busy, day for me. I was first up on the helm which delayed my breakfast (never a good start for me!) and then as engineer we also have to keep the yacht's log up to date (every 2 hours) do the engine and generator checks, empty water out of the bilges and clean the general cabin areas below deck. The last jobs are done at 4pm when everyone is up, so in theory, you don't disturb anyone who is trying to sleep. This morning I had to return to my role of “Super Sail Repair Girl”, (my alter ego who first made her appearance when we crossed the equator on leg 1!). We had spotted some small tears in our yankee 1 sail and now that we are flying the No.2 it was a good opportunity to fix the holes before they got any bigger. I'm still not quite sure how I landed my role as part of the sail repair team – I didn't do the sail repair course – I think it was because I was the only one willing (stupid/brave enough) to take on the sewing machine in a head to head battle before race start. It was a messy fight but after 3 weeks of tussling with it we came to an understanding and since then we work quite well together. I'm nice to it and in return it doesn't spit bobbins out at me or chew the sails! Sewing machines are really only good for Spinnaker repairs though – the thickness of the material means we'd never get the machine needle anywhere near the repair – and even if we did the material would probably be too thick.

So, this “quick job” today of “a couple of small tears” ended up being a whole series of knife-like slashes which was not a “quick job” at all! The process for the repair is to clean and dry the area with acetone, then trim up a piece of Dacron sail repair patch to the correct size – curving all the corners to dissuade it from curling and peeling off, then apply a patch to either side of the sail, over the damaged area and then hand-stitch to secure! A total of nine damaged areas equals about four and half hours work on deck and a mild case of sun stroke!  Other than that it was a fairly painless task – I only stabbed myself with the 3 inch needle four times – but if you're going to do a task like that, a sunny day on a yacht in the South China Sea is not a bad place to do it!

So having worked through most of my off-watch I put my feet up for half an hour before starting on the aforementioned engineering duties. Emptying the bilges of water is always interesting. There's no clever way of doing it – it's a bucket, a scoop and a sponge for when the scoop doesn't fit. Then with head torch in place, you are head and shoulders down into the bilge in order to reach the water right at the bottom. Being small has it's advantages and disadvantages; small means you can get your shoulders in through the opening quite easily but being short means my arms aren't quite long enough, so I pretty well end up doing a head stand in the bilge with my whole upper body in it. This is not good a) when the boat slams against a wave as you bang your head (as I discovered several times today)  b) when the bilge water has a considerable amount of diesel in it (as it did today) and c) it means you rely on your partner in grime (Kevin) to haul me back out of the bilge by my legs otherwise I could be stuck there for some time!

By the time you've done that, cleaned the heads and rest of the cabin areas and checked the safety equipment it's time for supper and then at 8pm we go straight into night watch until 2am!

Night watch was fairly easy going though. The winds we're still at running at around 22 knots and hadn't died down as had been predicted – which meant we had no sail changes to do. In fact they were gusting up so much we had to put a reef in the mainsail half way through the watch. I also wore my foulie bottoms for the first time this race. It's still pretty warm – although getting slightly cooler especially at night, but because of the winds there was so much water coming over the deck that foulie bottoms were essential for maintaining a dry bum! We recently had a lecture from the skipper on “Arse Maintenance” which when you are ocean sailing is not to be taken lightly. If you're not careful with your behind – especially in wet conditions - it can result in a terrible case of soreness and 'spotty botty'.  So, we were well briefed on the importance of changing into dry undies before going to bed (“no matter how tired you are”) and also the liberal use of talc!  There was no threat of a crew bum inspection yet but it has obviously been a cause for concern in the past and apparently the next two races in particular is when we most certainly don't want to be putting our troubles behind us!