Friday 6th November - Leg 2, Race 3, Day 11

I could write about many different things today; about being on mother watch with Tom, of how in these conditions it's a dangerous affair as anything that isn't tied down launches itself across the galley – including us; of how I cooked my first ever curry; of the size of the waves which have increased ten-fold since yesterday or the fact that our “Flight school” seems to have doubled in numbers – of Albatross in particular.

But today the only thing I can really write about is how mid-afternoon, as I was about to leave the cockpit and go below deck after getting some video footage, Arthur B also left the cockpit and went head first straight into the South Atlantic Ocean.  He was coming from the high side into the cockpit and had just un-clipped to do so when a huge wave swept over us, knocked him forward and he flew straight past me, over the cockpit and out under the guard rail of the boat, disappearing into the mountainous waves.
For a nano-second I thought we had lost a crewmate. For part of that nano-second I put myself in his place and was terrified for him and for myself.  And then that nano-second passed and I heard myself yell with all my might “Man overboard” along with three other people who had also seen him disappear. My next yell was to the Nav station to press the man-overboard button. And then the next two minutes were a blur.
All our training kicked in and every crewmember knew what to do. David was at the helm to hove to (stop the boat in its tracks) almost before the man-overboard shout had gone out. People were spotting and pointing at Arthur, keeping him fixed in their sights. Halyards were dropped, the engine went on and I was helping Jeremy into the harness so he could be lowered over the side to go and collect Arthur.  Despite the strong winds and waves bigger than I've ever seen, we never lost sight of Arthur.  He was there, lying back on his inflated life jacket, looking very calm and collected.  Young Bex was watching him and shouting words of encouragement and reassurance constantly.  “It's ok Arthur, we're coming, we're going to get you out”. Such wisdom, awareness and calmness from one so young.
The off-watch – woken up by the shout, were all on deck in a trice and the drills that we've done so many times in training came into play.  Piers took the helm and guided everyone through – again reassuring us all regularly that it would be ok, we were getting him back. Apart from that first tiny nano-second, there was never any doubt in my mind either.  Piers had talked us all through the Man over board drills once again just over a week ago.  It was fresh in everyone's minds.
Once all the jobs were filled, I knew I had a responsibility to film the rescue – which is exactly what I attempted to do. 
On the first pass we failed to pick him up and Arthur went past the bow of the boat and appeared on the port side. The waves were going to make it as difficult as possible for Jeremy to be able to grab him. We knew we'd do it though. We could see him and we wouldn't stop until he was back on board.  We approached for the second time – attempting to throw some lines for him to grab so we could pull him in. Each time the waves cruelly took the lines away from Arthur instead of the 6 inches further towards him they needed to be. Suddenly a wave came in our favour. Jeremy was lowered right into the water next to him and despite the swell of boat and water, he managed to get a line on him.  Arthur clung to the Heli-strop dangling from Jeremy's harness too, and then it was all muscle on the winches to get them both up above deck level and grabbed and lowered on board into safety.

Approximately 17 minutes after my nano-second of doubt, one professional skipper, and a team of 17 other amateur sailors, of ages ranging from 18 to 61- many of whom had never sailed before, had pulled together, worked as one unit and had plucked back their fellow crew member from the clutches of the Atlantic Ocean.  Some might say 'against the odds'. But having witnessed the way the whole crew behaved, my money was always on us.

I keep replaying the moment Arthur vanished – it appeared to be a very graceful dive actually – he did it with style - and I keep wondering how I would have reacted. How would I have felt losing contact with the safe haven of the boat. How would I have felt when the first attempt to rescue me failed and I had to watch the boat circle again.  Would I have had any doubts or would I have had complete faith in my fellow crewmembers?  Arthur is fine.  He dried off, had his usual hearty supper and we knew he was ok when he asked Katy if there was “any chance of some pudding?”. He's catching up on some sleep now but I'm keen to ask him his thoughts from the water. Did he have faith we'd get him...or not?
We have all chosen to put our lives into our fellow crewmembers' hands.  If that wasn't obvious before, it is today.  We have built friendships and trust and have shared many great moments since leaving Hull. The crew on board today will always have a bond far stronger than that. Together we saved someone's life.  From the person who made the mayday call, to the person on the helm, to the person who had dry towels, a sleeping bag and a warm drink ready and to Jeremy who was lowered over the side to snatch Arthur back for us.  Anyone of us could have played any of the roles in this.  And God forbid, should we need to do it again, we would.

In the meantime – it's back to the race. We've dropped to third place now and we want to try and regain our position.  The conditions are still tough but so are we.  We are just as focused on our aim of getting to Cape Town first. But we know that what matters most is that we'll all, Arthur included,
cross that finish line together.  Points are important but what really counts is Being Alive.