Jimmy Sails World
Well, Less than 1,000nm to Geraldton, Hooray!!! This crossing has been challenging to say the least but we can ill afford to let our guard down now! We are as well placed as any boat to be challenging for a podium place on this race, so serious sailing is back on the agenda! The Challenge ahead is to get through the high pressure system that is surrounding us and turn our current 5th place into 3rd or better. Yorkshire and New York are our immediate targets 15nm and 30nm respectively. That would give us our coveted third spot but with Gold Coast and DLL also struggling with the light air and GC being quite away south, who knows? It will all come down to who can make the most of the wind available and a lot of luck!!

Today also bought one of the most amazing encounters of the race yet! I was on mother watch this morning, busy making bread (a cheeky sun dried tomato, herb and garlic number to go with our pasta lunch) when I heard the cry "WHALE" from on deck. Faster than a speeding bullet, I had my life jacket on and was on deck to see a whale breach less than 10m from our boat! I was blown away (as was the rest of the crew) to see one this close. Then it got better, another one, but smaller.... a calf! To see a mother and calf (i think Southern Right Whales) has to be one of the wildlife heights of my life, certainly this trip, and if you were wondering what other wildlife I have encountered here is a quick run down!

Flying Fish... At least two types. These amazing fish are breathtaking to see, especially as a shoal take flight to avoid being eaten by the Qingdao dragon!

Dolphins... We have seen these little devils loads, common and bottle nose I think, at first awe inspiring but  later to be known as harbingers of bad luck. They always seem to show up before a storm or we break something. But still seeing them always makes everyone giddy with excitement!

Albatross and other see birds... To see Giant wandering Albatross soaring above the boat effortlessly is a sight to be seen, together with other species of albatross, Storm Petrels, Prions and lots of unidentified birds, these have been our constant companions from dawn till dusk!

Pilot whales... A pod of pilot whales playing in our bow surf... I cant say more...humbling to see!

Bio luminescent plankton... Perhaps the most beautiful and enchanting thing to see as it is disturbed by our bow wave and wake. like a million glowing stars in the sea, I can not do them justice with my description. The best thing I can say... get out here and see it, its worth it!! (also when you pump salt water into the heads (loo) to flush it... Magic!)

Seals... Big old fur Seals all around Cape Town, even on the pontoon while we were in port and sleeping on my sails!!! well you know me and seals so lets move on!

And Finally....

Penguins... I was fortunate enough to see the wild penguins at Boulders Beach in Capetown but never expected to see  them swimming past our boat in the middle of the Southern Ocean! on three occasions now and each time one of the cutest things ever. Jo (my sister) you have just got to get
over the boat thing and see them, you will love it!

And the final natural wonder, one that we thought we might see at one stage, has, with equal disappointment and relief, avoided us..... ICEBERGS!

Well that's enough rambling for now, The rest of Ghostwatch are tucked up in bed after my wonderful curry and made from scratch Rice Pudding (I will wand a slot with James Martin on Saturday Kitchen when I get back!) and its time for me to get a shower and get some sleep before joining them at 7 for the final push! can we do it? keep tuned and we will do our best!!

Well, we are finally heading North again and hopefully soon our fingers and toes can start to thaw out! Its all to play for with the finish line around 1300nm away and a large high pressure system causing the fleet to experience no wind at times, This should mix things up and who knows perhaps the Qingdao Shuffle is on!!!

Spirits are good on board and I had a great birthday (oddest one to date!) Thanks to everyone for all your messages. They made it extra special and meant the world to me! The weather has been quite good the last few days and we have made some good runs. Last night we were treated to one of the best sunsets I have ever seen, a real Southern Ocean treat! But it is time to leave the here now and head to Oz, tomorrow should see us out of the Roaring Forties but with some low pressure systems chasing us, that does not mean that things will be smooth sailing!

well back on deck now to finish my 11pm to 3am watch, then bed!!!
Well the last week or so have been testing to say the least. This voyage is the longest so far and the second longest of the race. With that I always new that it would be a real challenge, both physically and mentally. The Southern Ocean has certainly lived up to her reputation as being one of the most difficult Oceans to sail. With our first encounters with her being of calm still weather and then some smooth sailing after. The odd comment of 'is this really the southern Ocean' started to be muttered as we entered the "Roaring Forties" (beyond 40 degrees South). These whispers were quickly jumped upon as tempting fate with Mother Nature is never a good idea!

And with that we got our first gale. Wind speeds in the 40 Knots region and a few days being tossed around went without much mention, some good footage and tales of Reefing the Mainsail from the other watch but in general the worst thing was we were not as prepared as we should have been (lesson Learnt!) Apparently, in  a Southern Ocean passage at this time of year you can expect 3-4 gales a month, with this race around the 28 day mark... 1 down!

Some more steady sailing went on (upwind) this meant heeled over and life at a 45 degree angle again. Its ok, but its tiring, saps your strength and is generally wet. However, now we can also add in COLD!! The temperature has plummeted and full foul weather gear and thermals are all day wear (and most of it night ware too!) So upwind sailing with its increased wind chill is a joy, and I thought this was a downwind leg  of the race!

Well we did get some downwind sailing and were managing to hold onto out 4th place with not much gain or loss to other boats day after day. Then the weather files showed a front coming in (gale 2 on her way) Preparation was the watchword here. So we reduced our sail plan preparing for the strong winds to arrive and watched the barometer. When it came the pressure dropped 30 millibars in 12 hours! (after the storm Skipper told us he had only ever seen such a pressure drop once before, at never at
  sea! Well the winds came and even with our conservative (almost smallest possible) sail plan it was tough going. I had never seen waves that size before, the backs of them from peak to trough were the size of houses! and they were often breaking! Where they were the daylight shone though and I was able to see the amazing topaz blue of the water, Awesome and beautiful at the same time, It was tough going but we new other boats would be getting it too and some (opting for more sail to keep racing) would suffer more. Then the night came, more wind and pitch black. No moon or stars to help navigate just the compass. We could not even see the monster waves as they swept below us bobbing our little purple canoe around! It was a real challenge but even with winds approaching 50 knots the boat felt solid and reliable. When dawn came it was then possible to see (especially at the top of the waves) the epic view of hughe breaking waves as far as the horizon. Breathtakingly beautiful and apocalyptic at the same time, truly appearing as probably the harshest environment on the planet! then a day later slow rolling waves and a breeze that (if it were not so cold) could have you believe you were in the Med, not the Southern Ocean.

So calmer days came and went and Spinnaker flying resumed and it was while bringing one spinnaker down that one of the most testing times on Qingdao occurred. Without too much detail, the spinnaker wrapped around the metal fore stay we raise our smaller staysail from and got stuck, flogging wildly it was in danger of destroying itself or even worse the rig! after several attempts to free it the only option left was to send someone up the mast (at night!) Mark (our new Media Intern and Yachtmaster
  volunteered and up he went. Then we were hit by some larger waves and Mark lost grip of the mast and swung round the Mast  (twice) on his safety lines. This then turned inbto a rescue operation to get Mark down in one piece. Well after 3 hours we did but in the process he was battered and bruised and the skipper had been hit by him as he swung wildly around as we brought him  back to the deck! This was tense stuff and could easily have had a different result, sobering times for the Q crew! but all is well, and after treatment from the boats amazing Medic (who's heart rate will settle some day!) yours truly both Skip and Mark are well. And today 36 hours after trying to drop the kite we did (in many bits!!) Repair work for Geraldton and lost time and places but who cares, we are all safe and that is all that matters, we will come back, so watch out fro the Qingdao shuffle!!
It is the morning after my mother watch, I was so tired after it I went straight to bed, But knowing I was the "lazy Mother" (a term used for the mother who has an extra 4 hours the next day off as their watch is just coming off watch) I knew I would have time to write. I have just had a shower and it was bliss! To feel the hot water on my skin and feel warmth was like heaven! It is quite cold here now (below 45 degrees South) and last night my watch has snow!!! Brrrrrr!! so having a shower is a luxury that you pay for when you have to come back out! Worth it though.

Well in these conditions (true Southern Ocean) you find out what kit is good and bad.

Seal skin sox - good and bad - dry but not warm

Dubarry boots - wet and stay wet, thus the need for seal skins -
Le Chameaux boots (waterproof) much better for these conditions but not
for others! but at 250 pounds can anyone afford both!
Gauss sleeping bag - not getting on with it at all! Feels wet on outside alot (but is dry on 
                    Individually the layers dont really  work independently together too hot for most conditions
                    (except now!) micro fleece  lining stick to base layers and so twists up if you move and the
                    toggle system of joining the layers makes it worse! All in all I wish had gone for the ocean
                    sleepwear system, more expensive but people are swearing by them! may have to invest
                    before Qingdao!
Gloves - rubber are the only dry ones, everything else, rubbish!
Hats - good - until it pops off your head while bringing in our Yankee 1sail and you see it bob off into the Southern ocean!! Luckily a very kind crew mwmber Jo, has leant me a balaclava (i look like I should be on Crimewatch but its bliss!!

Anyway enough on kit, Life is tough at the moment,rough weather, storms and the cold all taking its toll. I seem to be in my now usual 10 days into a race Homesick mode, and I miss you all more than ever. It is hard to even listen to my music as it all reminds me of home too much! sorry to be sad but I just want you to know I think of you all always and its the hardest thing I have ever done being away from you all for so long! on the plus side it means that I will be forever under everyone's feet and never away when I get back, you are lucky eh!! I will be better in a few days Im sure but I will be missing you all just the same!
The 4,800 mile journey to Geraldton, Western Australia Started today at 12:30 GMT. Come on Qingdao!


    Its like Jim Kirk but without the star dates and I'm not the captain!

     Well here is where you can get to find out a little more about how I'm getting on in my quest for adventure.

    I aim to keep you posted on my training (both how I cope with learning to sail and how I am getting into shape for the race), How I am doing with regards to funding and how much money I have raised for good causes.

    I intend on this to be a journal of everything connected to this epic adventure, so at times it may be funny, sometimes full of grumbles and sometimes down right crazy! but I hope at all times it will reflect my experiences and feelings at the time.

    So watch this space!!!


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