Sailing: Battered and bruised but the camaraderie keeps me going

Part 10: Pindar's skipper reaches Cape Town after 30 gruelling days at sea during the Around Alone round-the-world race
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The Independent Online
Still bruised and aching after my climb up the mast, a state not helped by the frustration of the miles I lost to Thierry [Dubois] while doing so.

Saturday 9 November South Atlantic, 1,500 miles from Cape Town, 05.58

Still bruised and aching after my climb up the mast, a state not helped by the frustration of the miles I lost to Thierry [Dubois] while doing so. I worked so hard to get into second behind Bernard [Stamm, the race leader] so to go from contention to third is galling. But that's the way it goes. I did have a cheery message from Thierry at least. He passed near me, apparently, while I was up the mast. Said he'd been hoping to see me on deck in a skimpy bikini but instead he saw nothing. Thought I was hiding below because he stank. If he'd used his binoculars he would've noticed me getting battered.

Sunday 10 November 1,230 west of Cape Town, 05.52

My communications mean I'm able to contact my friends and family some of the time. Sometimes that makes being here harder. Some loud CDs should help.

Monday 11 November 880 miles west-south-west of Cape Town, 00.54

The polls show Bernard is slowing a bit, Thierry is catching him, I'm closing slightly on Thierry. And behind me Graham Dalton on Hexagon is eating up the miles all of a sudden. He's a Kiwi, perhaps he's feeling bad about the rugby and wants to reel me in. Or maybe he's heard the one about me lounging round in a bikini. If only. There's no way I'm going to sit back and stop working after all I've been through. Pindar is creaking and moaning but I've told her there's not far to go, hang in there. She moaned louder so I turned up the CD.

11:36

I've just avoided – by a few metres – the one thing I've been dying to see all trip. The biggest whale I've seen in my life. It was so close I could see the curved part of its back was the length of this boat, 60ft. It must have been way bigger with its tail. It took a dive as I went past. Beautiful, fascinating, huge, scary. And nearly end of race – again. I've also just seen a great wandering albatross, unmistakable. Its wingspan as it came close was about the width of Pindar. Huge, stately, and old. I hope my memory is kind to me after this race. Moments like these make it.

Wednesday 13 November In sight of Table Mountain, 19.10

I saw the first signs of the coast last night – a huge container passed within a couple of miles. Luckily I'd taped my emergency navigation lights to the bow earlier. My mast headlights and strobe were blown off by the storm in the first week and I only noticed they were gone when I went up the mast last week. Awkward waves now, the boat still groaning. Music volume up. Wind likewise. Not long now.

Thursday 14 November V&A docks, CT, 10.00

I crossed the line at 03.27. Too early for all but one of my shore crew, who's already in town, to meet me. The rest of the shore crew should be touching down at the airport about now. Two people there to meet me were Thierry and Bernard. As soon as I crossed the line and the scrutineers had come on board to do their checks, they both gave me a big hug. Don't think I will have smelt great, but I guess they're used to that. Such camaraderie really makes my sport. As for finishing – and on the podium for this leg – what an emotional relief. I don't think I'd realised the depth of mental focus required. Incessant racing, changing conditions. Even when you nap, you don't switch off mentally – it's more a case of just resting your eyes. And my body is almost at breaking point. At the beginning of the leg, I was thrown all over the boat in horrendous conditions. The mast climb shattered me to the point when it was uncomfortable to sit down because of all the bruises, but I couldn't stand due to the fatigue. Just had my first shower in a month and it just feels soooooooooo good. I took my sea boots off for the first time in a month – I usually do when I shower. My feet look disgusting.

Friday 15 November Rented flat, Hawkes Bay, CT, 11.34

So much for looking forward to my bed last night. After 30 days at sea, where do I end up sleeping? On a boat. I went out for an evening meal with my shore crew and some friends last night – I can't describe how wonderful it is to be with people again – and we decided to wait up for the arrival of Hexagon. The tiredness finally caught up with me as we went out on the boat to meet him. I fell asleep and didn't wake up for four hours. As I did, Hexagon, which had been caught in a wind shadow anyway, came in just before 5am. I finally got to bed and unsurprisingly slept through my alarm. Awake now, it feels strange not to be confined to Pindar. I do feel proud of what I've done on this leg, which seems even stranger as I look through some of the footage I've filmed on board. My shore crew are already hard at work on the boat. A few weeks' preparation and it's time for the Southern Ocean.

www.aroundalone.com

www.pindar.com

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