Sailing: New sails but no loo to help me on hardest leg to Cape Horn

The Pindar skipper prepares to do some boat testing before the toughest section of the Around Alone yacht race
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The Independent Online

Saturday 25 January

Pindar Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 11.30

The weather changes so rapidly here, from blazing sun (burn time is seven minutes) to freezing cold. It's a gentle reminder of what the next leg will bring. A reminder of what it won't bring came at a party this evening. There was company for starters: the other skippers. And the buffet was incredible. Smoked baby snapper, sea trout and the best steamed mussels I've ever tasted. We were also treated to a haka. The hospitality has been amazing.

Sunday 26 January

Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 22.15

My 11th day since I arrived in port. The shore crew have been working round the clock on Pindar. I decided it was time for a first full day off. I went kite surfing. This evening all the skippers met up again. One of the best things about this race is the camaraderie. A group of people of different ages, nationalities, backgrounds and means all dedicated to the same thing. We spared a thought for Alan Paris, who is still out completing the third leg. He's had an awful trip but he'll get a great welcome when he does arrive.

Monday 27 January

Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 23.55

Extremely high winds today. I was due to go out on the local Maori tribe's waka (raft/canoe) but it was cancelled due to the conditions.

Tuesday 28 January

Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 20.40

Just before dawn, at 05.49 to be precise, I watched Alan Paris arrive. All the other skippers went out on the chase boat to see him come in aboard BTC Velocity. He'd had to make an unscheduled stop in Tasmania after a problem with his rigging. He got straight to work as soon as he got here. This afternoon my sails arrived back from the loft in Auckland. They look fantastic. The huge tear on the mainsail has been repaired immaculately. It's been mended with a reinforced Kevlar patch while the leach tape (trailing edge) and all areas of stress on the sail have been strengthened.

Wednesday 29 January

Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 23.30

We had a full boat check today so we'll be ready for testing ahead of the next leg, which starts on 9 February. There's no doubt it will be the hardest leg. The key is getting to Cape Horn intact. From there, it's a full-out race to Brazil. I've rounded the Cape twice before. Once was last year, which was fine, but the other time, when I was the youngest member of the crew for Tracy Edwards' Jules Verne Trophy attempt, we were dismasted. So while I'm not going into uncharted territory, I'm aware how rough it will be. I'm lucky that there are no major repairs left to do on Pindar. Bernard Stamm, the race leader, craned his boat out of the water immediately on his arrival after suffering severe delamination in the final stages of the last leg. His boat's still out of the water. Tommy Hilfiger and Ocean Planet are also both out of the water undergoing extensive repairs and redesign.

Thursday 30 January

Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 22.40

A two-hour meeting this morning resulted in a big decision. Pindar's toilet has got to go. It's rare in being a proper loo, just sitting in one corner. It was installed by the company who chartered the boat before my sponsors. That previous company did a huge amount of corporate sailing and a genuine loo was more appealing to its clients.

To start with I thought it would be my great luxury – I've never had a bona fide toilet on board before. But I've rarely been able to use it. The way that Pindar moves when you're trying to sail as fast as possible can be violent. The loo has handles to hold on with, but they're too badly placed to make using them easy. I only used the loo once in the last leg.

The weight of the thing is an issue too – the actual toilet plus its piping system. My shore crew find it hilarious that I'll now go back to "bucket and chuck it".

Their delight touched me and I took them all out for dinner. Over the meal I was informed that they'd been running a sweepstake about how many new forms of travel I'd attempt in New Zealand. I'm currently up to five: single engine plane, glider, battery-powered electric scooter, kayaking and last Sunday's kite surfing, although that ended prematurely when my instructor flew into a tree.

Friday 31 January

Apartment, Mt Maunganui, 19.10

The boat had the repaired sails fitted this morning and then came out of the water to have the new rudder bearings fitted and the twin rudders refitted. Test sailing starts tomorrow. The countdown to the next leg has begun.