Sailing: Ripped mainsail has ended my hopes in this leg ­ and maybe in the whole race

Pindar's skipper suffers ahuge blow in her efforts to reach New Zealand safely in the Around Alone race
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The Independent Online

Kelp around the prop has been hindering progress. And the sea is so choppy that, whenever we build up good speed, one wave can stop us or slam so hard that the whole boat shudders for ages.

Sunday 29 December

c.1,330 miles south-west of Perth, 12.45

Kelp around the prop has been hindering progress. And the sea is so choppy that, whenever we build up good speed, one wave can stop us or slam so hard that the whole boat shudders for ages. Wind erratic. Mood ditto. Having a few "nearly halfway there, oh, only halfway" moments. Followed by "What am I doing out here anyway?" moments. Followed by "Just buck up and get the boat moving faster and turn the music louder or something" moments.


Monday 30 December

c.1,000 miles south-west of Perth, 07.05

From lows to highs, I've just had eight hours' great sailing, average speed 17 knots. It's a pity the others probably did, too.

Tuesday 31 December

North-west of Indian-Antarctic Ridge, 06.42

I'm exhausted. It's absolutely freezing. I'm thousands of miles from anywhere, and, to be honest, I feel it. I wouldn't swap the experience, but these days are the hardest. New Year celebrations? I've got a mini bottle of champagne, but, if the weather stays like it is, I'm not sure I'll get to open it. When I do, I'll toast to Pindar and me, and to everyone back home. And I will make resolutions. To drink more champagne; eat more good food; sleep more; enjoy every moment on land and remember it well; and make the boat go faster.


Wednesday 1 January

Indian-Antarctic Ridge, 21.13

I've been very fortunate that so many people are supporting me and interested in how I've been doing. The BBC are showing a documentary which is due for this Saturday (4 January, BBC2, 2.10pm UK time) and I've just finished sending the latest bits of footage. Being alone here on New Year's Day has certainly reinforced why I feared the solitude. I detest it, not least since my iridium phone broke and I've not been able to talk to anyone or share how much I long just to go to the supermarket or have lunch. At least the e-mail offers consolation. Many thanks to all readers of The Independent who've sent messages of support, especially Chris and Victoria and Simon and Lionel, who explained after my request last week why the wind seems stronger when it's colder.


Friday 3 January

c.600 miles west of Tasman plateau, 07.20

My chances in this leg effectively ended at about 8pm last night when my whole race seemed up. It might yet still be. I won't know for a while. In a 40-knot squall that saw a huge surf that lasted forever, the boat almost went over. It didn't quite but during the recovery there was one almighty tear. The mainsail had ripped into two pieces. Shocker. Why me again after all the bloody problems I've already had? I just felt shattered, wondering whether I'll even be able to continue. But I had to be positive because there is no other choice. I can't just sit around and forget about it, can I? So I've already spent eight hours working on the repair and I'm just about through half of one side of it. It's going to be one long job, sitting on a boom that's bucking like a bronco, sewing, undoing, redoing. Needlework is not my forte. If only I'd been a sailmaker in a previous existence. My fingers are so numb through cold that I can't feel it when I prick myself. They look like pin cushions already but there's no way I can wear gloves for this. I'm also freezing and wet. On the plus side, I've had a few hours to think about my situation. I'm feeling slightly better. It's just a yacht race, after all, and I am safe. I began in September with an aim just to finish. Then, after the second leg and a podium finish, as well as moving to a podium placing in the overall standings, I thought that's how I should be able to finish. Today has been a big reminder that my first aim isn't even achieved yet.


Still a bit frustrated. I felt I'd positioned myself well for the Tasman Sea... but better not to dwell. Andrew Pindar, my sponsor, has kindly pointed out in an e-mail that the first priority was my safety and the second was making it to New Zealand (but not compromising my first priority in the process). There's no doubt this has been a huge blow, but my aim now is to patch up the sail as best I can and make sure Pindar and I get to Tauranga somehow. I only hope that is possible. There is no guarantee that as soon as I finish the repair and re-hoist the sail the whole thing won't just rip into pieces again.