Sailing: Sleep at last - despite the deafening sound of crashing waves

Part 3: Emma Richards, the skipper of Pindar, records her progress in the Around Alone single-handed round-the-world yacht race
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The Independent Online

Saturday 21 September, East of Grand Banks, 11.00

Having spent six hours hand steering overnight with full mainsail in perfect surfing conditions – and under clear, moonlit skies – I decided to put up something more conservative and get some sleep. But a 34-knot gust hit as I was taking down the gennaker, there was a broach (tipped up on one side in a very dramatic fashion) and it went straight over the front. The sound of ripping sail. Ouch! Spent two hours getting it back on deck. Nightmare. I'm beyond exhausted and sitting here wondering what those sails in the forehatch would say if they could talk. "Wow, I thought she crumpled me badly yesterday, but LOOK AT YOU! Women drivers! When's Josh [the previous owner] coming back?" I need some sleep.

Newfoundland Basin, 17.19

The day got better. A couple of small birds came to visit and took the liberty of looking around my cabin. New rule to prevent any little surprises in my stuff. No birds inside except me.

Sunday 22 September, Mid-Atlantic, 20.46

Thick newspaper, sports pages, a flick through the telly, a glass of fresh OJ, full cooked brekkie, walk into town, kick some leaves, late lunch in the pub, home and relax. As if. It's been one of those long days with shifting wind that makes napping difficult. Just as you close your eyes, the boat hoons off on its ear in the wrong direction or sits like a dead duck if you stay on pilot. It takes more energy to climb in the bunk and back out than just staying put at the helm. So I'm closing my eyes until we tip and I get thrown off, and then steering again. Morale is good. Or as Robin Gray, my team manager says, I'm keeping my pecker up. Whatever that means to a girl.

Tuesday 24 September, Still mid-Atlantic, 21.09

I had some of the best surfing ever today, but spent a long time fighting with myself about whether or not to put up the gennaker, one of five head sails I have on board. It can make you fly if you have constant wind speed. But if the wind is very gusty and it becomes too big and powerful, you run the risk of turning the boat on its side. It's a huge amount of sail to control on your own. Confident me – forgetting recent experience – said put it up. Conservative me said no. A 38-knot squall put the debate on ice. Other developments: I can hear some muttering from the sails up forward, and I've started talking to the autopilot. I've also broken my video camera. Waiting for the next position report now feels like waiting for my final-year university exams every time.

Thursday 26 September, 400 miles south-west of Land's End, 18.23

Huge waves, too much wind and a constant 40 knots. I've been crashing from wave to wave, thundering into the huge walls of water and you wouldn't believe the deafening sound of the waves pounding the deck. The boat is screeching and complaining each time. Can't wait for it to stop. Hope there is not too much damage. Positive news: my last position report showed I was only a few miles behind Hexagon, so I decided to tack south. As the winds shifts to the south-east I should be well placed for entering the Channel. One confession: It's the most exciting part of the race but I've had four hours sleep. Feeling almost brand new.

Friday 27 September, 260 miles SW of Land's End, 10.00

I've just found out that I'll be world record holder shortly, for being the first woman ever to complete a transatlantic crossing from west to east in a monohull. I'm beginning to motor –I could make fourth. Can't wait for Torbay. I should be in late morning on Sunday – just in time for my roast. A meal not from a packet. A few beers. A large dry bed that doesn't move.

www.aroundalone.com

www.pindar.com

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