Sailing: Too dangerous to sleep... I am tired, wet, cold and hungry

Part 2: 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


Sunday 15 September, Travel Inn, New York, 08.30

After my last night on land I woke at 6am, simultaneously exhausted and wide awake. My stomach was churning. Nerves and excitement. I'm waiting for my parents to walk me down to the boat. At sea, 18.00: I had my final skippers' briefing this morning and left the dock with my shore crew, who jumped off half an hour before the start, as per race rules. I spotted my spectator boat and felt an enormous sense of pride and sadness as they cheered. Just me and the boat now. I was pleased with my start. Moderate 10 to 15 knots of breeze, southerly, so slightly more difficult. It means you have to make lots of short tacks back and forth to zigzag into the open seas. It wasn't long before I put up my gennekar. Nerves have disappeared, excitement has taken over.

Monday 16 September, Past Nantucket Shoals, 19.00

I had great boat speed (22 knots at times) and fantastic downwind sailing. But I haven't managed any sleep at all because there are too many fishing boats to avoid. My first night sailing around the world alone and I was kept awake by the traffic! Passing Nantucket Shoals, I was up to 30 knots of breeze and decided to roll the gennekar in. Things became tricky. The furling line cover caused a jam in the furler, it wouldn't go out or in. It snapped and I needed to rethread it. One lifejacket, one harness and three life-lines later, I was still precariously up on the bow when the boat went on some mad surfing mission. I gave up that attempt. Eventually, when I had the sail on the deck, I somehow had to get to each corner, untie it, and feed all 145 square metres of it down below – into a box with a small round hole in the top. My patience and strength were already stretched when a 40-knot squall came through with rain like I have never seen. I could hardly breathe for water. When I finally wiped my eyes, a supertanker appeared less than a mile away crossing my stern. I can't sleep at the moment. It's too dangerous.

Tuesday 17 September, South of Halifax, Nova Scotia, 20.40

I finally managed to sleep in the early hours, four 20-minute bursts in six hours. Luxury. I also cooked some pasta, my first hot meal since New York. I'm having massive problems receiving the weather grid files. This data is vital to know what's around you and what's coming up. The computer system crashes every time the boat crashes over a wave.

Thursday 19 September, South of Newfoundland, 09.00

A particularly low day yesterday. The thing I fear most – the solitude – has kicked in. I'm a couple of degrees further south than the rest of the fleet. This may pay off in the long-run but I'm feeling slightly out of it. I am tired, wet, cold and hungry. I have no dry clothes. It's particularly hard as the polling shows I'm in last place. I've just spoken to Andrew Pindar, my sponsor. He reiterated that there was no pressure and to do my best. He said this is just the beginning and as long as I'm still in the race, I can still win. In one sense this was reassuring. In another it just frustrated me that with all this unconditional support, I may not deliver. 17.00: I've just played one of three CDs my sister, Philippa, made for me. Loads of great songs and, to my surprise, loads of messages from family, friends, shore crew. Thanks Pip. And a special message from Tracey Edwards, who gave me my first break in ocean racing. Awesome.

Friday 20 September, Past Grand Banks, 12.00

Bit further north now. The Northerly wind has turned really cold. Wearing extra layers, two hats, gloves. Problem with weather grid files resolved. Feeling much better, pulling back some ground. The drop in wind makes this tough but the physical demands are easier at least.

www.aroundalone.com

www.pindar.com

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