Sailing: Waffles are free but we all worry where next crust will come from

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The Independent Online

Three weeks left before the start of the final leg.

Monday 24 March

Marina, Salvador, 16.50

Three weeks left before the start of the final leg. The weather keeps switching from furnace-strength heat to warm torrential downpours to violent thunderstorms that keep knocking out the electrics in the hotel. One storm the other night woke everyone except me, which at least proves I'm managing some deep sleep at last. Today I had lunch with Bernard Stamm, the race leader, and it made me realise how fortunate I am. He's got serious problems with his keel and has just discovered a problem with his mast. We were also talking about what happens to us all after the race is finished in May. For most of the skippers, plans remain uncertain because they don't know where their next sponsorship might come from. It's a permanent worry for most racers. I feel so lucky because I've sailed in Pindar's colours for four years and will do so for at least another three. I don't take this for granted, ever, but it's a constant surprise to realise how many people are supporting me. It still astounds me ­ from within our "bubble" of competitors and shore teams ­ the extent to which that's true. When I arrived here, for example, one of the first people I was introduced to was a representative of Bird's Eye. They offered to sponsor me for the rest of this race just because they read in The Independent on Boxing Day that I eat potato waffles while at sea! Knowing I have that kind of support ­ I mean people taking an interest and wishing me well, not just giving me free food ­ is priceless when you're out there on your own.

Tuesday 25 March

Hotel, 23.40

Spent most of the day working on the boat under a brutal sun. Our electronics guy is coming out next week and if I don't give him a list of spares I need, there's not much chance of finding them here. Tuesdays are the biggest night out here because it's music night so we headed off to Salvador's ancient centre, Pelourinho. One of the most popular forms of entertainment was a display of African foot fighting! It's part dance and part combat and it was hard not to take an interest. I returned from town with a lucky bracelet. The person who ties it on to your wrist asks you to make a wish for every knot they tie. You keep the bracelet on until it falls off naturally, at which point your wishes will come true. No prizes for guessing what my wishes were.

Wednesday 26 March

Hotel, 17.50

Early this morning we went to the local Norths sail loft to have a look at my damaged mainsail. "It's definitely taken a bit of a battering," was the opinion of the local sail agent (aptly named Macho), but my focus is solely on it getting me to Newport, Rhode Island, safely. The main business is getting the two rips from the last leg repaired. The first is three feet long, just below the third reefing point, but fairly easy to repair. The second, sustained when the boat was hit flat in a squall before Cape Horn, is much more of a problem. I repaired it temporarily but it has to be properly reinforced now to ensure it doesn't rip again.

Friday 28 March

Marina, 11.30

The sails have arrived back, looking as good as new. We spent the early morning, before the sun blistered, re-attaching the main to the mast and putting the covers on to protect the sails from the intense UV rays. The countdown's started.

www.aroundalone.com

www.pindar.com

www.education.hsbc.com

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