Sailing: Days and nights of heat and dirt: In his first weekly report from on board ENZA New Zealand, the co-skipper, Peter Blake, charts the progress of the 85ft catamaran attempting to circle the world in 80 days

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The Independent Online
WEEK ONE has gone. We left England in the cold of winter and we are now sweltering in the tropics after only six days of sailing - with, we all hope, fewer than 72 days to go if we are to have a chance of winning the Jules Verne Trophy.

Already 2,830 of the 27,000 miles have been covered and we are still one day ahead of our schedule, although the pace has slowed to 10 knots in the Doldrums.

I had my first wash yesterday as our speed dropped to a level that was safe for collecting seawater in a bucket on the end of a rope. At 28 C, a chore has instantly become a luxury.

That first bucketful of seawater emptied over my head was delicious - but the effect has now worn off and I will repeat it again as much as I can.

The route we are taking is soon going to have us sailing for weeks through the wilds of the Southern Ocean, where we won't want to take our clothes off, let alone wash, for more than 40 days. At least we all smell the same on board.

The past week on board ENZA New Zealand has left a series of vivid images in the mind: A full moon in a cloudless night sky; silvery squadrons of flying fish arriving on board sometimes to flap through the netting and back into the sea - some are not so fortunate; a streaming phosphorescent wake from our twin hulls as we hit speeds of more than 20 knots in the moonlight; hammering spray; sweaty clothes; sleeping bags that won't be washed for 80 days; trying to sleep in what feels like a runaway express train, with the hulls vibrating and jerking as the yacht slices through the waves; the smell of bread baking in the galley, and the anticipation by the crew of the results of us amateur cooks; washing dishes in cold seawater; salty tea towels drying on the rail; flaming orange sunsets; razor-sharp horizons, even at midnight; a telex printer chattering; emptiness; and chocolate pudding.

That is the week just ended. But for now we are in the Doldrums - that band of light and variable winds near the Equator. At night the towering cumulo-nimbus thunderclouds stretch up like mountains of cotton wool in the moonlight.

It's very, very hot and there is no ice in our frequent swigs of communal water bottles in the cockpit. Our water comes from the sea. Even tea is less attractive.

My 'home' is in a small 'pod' in the centre of the yacht. The only furnishings are the vinyl seats and bunk cushions hidden under sleeping bags. There is only unpainted fibreglass to look at as there was not time to paint the interior - and besides, paint wouldn't make us go any faster anyway.

Robin Knox-Johnston, my co- skipper, and I live and work here, taking efforts not to get in each other's way, particularly during sleeping times. As for the other members of the crew, Edward Danby and George Johns live in the port hull behind the galley, and David Alan-Williams, Paul Standbridge and Donald 'Jaws' Wright live in the starboard hull behind the toilet and driving compartment.

The hulls are separated by 40ft of netting and the pod. To live to port and need to use the toilet means a dash through the spray to the other hull. To live to starboard means a similar dash the other way at meal times.

But it's exciting. It's an adventure that none of us would want to miss, whatever the living conditions. It's going to get harder, much harder, both physically and mentally. Success is no certainty, but if it was going to be easy we wouldn't have bothered taking part.

(Photograph omitted)

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