Sailing: Where midnight is a star-spangled sky: In his second weekly report from on board Enza New Zealand, Peter Blake, charts the catamaran's progress in the South Atlantic ocean in the quest to circle the world in 80 days

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The Independent Online
ENTERING the 16th of the 80 days, the target set for the Jules Verne Trophy, Peter Blake and Robin Knox- Johnston in Enza, were yesterday three days ahead of schedule having completed 377 miles in the previous 24 hours, averaging 13.97 knots for a total of 5,028 miles. They are dropping behind Bruno Peyron in Commodore Explorer, who has a lead of about 180 miles.

THE tropical sunset and cool of the evening are welcome relief after such heat-laden days. But daylight does not last long and night is quickly on us. We will be steering Enza and trimming sails until midnight - under a sky more often than not a blaze of the brightest stars imaginable. No city haze out here in the South Atlantic.

By midnight the moon is just climbing over the eastern horizon as Ed (Danby) and I hand over the watch duty to Robin and 'Jaws' (Don Wright) and head to our bunks. For now the wind is light and the seas smooth, a far cry from what we can expect in the Southern Ocean in a week's time. So, 10 minutes after midnight I'm into my bunk after first having talked via radio telephone to Bruno on Commodore Explorer - our French opponent in the quest to climb the 80-day mountain.

A short nap until 12.50am then it's up again to monitor the weather facsimile broadcasts which help us decide our route. Back into my bunk at 1.30 but up again bleary- eyed at 3.45 for further weather maps.

Robin and Jaws hand over to David (Alan-Williams) and Paul (Standbridge) at 4.00. At this time, Ed and I are on stand-by to give the on-deck watch a hand if required, but we hope we can cram in a couple more hours of sleep before getting up at about 6.45 to make breakfast - it's our turn on breakfasts and dinners this week - tea, coffee, juice (powdered), cereals (with powdered milk and brown sugar), scrambled eggs (from powdered eggs) and a vitamin pill each. At 8.00, Ed and I are back on watch until midday, interspersed with lunch being served by Jaws at 11.30.

It's generally too hot to get much further sleep during the afternoon, but there are still the weather maps to receive and discuss, phone calls to make, general repairs and preparations to undertake, water to make from our desalination units, and the evening dinner to prepare. A seawater bath from a bucket thrown overboard is still a luxury at any time of the day.

Dinner tonight, first course is meat (dried), potatoes (powdered), mixed vegetables (dried) and apple crumble with custard. Ed and I eat quickly and head for the deck where we are due on watch again; the evening is cool, the sun disappearing in the west and the stars appearing through the inky blackness overhead.

For now, life is relatively easy as we wait for the westerly winds to blow us at speed across the wastes of the Southern Ocean, past South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and onwards to Cape Horn where we will turn left again with enormous relief.

A day in the Southern Ocean will be different to today. If we are tired now, due to heat and strange sleeping patterns, or non-sleeping patterns, then the Southern Ocean will have us physically and mentally exhausted by the time we cross our present outward track in about eight weeks' time. It will be interesting to see how we all react.

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