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Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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Red watch came on 0200 - 0600hrs

Red watch arrived on deck. The sea seemed huge and angry now, with waves regularly dowsing the cockpit and with the wind pushing into 30knots on the bow. An exhilarating and exhausting situation for those on deck.

The blackness was often near absolute with neither star nor horizon to steer to.

As red watch came on I handed over the helm to Steven. The rest of blue watch were already heading downstairs.

This was one of the few occasions, (since we rounded the fastnet rock last year, facing a difficult sea state), that I detected the hard, determined edge to his character. This strength is usually hidden behind his kind, reflective, and often hilarious outlook on life.

It was unusual for Steve to take the wheel. He, like Gareth, is an expert at the helm, and when he steps in at the start of a shift you know he's either bored or the situation is rather serious.

I was shattered, Steven knew it. The adrenalin flooding through me meant I was oblivious. and I admit to being disappointed to be 'letting go'!

At my tender age of 50 I meet many 'experts' through my work as a civil engineer and manager. In a boat I'm definitely not an expert!

Steven calmly asked me the two or three short questions that gave him all the information he needed about the tricky and potentially hazardous situation he was about to manage. I forget what he said but he also managed, to include a compliment that really lifted me.

I let go and commenced the acrobatics needed to get from the wheel to the side of the cockpit in a rough sea force 6 at 60degrees! Under Steven's charge, I could physically feel the boat relax.

As I landed seated by John, I realised my briefing had included reference to a star no longer visible. I had not been particularly helpful to my friend.

A few minutes later I was in the warmth of the cabin heading to the bunk.

An illustration now arose revealing Gareth, our Skippers, people skills. This was remarkable and even more so as he must also have been exhausted at the time.

There was a brief but potentially unhelpful altercation on the shift change between two blue watch helmsmen.

One felt the other was pushing the boat too hard and those on deck were getting unnecessarily wet. The exchange was not convivial!

The skipper Gareth, spotting the risk of escalation, intervened immediately. He reflected that both had weaknesses in their helming skills (the feedback) and should focus on these not other people (the target). They should both therefore just f*****g get on with it!(the empowerment!).

This classical leadership style, provided feedback, set a target, and empowered both. The immediate outcome, All went to sleep!

This altercation, perhaps illustrates how passionate the guys on this boat are about the race and about looking after each other.

Red watch continued to steer their southerly heading. This was later referred to by blue watch as 'the banana route'!

Blue watch came on 0600 - 1200hrs

Having followed the 'banana route' (red watch claim to have been headed a lot!!) We were now 32 nautical miles west of the Bull Rock.

The wind was 25 knots, falling to 20 but in the SE and so not very helpful.

Most importantly and of much more interest than the race, Gary and Brett were reunited during the night! Now officially bunking together again following their trial separation.

However, all may not be as it seems. There are extenuating circumstances that lead to worry that the rapprochment could be short lived.

On moving to the saloon, taking up residence in the single bunk, Gary promptly broke it! Now of no fixed abode, wandering the yacht in his spinlock, Gary was abruptly refused a threesome with Ken and Gareth. Hence one could cynically assume his overtures to Brett may well have a practical rather than romantic motive. We will see.

I digress,

Now too far west, we must sort our tactics if Santander is not to join Norway in our collection of wayward detours. At 0630 blue watch stumble into action and tack to 90 degrees, now heading to close on Ireland yet again and wondering if the promised South wind will rescue our race.

The Dolphins come to lift our spirits, loads of them. Several little ones swimming together and clearly loving it. Then the big boys turn up and show us their stuff, making us look so inept. The sea is really rough still, and they keep appearing from nowhere amongst the salt water chaos.

By 0830 48m from fastnet rock at 91degT, but our 'best to wind is too high at around 85deg. We will be 6miles too far north ( we must pass the fastnet to our west or north) unless the wind moves to south.

The other tack is also unhelpful as we are likely to hit heavier in the Atlantic if we go too far west. This is a worry about losing boat speed.

Red watch returned 1200- 1800hrs

Ken Allison, Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

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