Great sailing downwind under spinnaker, reports Global Challenge skipper Dee Caffari

Date: 4th May 2005. Location: 6,000 miles from Boston. Weather: Sunny. Heading: 320 degrees

The difference is amazing. We are already getting into warmer climates. The air temperature has gone up and the sea temperature has already gone up 5 degrees. Our foul weather clothing is still being worn as we have a fair amount of water over the deck, but it is shorts underneath as opposed to several thermal layers and a mid layer.

The watches are taking half the time to get ready to come on deck for their watch, so we are adjusting when they get woken up so sleep time can be maximised, and most importantly the suntan lotion has to be applied liberally to avoid a beetroot face over dinner.

The fleet have spread out east to west as all the Challenge yachts cover similar distances in the same conditions. On day two, we sailed alongside Pindar until the early evening when eventually the yachts split away. Yesterday we spent the day sailing in sight of BG Spirit and only during the afternoon watched the yachts separate.

There is very little between all the yachts so far and getting away will be very difficult. Everyone is aware that extra distance sailed is detrimental to boat performance, but getting stuck in areas of no wind are just as negative and can have devastating effects. For this leg it is all about the balance of the two.

The routine onboard has settled down amazingly quickly, with the leggers finding their sea legs. Cleaning and mopping of bilges are back in action and having a relatively flat and still dry yacht is making the core crew realise just how difficult life was in the Southern Ocean, beating to windward for days on end, with soggy crew members getting some respite down below.

The talk of what everybody ate for their last meal in Cape Town before departure was laughed at as we ate our first freeze-dried meal. The first of many we fear, however like most of the fleet our menu has been revised dramatically and we no longer have to live in dread of various meals that proved truly unpopular. As normal though, after nearly 40 days at sea the first big steak and chips with a cold beer will go down so well.

By leaving Table Bay with its wildlife, we said goodbye to seals, penguins, jellyfish, a shark and Man! We now only have the flying fish to look forward to. They are always found in the most surprising of places. We have already had two fish land on deck after clearly smacking their heads on some hardware around. We have also spent time on the first night being escorted by a pod of dolphins looking like torpedoes with the phosphorescence in the water.

There is a lot to be said for the downwind sailing aspect of this leg. While the yacht is flatter and more comfortable to live on, we are flying the appropriate weight spinnaker for the majority of the time. This is great sailing, however if and when it goes wrong, it normally goes hugely wrong and confidence amongst the crew is very easily lost with a spinnaker trauma. Therefore it is quite stressful in my position and sleep is a rare commodity.

On the plus side though, you get a great tan.

Dee Caffari, skipper Imagine it. Done