Despite weary crew and big squalls, there's no letting up in the Global Challenge. Skipper Clive Cosby explains why it's so tough

The big leg. Once a day writing ‘Sydney – Cape Town’ in the log book it hits home. This is the leg everyone talks about – notorious, severe, the toughest, certainly the most spectacular so far. Bouncing along in 30-35, gusting 50 knots today we had hoped the forecast would prove correct and conditions would ease. Now it looks like another two days of such conditions.

Headed south we have experienced the spectacle of the southern lights in all their glory, the sky alight with the solar wind deflected off the earth’s magnetic shield. The temperatures are freezing, wind chill severe, hail storms excruciating, and tomorrow the wind will shift to the south west. Incredibly we expect things to get colder.

Tactically we seems to have thing right, which is good. At least the scheds have us clocking up the biggest runs and taking miles out of those ahead; the south has paid for now. We have slightly more veered winds and are sailing fast towards the shift, even so every six hours the sched is nervously awaited, things are so close.

Two weeks of racing and half the fleet are within 50nm. We need a result on this leg, eight of the twelve have been on the podium so far, but not us. There are many excuses, reasons, they just frustrate on every leg we have been on the pace in good position only to give it up. The best time to be first is last, a good one to remember.

The Canaries on leg 1, double medivac and 53 days at sea on leg II and on a leg where we needed to bounce back the cruel grip of a fierce east going East Australian Current, backwards at 2.5knots in no wind from first to eighth!

On board weary crew huddle under heating taking it in turns, half an hour on deck three at a time. Helming in these seas takes some doing, a course 45° apparent normally easy to steer becomes a whole new challenge. We play the main as the big squalls roll towards us, a bright yellow line across the radar screen, a big grey mass across the horizon. Horizontal hail, a header and wind gusting another 10, 15 knots.

Below half the crew sleep, tied into their bunks, bouncing along often in freefall as we plummet off backless waves. Mother keeping all fed and watered, each meal eagerly anticipated. Our bread tin is the innocent victim of a mother in freefall, so tomorrow’s bread will be a different shape!

I spend hours watching the numbers, checking the weather, our position and conditions, the other boats positions their weather, their progress – faster/ slower, how why? We plot our next move as we start to get headed, miles can be won/ lost on this call only four seperate us from fourth place. We want that and then those podium places!

As I have told the crew so many times before, it is not over until it is over. A third of the leg down and a huge amount of sailing and Southern Ocean to go.

Clive Cosby , skipper Team Stelmar