Conrad Humphreys sees light at the end of a dark and turbulent tunnel

“I’m in the groove and on top of things today, there are Trade-like clouds ahead of me and there’s a stable breeze from the south east. I pulled back the 100 mile deficit to this group, but I’ve never had so tough a night as last night in my entire sailing career. It’s interesting with the sleep as I must have slept in cat naps of 5 to 10 minutes and had about 20 minutes sleep in all over the last 24hrs. I literally had to sleep straight away after finishing a manoeuvre on deck, not knowing if it would last for 5 or 30 minutes, and sure enough the alarm went off and the wind changed.   I was sailing alongside Nick yesterday morning, and it was the funniest thing in my sailing career; we were going into a squall, Nick was 2m to windward of me and this cloud is as black as can be. I thought I better put a reef in the mainsail, and I look over to see Nick has furled away his headsails, and I’m looking at him thinking does he really think it’s that bad? Maybe I should put my staysail up? I look back again and see Nick has put 2 reefs in mainsail, and I’m thinking, no, it can’t be that bad, surely, and so we sail into the squall and there’s no wind in it at all! I took a few miles out of him then, but I found the whole thing quite extraordinary as I’ve always wondered how other sailors prepare for squalls, and find it amazing how differently we do it.   Typically, I’m sailing along under full main and genoa, the black rain cloud hits violently and you’re on edge the whole time, then change sails from genoa to staysail, put 2 reefs in the mainsail, then finish tidying up the boat and go down to check the chart and promptly sail into a wind hole! So you shake it all out again, put all the sails back up, and in the meantime the boat has done a pirouette, there’s not a breath of wind?if you’re unlucky you have to do this 2or 3 times, but last night I must have done this at least a dozen times?   Physically, my upper back, shoulders and arms are absolutely in tatters – I couldn’t wind another winch right now! It takes 24hrs for your body to recover normally and you need to rest, but we don’t get the opportunity. I seem to have a whole rogues’ gallery of people’s voices, which keep popping into my head. Like when I’m thinking about technical problems, I answer my questions but hear Marco’s voice each time! [Ed: Marco is the French boatyard manager]. I couldn’t face another night like that and I feel for Nick as he has endured an extra night of it unlike me?right now the last quarter of Vikki’s fruit cake is in my sight and so I’m going to eat it as soon as I get off the phone!”   And finally?HELLOMOTO will be crossing the Equator in about 15 hours from now, Conrad reckons, which would mean that he has bettered the boat’s performance by at least two days compared to when Golding raced her in the Vendée Globe 2000: “Looking at my course and speed, I expect to cross the Equator overnight and I shall be doing something to celebrate, that’s for sure, it’s my 7th or 8th crossing but I can’t remember if I’ve ever crossed at night time – oh, is it Friday today? Brilliant, it’s Friday night! Well, you guys must go out and have a beer for me too!