Will Oxley describes how a non-sailing journalist is likely to perceive the crazy world of yacht racing 11/8/06

Hi, well we are now clear of the coast of Ireland with the next mark of the course the Flannan Isles some 195nm to the NNE. I would normally just describe the conditions as ‘a bit bumpy and uncomfortable’ and then give the wind strength and sea state.

Then I looked over at Ian Cowie, our Daily Telegraph journalist, and thought of how things looked through his eyes and so I will try and describe conditions as if I was seeing them for the first time.

“It is very, very rough. There is white water everywhere and periodically the entire boat is covered by a wall of water as a wave crashes over us. I am covered in water and thank my lucky stars for this Musto wet weather gear. I am harnessed on to the boat at all times and early this morning my life jacket exploded scaring me to near death as a wave caused the auto inflation device to go off.

“Conditions are not much better down below. The crew bail regularly, to try to keep the boat dry. I keep slipping and sliding as I try to find a hand-hold as we bounce off yet another wave. We have a single burner camping stove to cook all our meals. The meals have all sorts of fancy names but they all seem to taste the same and you have to read the label to see what you are eating. I also have to confess that my stomach is not enjoying the motion. It seems very scary but I look around me and the crew seem quite happy, cracking jokes and in fact it even seems that they are enjoying themselves. They are all quite mad!

“Trying to type this is very difficult as I keep slipping off the piece of timber that constitutes a seat. We have a very small sail up the front. I thought it must be a storm jib but the crew tell me it is a staysail and they are thinking about putting a bigger sail up as the conditions are improving. I don’t know how they can tell that. The navigator keeps talking about grib files and weather models. The mainsail seems smaller than usual and the crew tells me they made it smaller in the night by putting two reefs in it.

“I think I might try to sleep but the crew seem to sleep in their wet weather gear on the sails down below, so they are ready for action. What’s more they only seem to sleep for an hour or so and then get up. What sort of a life is this? Well must go… the navigator wants to log on. Think of me when you are in your warm dry bed tonight. I will have plenty of stories to tell when I get home!”

Maybe we are all mad but even so we are all looking forward to conditions moderating a bit.

Cheers for now,