Skipper Conrad Humphreys says this leg will be about peaking at the right time

Conrad Humphreys, skipper of LG FLATRON, on how staying in front will be a matter of pacing themselves:

‘I’ve just been reviewing the footage of us crossing the Bass Strait in 55 knots. I had put it to the back of my mind but after reading Will Carnegie’s account on Veritas, the ‘what if’ questions still linger. We had one bad four-hour watch where, for the first time this trip, I wanted to get off.

‘Crazy waves travelling at 30 knots and breaking 6m of foam above a 30ft wall. Three of them slammed the guys, washing the entire watch off the side deck, luckily with no injuries. It’s only the second time in my life when I’ve been scared at sea. I helmed for four hours through the worst of it. I wanted to make sure if we were dumped, it was me who couldn’t prevent it. Eyes bloodshot, face bloated from the driving spray, lips split. A tough part of the world, this.

‘How very different now. High pressure is dominating the fleet. We are a degree further south than second placed Spirit of Hong Kong, which I hope is just keeping us away from the slack gradient revolving around this high. A long, rolling Southern Ocean swell is gently rocking LG FLATRON and making flying the 0.75 spinnaker a nightmare. Every wave causes the spinnaker to shudder and collapse, with the constant possibility of blowing it out. Still, who would complain? At 45 degrees and 100 miles south of Tasmania, I would have expected something very different.

‘Yesterday I drew up a leg progress chart. First tick in the box was a good 72 hours, were we notched up a win from Sydney to Hobart. This is a leg similar to leg three, were morale is central to peaking at the right time.

‘When you are faced with 5,000 miles of ocean and no key landmarks to round it is very easy to lose momentum, lose sight of the end goal or, worse, get bored. Each crewmember has been given a waypoint, roughly 300 miles apart. They choose its name and decide the mood for that day. If they want the day off, so be it. If they organise a party, great, or maybe if we have slipped some places they get ribbed for the day.

‘One crewmember suggested ‘winners stays on’. Tim B liked that idea as first candidate: his goal is to still be in place by Cape Town. Joking aside, staying up front on any endurance event needs pacing. We cannot perform for 40 days but if we can put the pressure on in a given moment and raise our game from day 32 onwards then we have a chance.

‘Looking ahead, the fronts are stacking up and the weather charts are starting to look like dartboards. We are expecting an increase of wind from the north as we skirt this ridge of high pressure, and then a new system is developing a few hundred miles to the west. For now, no thermals, no foulies. As Cliff says: “These moments are to be savoured. Every day it’s not blowing gale is one less that could have. These days are worth a thousand pounds and as long as I get 25 of them, it will have been okay.”‘