Slow going for Liverpool, but there is a sense of anticipation as the miles clock down to finish 19/7/06

For the last 24 hours the only instructions from the skipper on boardLiverpoolClipper have been ‘best course to windward.’ The friendly south-westerlies have backed round to the south-east, putting the yacht hard on the wind on starboard tack and causing endless staring up at the sails as the crew debate how best to trim for the constantly varying wind conditions.

The good news is that the wind hole we were expecting has not really materialised – the breeze has become light at times, reducing our speed, but most of the time we have been able to average around 8 knots. Unfortunately for us the wind has remained stronger further north, allowing the lead boat to extend their lead to 78 miles, whileQingdaohave continued to climb up the fleet, displacing us to fifth position. Excellent performances have also been returned byGlasgowandJersey, withJerseylogging 121 miles in the last 12 hours.

We are just about to break the magic 500 miles from the finish and also cross into the UK time zone, but it’s not going to be easy. The current headwinds are set to veer to the south over the next couple of days and will hopefully give us a better angle to Jersey, but for the time being we are being pushed to the north of our ideal course. The only consolation is that the problem will probably be worse for our competitors, but the weather systems at present are hard to predict. There’s little left to do but continue to sail as fast as we can and hope for a breakthrough.

On board we’ve settled into a restricted diet of tinned and dried food, served on a weekly rota basis so that some dishes are already beginning to become familiar. The longlife bread bought in New York ran out a few days ago, quite a welcome event as it now means we’re baking fresh bread on board, but the last four pieces of fresh fruit are hanging from their net above my head as I write. Idle talk in the watches is turning ever more towards food and beer, so a trip ashore will be welcome for most of the crew.

It’s an odd feeling for those of us on board approaching the end of our first ocean crossing. Perhaps Elaine (Elle) Warriner, who has been on board for legs 6 and 7 and had always hoped to do a Transat, summed it up best. “I’ve no wish to sail around the world at the moment,” she said, “although I might consider it in the future – never say never. What’s important to me is that I now know that I could do it.” Certainly there’s the beginning of a sense of achievement on board as the miles clock down to the finish, and a feeling of expectation that we might see the land of a different continent shimmering on the horizon in the near future. Moments like this remind us that the Clipper race is not just a race – it’s an adventure, and whether you find the event life-changing or, as in Elle’s case, “decision affirming”, nothing can take away the ability to say ‘I did that.’