David Pugh talks to the multi-talented engineer aboard Clipper yacht Liverpool during transat crossing 8/7/06

For some reason lost in the midst ofLiverpoolantiquity, everyone on port watch has to have a name ending in O. Add to that the difficulty of having no fewer than four Daves on board, and it’s understandable why I need a nickname. Thanks toYachting World, I’m now Worldo – a strange irony considering I’m doing a very small part of the total round-the-world race.

I took the chance to speak today with another Dave who would perhaps deserve the name better. Liverpool resident Dave Keene, otherwise known as Keeno, has spent most of his life at sea as a professional diver, working in diving bells deep below the surface to service offshore gas rigs. After 40 years afloat or submerged, you might think he’d had enough of the sea, but after watching the last two Clipper races enter Liverpool he chose to sign up for the full competition, leaving home a year after retiring for 11 months hard graft circumnavigating the globe.

Dave is a tough but friendly man who has proved a real asset to the crew, transferring his engineering skills and common sense to become the first port of call for all problems electrical and mechanical. Being aboard has become a way of life for him, and admits to a lump in the throat as we left New York on the comparatively short trip home. “I’m quite sad it’s nearly over,” he said. “It’s hard to say what I’ll miss – I suppose it’s the comradeship. I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and kids, but when you work with a team like this for a long time it’s always difficult to say goodbye.”

Despite all his years at sea, Dave had never sailed before the Clipper race, but he’s now full of confidence and ambition for future adventures. While the fleet was being repaired in the Philippines an 80ft cutter caught his eye, and he is seriously considering buying something similar with a view to some serious cruising, probably centred around the Mediterranean. Even if that idea never becomes reality, he intends to take an offshore skipper’s qualification and make some long-distance charters. Add that his private pilot’s licence and diving expertise and Keeno is a force to be reckoned with in any element, although with his self-confessed competitive nature it remains to be seen whether he will be happy cruising.

He concluded: “This trip has gone really fast. It’s certainly made me a thinner person – I’ve lost two and a half stones – but I won’t really know how it’s changed me until I get home. I certainly think it will make me appreciate my family more.”

But for now, the focus is on progress. Dave highlightedLiverpool’s two first-place finishes into Portugal and China as real high points, and would particularly like to make a good finish to Jersey and finally into Liverpool. “Both our firsts have been short races – it would be good to prove we could do well on a long race,” he said.

The crew have stayed focused on exactly that goal since the race started yesterday, and as I write we’re still within sight ofNew York, perhaps our final visual contact with the fleet until the boats begin to converge in the Channel approaches. Throughout the night the wind has consistently blown Force 3 from the north, and after six hours reaching under spinnaker we have just changed to all plain sail to make good 060°T, sending us at a healthy nine knot close reach along the Great Circle route. Over the next two days the wind is expected to fill in more strongly from the south-west, hopefully giving us some good speed under spinnaker. Meanwhile for the crew, the emphasis is on trim – with ten identical boats with similarly skilled crews, any lapse of concentration could easily make the difference between a podium position in Jersey or falling short.