Dee Caffari had in introduction to big winds yesterday but the worst is yet to come

Date11 January at 2305

PositionS 53° 1′ / W 94° 28′

Well, my frustrations didn’t have to last long. The wind filled during the night rather quicker than we anticipated and the early hours saw me with three reefs and some of the headsail furled as 30 knots crossed the deck.

It was about 0100hrs local time when I went on deck to have a check around and change some of the sail plan. Dressed in a full set of Musto HPX Foul Weather Gear and a base layer of thermals and a mid-layer beneath I felt warm and dry. Even as the wall of ice water tumbling down the deck doused me as I arrived, it was only my extremities that could tell me how cold the water was. My fingers turned numb as all the blood left my hands in search of a warmer place.

I caught my breath. The sky overhead was clear and the stars were pinpricks in the black velvet canvas. There was no moon, however, a stack of ominous cumulus cloud was illuminated against the black tapestry indicating that the sign of any moon may be hidden behind that wall of cloud. As I looked aloft, in line with the mast were the three stars in a row forming ‘Orion’s belt’. I remember during the Global Challenge that no matter where we were in the world we had an orientation of Orion’s Belt with us the whole way, which we often used to refer to at the helm and it became quite reassuring. I smiled, my favourite identifying mark was helping lead the way again.

I hesitated before reducing sail, Aviva was sailing wonderfully and we were finally making progress again after a frustratingly slow day. However, I had learnt that when the weather comes in, the longer I waited, the more difficult it was to reduce sail. Getting it done earlier may lose a little boat speed but it makes life easier, safer and is kinder to the sails. That is especially true when furling the headsails up wind. Their preference is to be off the wind, then ease the sheet and then furl while the tension is reduced. As soon as you ease the sheet sailing up wind, you get a flogging sail while you stress to furl some of it away. Making a mental note of the lessons I had learnt to date, I stopped myself getting caught up in the beauty of sailing fully pressed into the night, slicing through the water and sending walls of tumbling ice cold seawater across the decks. I reduced sail and set Aviva up for what was coming.

We had a comfortable ride and I was able to get some rest. The daylight hours bought with them a reduction in the wind so we flew more canvas, the only down side being that the wind had come round and was blowing from the west, we were making a northerly track. We stayed with it as we approached the next depression. We then tacked and reduced sail as the wind built again. By all accounts the next 24 hrs will be survival mode as we pass two low pressures with frontal systems displaying over 50knots of wind.

Dee and Aviv