After a frantic start Team Spirit are well underway enjoying their first dehydrated meal!

We’re currently beating (beating? I thought this was meant to be a downwind cruise!) at around 9 knots in a fluky Force 2 north-westerly. The breeze seems to be building a bit so we’re about to take on some water ballast to keep things a bit more vertical.

The atmosphere around the start was fantastic. Firstly the excitement of leaving the dock, last minute phonecalls to girlfriends, music blaring, cameras snapping. And then out on the water, so many boats about, Spirit scything back and forth through the fleet, running the line at 10 knots. It was exciting stuff and we were all pretty on edge. Suddenly a little beach catamaran out enjoying the conditions and watching the start, capsized in front of us leaving a somewhat nervous sailor swimming for his life to get out of our way! No harm done, and the incident provided a bit of light relief to the tense environment aboard.

We had a good start, second or third across the line, and closest to the committee boat. As the rest of the fleet headed off down the coast we gybed out to sea and put up the kite. It was great to finally be underway. We had some good close racing with the front runners of the racing division, some frustratingly light patches making for some tactical sailing to the southern tip of Gran Canaria. We were also visited by two pilot whales, and as the sun went down and the phosporescence and stars appeared thoughts turned to the promise of a magical voyage ahead.

Our first meal, ‘vegetarian soya risotto’ was received with mixed responses from the crew. We were all hungry enough to eat almost anything, having burned off lunch and probably breakfast in the first few minutes of grinding the spinny sheet to the trimmer’s shouts.

Our dinners are exclusively dehydrated meals, best prepared by giving them a good three or four hours to deydrate in a pot of water before cooking, otherwise the rehydration process can continue in your stomach! On seeing this uncooked mixture slopping about in a pot down below, crewman Lawrence was heard to say: “I didn’t know anyone had been sick yet!” Actually, it wasn’t that bad, though there’s already been talk of jerk chicken and Johnny cakes when we reach the Caribbean.

Food aside, meeting the theoretical targets from our polar diagrams, shown on the instruments below our actual performance, is what it’s all about. I’ve just come off the wheel. With these figures in full view of everyone in the cockpit, there’s a lot of pressure on the helmsman. If you’re not performing on the wheel, there’s no hiding it. The plus side is that you know when you’re doing a good job.

Well, I better get on with sailing this boat. In response to the inevitable moans from the weather rail of “Are we there yet?” (yes, they’ve started already), we’ve got a long way to go.

Cheers, Mike