Novice sailor Helen Northcott finds life on ARC yacht Spirit unlike no other experience

For someone who gets distinctly queasy in the Solent, it seems odd to find myself mid Atlantic sitting at the nav station of a Volvo Open 60, particularly as the decision to come was made less than 10 days ago! So here’s the update from possibly the most novice sailor on the ARC this year…

Living, sleeping, eating and sailing in watches is one hell of a shock to the uninitiated. 4 hours on and off over night time, 3 hours during the day – it seems endless and the wake up shake by the other watch pulls you out of a deep slumber straight into autopilot: find clothes,foulies, life jacket whilst being thrown around the boat, coordinate a visit to the heads (especially for us girls!) get up on deck to relieve the watch who crash straight into bunks.

And amidst all this there’s constant banter and some distinctly unrepeatable jokes – particularly courtesy of the Irish contingent on board. The two watches have their own ways of operating and there’s been some interesting rivalry between the two, but it works and we have 2 great watches on Spirit both making the trip fun friendly and of course, fast!

The highlight for me has to be sailing at night. The feeling of streaming across the waves at speeds up to 22 knots under full moonlight is completely exhilarating and cannot be likened to any other experience. There is a freedom out here that is unlike that of other wide open spaces, possibly because there is no end to what you can see. The ocean goes on until it curves over the horizon, in every direction.

And of course, you can’t get off – and there’s a freedom in that too. In most other situations, you can make a decision to control your experience: here you can only go with it.

This morning’s watch was excited to see another boat some miles away. A call on the VHF confirmed suspicions that this was in our racing class – it was Stay Calm. We had a very polite British kind of a chat over the radio, and spent a pleasing next hour or so speeding on our way, gaining miles which were later confirmed in our positions.

The weather and positions are always highlight of the day and Ross gave us good news again tonight – we have gained on most in our class and things are still wide open. So we’re grinding on wherever possible and feeling more competitive than ever as St Lucia comes closer and closer.

Can’t wait!