A top speed of 19.8kts yesterday has more than made up for the lack of gourmet cuisine aboard Spirit


It’s 20h30. We’re fizzing along at 15 knots under main, kite and staysail on a boisterous northerly swell. I came off watch half an hour ago to a steaming bowl of rehydrated Hungarian beef noodles. Lashed with copious quantities of Tabasco, the consensus was it was way better than yesterday’s ‘hot veg porridge’. Hmmmm, I wonder what the less weight conscious are eating tonight? Well, whatever they’re eating, they’re probably not eating it at 15 knots.

In the last four hours we’ve covered 55 miles, and hit a top speed of 19.8 knots. We’ve had seriously good sailing today and Sprit is just trucking along.

Life aboard has already settled into the steady routine of two six-hour watches during the day, and three/four-hour stints at night. We’re all 60loving the sailing, we’re well rested and reasonably well fed. OK, we’re still waiting for our ‘stomachs to shrink’ as promised by our food man ‘Lumpy’ Chris in response to grumbles about small portions, but if David Blaine could manage, we certainly will.

There’s lots of life about. Last night we saw dolphins, looking like underwater comets as they streaked through the phosphorescent water. We saw another whale today too. It jumped out of the water a few hundred meters off our bow, belly flopping back into the water in spectacularly un-elegant style.

But the main point of interest has been speed, particularly compared to Venom, the only other Volvo60 in the ARC and naturally our main rivals.

After trying to work out who the many nav lights visible around us last night belonged too, and so judge our position, the day dawned with Venom as the only boat in sight. We were well within sight of each other most of the day, often barely a mile apart. Venom was the first to go for her kite as the wind began to free, and made good gains on us. However, these were short lived and at sundown she was disappearing into the gloom astern.

Down below, Spirit already looks a bit like a refugee camp. Sitting around on the cabin sole, sail bags strewn about, eating out of institutional bowls, we’d no doubt evoke great pity from much of the fleet. The boat is constantly twitching around, there’s very little natural light or ventilation, and the noise is incessant. Grinders whirring, ropes groaning around winches and the pounding of the waves on the outside of the drum-like kevlar hull. Our crew is not gently rocked to sleep, but driven to it by exhaustion. But we’re loving it, and we’ll be toasting our no-frills lifestyle afloat with St Lucian cocktails as they’re settling down for their 15th night at sea!