Ericsson navigator Steve Hayles tells it like it really is on board the VO70

I normally sit here and type these reports about the weather; the strategy
and tactics of the moment, but I lay in my bunk for a few minutes thinking
about how absurd the whole situation on one of these boats is and thought
I would write about that instead.

I have just woken up from my first proper sleep since the start; up ’till
now Neal and I have been snatching sleep on the wet sails next to the nav
station still wearing the oilskins and until yesterday the harness’s that
we have had on since the start. I am absolutely wet through and now it’s
starting to heat up inside the boat it adds to the discomfort.

In the first four days we have been nearly shaken to pieces, I have
watched people being smashed around the boat like rag dolls in huge seas
and we have all suffered from a lack of sleep, food and water. The boat
has been pushed hard as well and is showing the signs of the heavy
conditions of the first 48 hours.

I think it’s all the little frustrations that could really get on top of
you; we had a bad leak through a winch on deck which was perfectly placed
to soak the nav station and ruin a few bits of electronics; none more
annoying than our supposedly waterproof keyboards which mean that we have
been doing everything right now by typing on the screen using the mouse
which in big seas would prove a perfect test of anyone’s ability to see
the funny side of life.

I just woke in a bit of a panic to get ready for the next position report
and sat in a pool of sea water wearing my only recently dried out
thermals; I didn’t enjoy it but I heard someone laughing their head off
which I completely understand. You need a decent sense of humour on these
boats and it often revolves around other people’s discomforts, or the more
basic things in life. There is nothing funnier than watching someone get
soaked when they appear on deck in too little clothing for a visit to the
back of the boat, or watching someone’s cup of tea get a little extra salt
water added to it.

You also laugh about the scary things too; on the first night we set a
spinnaker in hairy conditions and took off like a robber’s dog with so
much water on deck the Guillermo made one of his very dry comments in his
cool Spanish style about driving a submarine. We are all tethered to the
boat at this stage to keep us onboard which is great for safety but very
restricting in its movement.

I was trimming the main and sat furthest forward and could see a huge
breaking wave coming side on; you shout ‘wave’ or something ridiculous
and you hold your breath and brace for the impact which is always
impressively hard. A second or two later when you can open your eyes and
breathe again you check everyone out. Unfortunately Guillermo took the
brunt of the ‘hit’ and was smashed off the wheel and was lying in a heap
at the back of the boat. This in itself is obviously not funny; but
watching everyone trying to dive for the wheel but not being able to move
because of their harness was (after the event) hysterical.

Neal got the closest but was in front of the wheel facing backwards with
me shouting to him about the wind angle. The consequences of ‘broaching’
(a steering error that means you lose control) would be enormous in such
conditions but a day or so later in calmer conditions it has been a great
source of laughter.

Conditions though have taken a turn for the better and we can put those
moments behind us as we concentrate on getting our angles right and
inching our way to the front of the pack.

Lunch is ready but we don’t even eat together anymore due to the smaller
crew number. The food is served in sealed containers, and stored in your
own little pouch. You eat it when you can, sometimes hot and sometimes
cold. I am off to grab mine now wait for some witty comments about my wet
backside from everyone on deck.